I live in a suburb of New Orleans and have been writing here off and on for 10 years. I have been married 53 years to the same crazy guy.
All at Once, I was 66 Years Old!
How Did This Happen?
One day, I looked in the mirror and I was old. I was not ancient, but I was old. I looked at my husband, and he was old, not ancient, but old. I wonder sometimes how this happened. Where did the years go? I always thought I had all the time in the world before growing old. I was wrong. As I said, I'm not ancient. I'm 66 years old, and 70 looms on the horizon. I have found that age has many good things to offer. I asked myself earlier today if I could go back and be 30 again, would I? I don't think so. If I could go back and retain the knowledge I've gained about life, yes, I'd jump at the chance to have my young body and face back. Other than that, there is nothing I long for of youth.
Unlike many my age, I still work. It allows us to have a better life. There's a saying that the path to happiness is not doing the things you love, but loving the things you have to do. I have made my peace with my work. I work at home, and that makes it easier. I have a desk but often end up on the couch with my laptop and my cat Lucy by my side. My work is sporadic and when it comes, it has to be done. And that's okay too. Luckily, around Christmas and New Year's, it tends to slow down every year and I get to enjoy the holidays.
Sitting on my couch or at my desk alone in my house has given me time for introspection when I'm taking a break or between depositions. Looking out the windows in my den, I realize that when I was younger, I never noticed the trees or the sky. They were just there. Now I find all sorts of cool formations in the clouds and love watching the leaves on the trees blow in windy weather and the limbs bend when it storms or just watching them standing tall and majestic in the sunlight. There is a red-tailed hawk that visits the tree right outside one of my windows and a Mississippi kite that swoops past occasionally. These are things that have gained value since I've gotten older.
I appreciate the fact that I can have male friends without complications. When you're young, you're allowed dinner with a male friend who's gay, but dinner with a straight guy leads to gossip and innuendo. I have a friend and former student who lives in Mississippi. He and I meet for coffee when he has a deposition down this way. I think nothing of it, nor does he, my husband or his wife. The people in the coffee shop pay no attention whatsoever to us. That woman is too old to be anything but a friend. I value his friendship and I could not have had it if I were 20 years younger.
I love the freedom of not having to make up my face every day. I like letting my skin breathe. My husband doesn't seem to care and if he did, I'd have to remind him that I've looked at him for 46 years without makeup; he can grant me these 20 or so we (hopefully) have left.
I like having more time to read and think about life in general. Retrospection lets us see ourselves the way others see us. Oftentimes it's not a pretty sight, but it's a learning experience. It's gratifying to think back to times when we've behaved badly and realize: I would never, ever do that now. I am no longer that person.
I like the freedom age affords of not needing to be the one with the big house, designer clothes, the expensive shoes or the cool car. I suppose you could say I like the freedom of just being me again. I grew up in rural Arkansas. I realize that as we age, or at least it's true for me, we seem to return somewhat to who we were as children. I was quieter and more introspective as a child and have become that way as I've gotten older. When I was a child, I loved the outdoors and stayed out as much as possible. I do that now.
Getting older has allowed me to make peace with my own parents. Although they've been gone for many years, I realize now that they did the very best they could with the knowledge they had. Being a parent myself and making my own mistakes has made me less judgmental. I choose now to remember the good times: playing Concentration with my mom and sister, Daddy buying two quarts of ice cream on the way home from the cottage and cutting them in half, giving everyone a half to eat, Mom singing hymns as she did her housework, their faithfulness to their church, the lessons they tried to teach us about frugality, which I never learned. There were many good times and it's foolish to dwell on anything else. There is something in the Bible about separating the wheat from the chaff. I believe this is what it means.
One of the things that getting older has helped me understand is that it's useless to blame oneself for the past. There's not a lot to be learned there. When we look back at scenes from our lives as young mothers or fathers or times when we were young people looking for love or even when we were caring for elderly parents, we are looking back at a person who no longer exists. Having regrets is natural. We all want to be perfect children, parents, grandparents. But as life would have it, most of us aren't and we have to accept that we did the best we could with the awareness we had at the time. Let me repeat that because it's one of the major lessons I've learned in my 66 years. We do the very best we can with the awareness we have at the time. When we become more aware and more compassionate, it's difficult to revisit those times when we hurt our parents or children. However, we must remember that the person who caused those hurts no longer exists, and we are who we are today. Let it go. LET IT GO.
Growing older has caused me for some reason to realize that many of the answers we seek can be found in nature, especially in animals. Their lives are so simple. They love unconditionally. Should we not take a lesson from that? They also know when it's time to let go of their offspring, let them go their own way without regret. They know how to take a nap in the sun without a care in the world, enjoying the warmth and the present moment.
Love Watching the Hawks
No Longer Ruled By the Clock
One thing I especially like about being older is that I am no longer ruled by the clock. Although I work, I create my hours. I can get up super early or stay up super late when things get really busy. I have choices. There is no longer that alarm going off at 7:00 a.m. that controls my life during the week.
