I’m delighted to announce that I’ve lived into my 70’s for almost eight years now. #78 arrives in May.
I somewhere began the irritating but irresistible habit of thinking about my next birthday when the year turns (as in “this is the year I turn…”). Frankly, some years have looked more (or less) hopeful than others. Having recently opened the door to 2019, I’ve been a bit unnerved that looking at 78 seems more monumental than anticipating 77 did.
I admit it freely. I’m imperfect.
Okay, let’s be honest: being almost 78 comes with the corollary, “78 is closer than ever to 80!” And I’m not any too sure that being closer to 80 is something I’m comfortable with yet. Thankfully, I have 2-1/2 years to get acclimated to it. I’m ever so slightly annoyed that I seem to have to adjust – again. I thought I had this ageism thing licked! Now, I’m counting on adjusting. I have before, so there’s hope, wouldn’t you think?
You know how it is. Just when we think we have “it” all figured out, life throws us a curve and reminds us that there is more yet that we haven’t quite conquered. Like ageism. And fear of the unknown. And an overactive imagination that can too easily glom on to the worst before it discovers the best again.
When I was looking at becoming 70, I was viscerally upset about it. It took writing a long poem to begin to get the dismay out of my system. I was not truly happy about being in my 70’s until I was nearly 75, although that was complicated by grieving the loss of my beloved. Long trip. But I got there. This time, I think that I could “get there” sooner. I do have experience in my resilience kit this time: lots of experience in “being old.”
I can readily affirm that the researchers are quite right: the 70’s are, for lots of us, a happy decade. From this exalted vantage point, I can truly say that this decade has been different from those of my 50’s and 60’s that have long since passed. And happier. Really.
Oh, sure, I have a few crooked fingers (which make it even harder to open bottles). My hair is thinning alarmingly (did you know that a Scandinavian elder’s scalp is pink-ish?). More brown-ish spots appear here and there (and I’ve found just the thing when I feel like covering them up…). And I hold my breath every time I wait for my blood work results. But I am incredibly lucky, and I know it.
So if I’ve been so happy, what got me going on this subject anyway? I’ll tell you frankly…ageism has reared its ugly head just enough to get my attention. My beautiful “baby sister” is turning 70! This week! When did this happen? How did so many years pass and suddenly, we’re here?!! Chrissy will be 70 in a few days. And I find myself amazed at that. (She’s the one in the middle in the picture.)
This feels like a huge shift! Of course, Chris would have to tell you whether it feels huge to her, but it feels like a big shift for her Big Sister. I’ve long since had to give up thinking of her as my “baby sister,” Chrissy. (I think that may have taken root somewhere between her becoming a mother and a grandmother…) But I had never thought of her as an “elder.”
I only “allowed” little sister, Chrissy, to become grown up sister, Chris, by fits and starts. Happily, we became equals along the way. And now we’re on a new kind of footing. Now we’re kin in this new decade that symbolizes that late arc of life that changes most noticeably: our 70’s. In my own mind, this was when my elder years began. Now Chris is there, too. I am going to have to adjust.
This, after all, is the decade of radical letting go. This is the decade of new kinds of discovery. This is the decade of making peace with life as it is and not as we thought it would be. This is the decade when even death becomes less odious, and life can become even better than we thought it could be. This is the decade when we can find a new resilience because we’ve “been there, done that” so often that we are no longer as easily unnerved. Why would I not want that for her, knowing how rich these years have been for me? So Chris and I will share it for a bit now, while I move toward another decade. I think I’m talking myself into being okay with that.
Chris is the youngest of six women in our family. We cousins spend time in retreat with each other every fall, and we wash ourselves in the beauty of our family and our history together. Eileen, who was closest to me in age, died several years ago. The rest of us have been monumentally lucky in our aging. The eldest already moved into her 80’s, and the rest of us are familiar with what the 70’s have brought us.
There is a certain ease and profound comfort in being so closely attuned to these years together.
To be kin – literally and figuratively – in this decade is to recognize our common humanity as elders. To remember with awe our ability to overcome the treacherous paths that have shown up is to embrace together the scariest and the most hopeful moments that life brings. To join hands with someone who is also navigating this elder life, sometimes fragile and sometimes brave beyond belief, is to know the power of shared spirit. To know how deep it goes. Why would I not want that for Chris?
So perhaps this won’t take so much adjustment after all. Just the fascination and comfort of settling in with all our kindred folk in elderhood and relishing the ride together! I am so lucky to have so many around to join me!
NOW – here’s the really, really good news! According to research, the 70’s are only the second happiest decade for most of us!
The 80’s are the happiest! Yo!!
Okay, I think I’ve calmed down. Bring on #78. Just not before May 17th…by then, I’ll surely be very okay with that! Ya, sher, yew betcha (that’s Norwegian for Yessssss!)
Happy Birthday, Chrissy!! Oops…Chris! Christina Karen.