I turn 60 this year, and I have decided to give myself the year-long birthday present of saying whatever I think.
Many things about being old are less than pleasant. I have certain aches and pains in my joints, and after a long plane ride I have to unfold myself like a stiff, squeaky card table. I am somewhat fatter than I used to be, which injures my vanity. My face is wrinkly in spots. At times I have the sense that my stamina for work is ebbing somewhat.
But you know the biggest thing that bugs me about getting old? When I hear this phrase on TV and elsewhere: “Old age is a state of mind.” As if, by getting old, you are weak-minded in some way. Please. Getting old is something that happens to you, not an indication of a lack of will.
I’ve also heard, “You have to get older, but you don’t have to get old.” I’m sorry, but yes you do. Unless you die, that is. If you die you don’t have to get old.
And another thing. Occasionally I have been required to remind people for various reasons that I am getting old.They will often reply, “Oh, now, don’t say that!” But why not say that? I’m not criticizing myself. I’m not sad about it. I’m just making an observation, or warning people of certain attendant limitations. Getting old could be interesting if people would stop making it sound like it’s a failure on my part, or something that shouldn’t be discussed in polite company.
In fact, I find many things to love about getting old. It took me all these years to stop caring what people think about me, but I finally very much have. It is wondrously freeing. I have learned how strangely similar we all are – knowing this means I am never lonely in the world. I love having an old husband. He has mellowed and is more nurturing and less posturing, possibly because his testosterone levels have lowered. Testosterone may be responsible for much of the suffering in the world. I must acknowledge that estrogen caused much of my suffering in my younger years. How lovely never to have PMS or all of the hormonal havoc of the childbearing years, especially since my childbearing years were somewhat excessive. Now I am always in my right mind. Furthermore, I have learned that it is more gratifying to have earned respect for your work than to be admired for one’s taut skin.
Okay, occasionally I have the distressing realization that life has silenced me in some way, that I don’t have as much to say anymore because I am humbled by all I realize I will never know, by all the suffering in the world I will never ease, by the injustice I will never correct. But hey, that’s why God invented young people, right?
I recommend getting old. To be sixty years old is nothing short of a miracle, as far as I’m concerned. When I tell people I’m sixty this year, I expect them to say, How fortunate you are! I do not need them to pretend that age is a state of mind. It is a state of blessedness.
And what does all this have to do with writing? Why, not a thing.
Happy birthday to me!