If my husband and I want to go to our place in Kentwood or all the way to Arkansas, we can, and don't have to get permission from a boss or hire someone to take our place in a business. I like being able to throw a few things in a bag and go to the travel trailer in Kentwood for one night, then home the next day.
Since I'm older, I like sitting in the sun. I don't blister myself, but I love the feel of the sun on my skin. If it dries it out, no one cares, least of all me.
I like being able to run to the drugstore with no makeup but lipstick in a Saints T-shirt and jeans. There was a time I would have been horrified if I saw a friend dressed like that.
Although I don't like being fat, it's not a huge deal because most of my friends are at least a little overweight themselves. If I had gained 25 pounds in my 30s, it would have been disastrous. I am convinced some of the people I was friends with then would have dropped me as a friend because that is what they (we) were about, surface stuff. I have, however, made a resolution to walk a mile every day and get in better shape. Since I have made peace with my life, I certainly want it to last a bit longer and exercise is part of making that happen. Nothing drastic, just a mile.
Time Means More
One of the things I like about getting older is that I don't have 50 years stretching ahead to be kinder, more organized, more compassionate, etc. It's time to do it or forget it. This is something I have heard people say they don't like, that their days are numbered. I guess I just like deadlines in general, because it motivates me to try to become a better person before my time runs out.
Growing older has given me grandchildren. They are truly a joy. They are linked to us in so many ways and yet we have that wonderful knowledge that they will always go home. They are a joy and not an obligation. We're not in it for the long haul, only for a week at the longest. My neighbors are raising their two grandchildren, ages 6 and 8. I admire what they are doing and they truly have no choice, but I pray my daughter and her husband stay healthy. The whole idea exhausts me.
I appreciate old age because it has brought me closer to Spirit, to the Universe, to God. It is comforting to realize that I have a certain trust of the universe, that when it is my time to leave this place, I will muster up whatever courage is needed to endure a long suffering illness or might be lucky enough to have "the big one" while on one of my walks. Either way, it will be okay. I'll make it through and, hopefully, with grace.
More than anything, I love being older because the striving has ended. There were times in my life when I don't know what I was striving for, but I always felt pressure to achieve, to do, to accomplish, etc. A few years ago, I realized that is all gone now. Striving is not in my vocabulary any longer. Instead, I am exploring. I am learning more about life, what nature is all about, even what I am all about.
I went through a rough patch a while back, fighting through a depression. I visited a psychologist for several months. He is a lovely man, a unique personality, a little weird, just as I am. I remember one of his statements: "Now you just need to figure out what you are going to do for the rest of your life. " And I have figured it out. I am going to continue working. It keeps my mind sharp and keeps me connected. I am going to spend as much time outdoors as possible, feeling the wind on my face. I am going to pet my cat every 15 minutes or so as she watches me do my work. I am going to love my family and friends, attend my lucid dreaming group, take short trips as often as possible, if I'm lucky, go back to Europe a time or two, read books that teach me something, and savor every moment. I am going to explore nature, feelings, meditation, telepathy, orb photography, prayer, writing my thoughts down as I am doing here. It may not sound like an ambitious or exciting old age, but that's okay. It is my choice.
On March 14th, I will be 72. What I have learned since I wrote this hub is that grandchildren grow up far too quickly. Spend every moment you can with them while they're young. They will love you when they are teens, but you will never hold that special place again. Of course, that's the way you want it. If it was different, they wouldn't have all the things to do and friends to do them with that we want for them.
Another thing is not to take your spouse for granted. You are in this together. Remember that. It makes the trip a lot easier and more fun. My husband and I are both still reasonably healthy. We took a wonderful two-week trip to Oxford, London and Paris last summer. However, the years go by quickly. Don't waste them with anything negative. Nothing is worth it! Nothing. As I get older, I find myself saying more and more often to myself "Let it go."
Sue Pratt (author) from New Orleans on July 08, 2012:
Cat on a Soapbox,
I'm so glad you enjoyed this hub. They say perspective is everything, and I'm finding that to be so true. General Lee is always with me also. The empty next thing may not be as traumatic as you might think. For us, the benefits far outweighed any sadness. Thank you again, kindred spirit!
Catherine Tally from Los Angeles on July 08, 2012:
This was such a wonderful read for me! I just turned 61 and share so many of your thoughts and feelings about growing older. I still have a daughter who is a senior in HS, so we are faced with college and the upcoming adjustments of an empty nest. I am still working on letting go of my regrets over my early lack of ambition and really didn't expect that the cost of living here in So. Cal would be so high. I enjoy having the freedom to work less and spend more time w/ my husband and girlfriends. All in all, my life has been richly rewarding. My faith and love of nature get me through the downturns, and my dear cat is a non-judgemental constant companion and comfort as well. Be goofy and silly w/ abandon and enjoy your hat:) My best to you!