I found the run-up to my 70th birthday quite sobering. Mild ailments that I customarily ignored seemed to portend serious conditions. Feeling sleepy suddenly seemed age-related. Thinking about purchasing clothing or household items made me wonder whether this was the last time I would be buying a new coat/blanket/tea kettle. Now that my birthday has passed, things seem to be returning to normal – thank goodness!
The emotion that I find most helpful at this age is gratitude. I am grateful for good health, for the choices I have, for my family, for my friends, and for living in a place where I feel safe and free. When one feels grateful, it is impossible to feel angry. This realization has made a huge difference in my life. I try to turn anger around to gratitude – whether it’s a disappointment, a frustration, or a sadness that is triggering the potential for anger, I try to think instead about something in that vein for which I can be grateful. Waiting in a line? I’m grateful that I have my iphone to occupy me and take my mind off the “wasted” time. Time is never wasted when you have an iphone! Disappointment that one of my kids did something of which I disapprove? I’m grateful that they are their own people, with their own lives, making their own mistakes and successes, and that they are responsible for themselves. Of course, I lapse….I am human! But this paradigm shift h as really helped me to let go of things I used to want to control, and to relax about being of an age where I am not expected to control a lot.
Of course, I sometimes feel marginalized. I feel invisible in some situations. Our generation is on the fringes now. I don’t understand a lot of today’s culture, technology, or humor. But it’s okay – I have more time to process and enjoy the people and activities that bring me pleasure or challenge me in good ways. I’m ready to let it go and seek new ways to feel productive.
Giving myself permission not to be productive every minute of every day has been a huge freedom. It’s okay to read in the middle of the day. I can spend an hour walking somewhere instead of finding the most efficient way to get from point A to point B. I can talk on the phone to a friend and not worry about what I’m not doing…….most of the time!
It’s a work in progress, this evolution to being a retired 70-year-old. But it is progress! And I’m feeling so grateful to have the opportunity to do it.