My husband loves that I turn 64 today because he can say he’s married to an older woman…for two months. He works it. Paul McCartney sang “Will you still need me, will you still feed me?” when he was 16 years old…for his father’s 64th birthday. When Macca was 64 he had lost love of his life, Linda, to cancer and was in the process of a second divorce. His kids fooled around with the lyrics a bit and sang it as a surprise for him at his party.
The significance of 64 is that it’s old. I’m old. Not officially according to google. That happens at age 65. I like to get a head start on things. Old is not bad. It’s really very good. We made it this far! We get freedoms we’ve never had and can choose a new life direction if so inclined. I stopped believing the negative stereotypes of “old” a few years ago when I let my hair go gray and the worry about my weight and attractiveness simply fell away. No big deal. Especially in Florida. Where I get to live now in winter and soon maybe all the time. When I’m not traveling the world with my younger husband.
In preparation for this birthday, I’ve been reading “Women Rowing North” by Mary Pipher. She asks us older folk to think about what sustains and enriches us going forward. And then do that. Pipher says old age is a time of “vibrant living” and it’s true. All the cares of busy adulthood really do fall away if you’ve planned it right. Or in my case because my husband planned it right. I got to retire early from teaching and write books. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do and I did it! I read novels instead of student essays these days. As many as I want, whenever I feel like it. I have a library full of books I’ve saved through the years so that when I was old I could reread them. The time is now. I’m happiest with a book in my hand.
Like Pipher, I plan to navigate life’s currents and flourish as I age. It’s true that older women are devalued in our society, but that doesn’t bother me. I know my worth. I’ve done my work, raised my children, written my books, made connections that have lasted most of my life. I’m content with how my life has turned out. Friendships sustain me and my spouse is a safe harbor. My grandchildren are a special delight. Words can’t do those little lives justice. We are traveling to see Ben in April and Owen and Julia in May. Because we can. Other people’s schedules no longer hold us down. We make our own schedules now.
Even if you’ve never been inclined to get to know your body before, with old age the skin and what’s in it won’t be ignored. It likes to be walked like a dog and stretched and flexed like a cat. It needs attention and wants to be fully inhabited. For me, yoga works. Old bodies are not happy being used and abused. If you put something into your body at age 64 that it does not want, it will tell you. You have to honor that. I’m working on it.
Every life is a work in progress, and at 64 I’m taking a step back from the canvas to appreciate the beauty of this birthday gift. Thanks for being here with me today!