Every life is marked with milestones. It's part of the human condition. Some are a cause for celebration, some for reflection and others for grief. Sometimes, a milestone will provoke all three.
I turned sixty in early March. This decade milestone felt very different compared to the previous two. I felt a sadness leading up to this one that I'm unaccustomed to experiencing and it caused me to look a little deeper as to why.
I think I've reached an age where I recognize I have more years behind me than I have ahead. At the same time, I am genuinely grateful that I'm still here as health issues over the past five years could have caused me to miss this milestone altogether.
As happy as I am to still have opportunities ahead, I also realized I was mourning the absence of some things as I now realize they will never come to be. Sure, I had thought of these things before (especially prior to and during menopause), but this time there was a finality sinking in that wasn't there before. I guess this means I wasn't done with it.
In the past five years I've experienced shrinkage in my life - partly due to the pandemic, partly due to my ongoing health issues, partly due to being retired. While this hasn't entirely been a bad thing, as I've always been content in my own company, doing my own things, winter has felt especially long this year. I find I'm craving camaraderie, new adventures and a change of scenery. Realistically, I don't know how much of that I'll be able to create.
I've also entered the era where more friends and family are experiencing serious health issues, life changes and loss. Hardly a day goes by where I don't see a post about a death in someone's family, a friend battling a serious health issue, or someone struggling to find their way through drastic increases in the cost of living. Every one of these cuts deeper than ever before. It's as if their vulnerability seeps into my bones, plucking at my heart strings, until I hear the sad songs they hear.
I think of the quiet dignity of my elders in years gone by and now marvel at their composure and ability to find joy, in the midst of a shrinking pool of contemporaries and evening news headlines.
Thinking back on my memories of them, I realize there is an art to aging gracefully. You don't arrive at a particular milestone fully equipped by virtue of your age to deal with your ongoing evolution and that of the world around you. It's more like reaching a developmental milestone in childhood. There were bumps and scrapes along the way before and there will be at the next stage too. Some may be internal and harder to recognize, but none of us gets to adulthood without some scars, and lessons learned as we go.
We are on a journey we are meant to experience. There will be joy, surprises, and yes, some sad moments too. It's up to us to decide how we will walk our path, indeed whether we will walk it at all. Giving up is a choice. So is walking cautiously, never veering off the beaten path. It has been the same at every milestone in our lives.
But as I embrace my cronehood, I find I want to throw away the rule book, to embrace the child still inside me. I want to fill my pockets with stones, smell the flowers, stop and watch the ants and the bees as I continue my journey. I want to ride dragons! I want to feel black sand between my toes and smell lilac and lavender on the breeze. I want to have those quiet, deep conversations with those whom I've known longest, to get to know them even better and savor the people we have become.
And I'm content to walk in circles if it means I've looked under every bush, listened to every bird, and shared every smile I can along the way.
While it's humbling to feel like a newbie at sixty, it does encourage me to feel young at heart.
I hope all is well in your corner of the world and you are able to have peace and joy.