When I turned 50, I didn’t feel any different to 40 to be honest or 30 and remember saying as much to one of my mom’s distant cousins who was a youngish 70 something.
Instead of receiving my words as arrogant as so many had, he gazed at me with a scrunched smile before telling me a short, funny story which marked his feeling of age.
Back in the day, he had an elderly auntie who taught him a thing or two about ageing. He didn’t say how old she was, just that she used to complain about aches and pains incessantly. Auntie, for the sake of privacy, we’ll call her, could lift things that intimidated him, stand on her feet all-day and cook, fuss like a debate champion, and out run you if she needed to. You did not get sassy with her.
Still, she complained about her aches and pains, vehemently insisting that it all came with ageing.
“Auntie knows she don’t have all those aches and pains,” he and his cousins gossiped and giggled. “Ain’t nothing wrong with her.” They shook their heads at her and bored of her moaning.
Fast forward to his late 50s right into his 70s, though he looked to me much younger than his age and a perfect picture of health, he had somehow become his elderly auntie, he teased.
No way, I protested. And with a twinkle in his eye, he left it at that. But if looks could talk his would have said “you will get there, too, if you are blessed to live long enough.”
Well, here we go. I am blessed! The big day has come and gone; I have turned 60. On some level I feel like I have hit the jackpot with so much trauma and tragedy in our world but on another, I somehow know I’ve hit the marker that my mom’s cousin told me about some ten years ago.
Sure, 60 has numerous benefits and I will end on some of those, but it has certainly brought more than its fair share of superficial changes, more grey hair, wearier eyes, spreading hyperpigmentation—not to mention other things that are spreading.
And also, it has brought more substantial changes, too. These are the ones that keep me lying awake at night, not the superficial. In short, it is the reality of one’s new lane in life.
Out of the fast and into the slower lane, not the slowest yet, as I’m far from an old lady much like my cousin’s aunt. I am on the go as much as I was ten years ago, if not more, and I continue to welcome my personal trainer twice per week and my Pilates instructor once. And no matter what you’re thinking, let me be clear. Pilates is not for old folks. If you don’t believe me, give it a try for yourself.
But in this slower lane, I am so much more aware of everything, including my niggles. And when you have a track record with health anxiety like I do, having every discomfort intensified is exhausting.
Still one acquaintance reckons that 60 is the bullseye for the feelings of ageing because it puts us intensely closer to our own mortality.
Another corroborates. You have lived more life than you likely have left. And it is this awareness that gets us noticing a creaking body that has been creaking all along, albeit not as much. And a squawking mind, too.
Enough of the downside of ageing, what about the upside. For me, it means less tolerance of things that don’t serve me. Even a few years ago, I would turn myself inside out to accommodate requests that would add to my insomnia and so on.
Still a very sensitive person, I have moments where I consider things that conflict with my values and just like that the phrase life is too short doesn’t sound nearly as trite as it used to. It rings true.
Another big bonus of ageing is that the need to control things that have nothing to do with you lessens. It does not fall away, let me tell you, but it capitulates when it knows that persistence is more harmful than helpful. Let it go!
In short, I am marginally more relaxed and more intentional at the same time. Sometimes this feeling my age has got me wondering why I wasn’t like this earlier in life.
And then something inside, inherently a part of ageing, says never mind. Look forward. It is the only way from here on out. Nothing new there, but it sure feels like it.