I’m 71 now and just can’t ignore the fact I’m getting older. Like most folks, I dreaded Aging and thought growing older meant the end of the line—game over, pack it up, go home and wait it out. Grim at best.
But now that I’m here, I’m having a very different experience. I’m fascinated and excited by Aging; it’s like looking into the eyes of a cobra.
I never imagined old age would be when I realized my most cherished dreams. And I certainly never thought it would be so much fun! Instead of being less than my younger self, I am stronger and more grounded. With the added value of great sex and philanthropic projects, my life is full and rich. This is one of the best times of my life. Here is why:
1. I am a kinder person.
I am less critical of myself and others, which extends to my friends and family who very much appreciate the mellower me. Being compassionate is more important than having things. Flow, harmony, and loving kindness get me through the world now, and I am so much happier.
2. The freedom of it.
For the first time in my life, I am free to be the person I always wanted to be. Joan Erikson, wife of noted psychologist Erik Erikson, wrote that, “Aging is the process of becoming freer.” I would add that old age is the time we come home to ourselves.
3. Saving the world is not my responsibility anymore.
It’s not that I’ve given up trying, but the suffering of the unfortunate weighs less heavily on me. I understand now that to do my best is enough. What’s ironic is I accomplish more now with ease than I did when I was working harder at it.
4. Enjoy my children more.
Now that my children are adults, I can relax. As much as I want their lives to be perfect, I realize that thinking I know better and telling them how to live their lives is arrogant and creates dependency. So I let them be who they are, and we get along very well.
5. Better at my profession.
Maybe it’s 40 years of clinical experience, but I have a clarity of vision that identifies essentials and helps people move to solutions more easily. My work is shamanic these days, more subtle as well as more effective.
6. Kicked the hurry habit.
This is such a relief! I exhausted myself rushing around doing what I imagined were important things. Now I realize very little in day-to-day life is worth hurrying for, and many things pass on their own. The rest can wait.
7. Really good friends.
Can you believe I have grammar school reunions? We hold each other in such sweet regard. I chat about everything with other friends—and I mean everything! The pretense, posturing, and competition are gone, so I have relationships that feed my deep-rooted needs for connection and belonging.
8. Sex positive.
Being sex positive is not directly related to aging, but it’s taken me this long to get here! It means I have a positive relationship with sex, think of it much like eating—enjoyable, necessary, what bodies do. I do not believe being a sexual woman in her 70s is shameful. In fact, I believe intimate sensuality and loving sex are essential for staying young and healthy as we age.
9. Sex is better.
Much, much better. The days of dissociating during sex are gone, because it’s easier for me to stay present–and easier to orgasm, which I finally learned how to do in my 60s. A late bloomer perhaps, but with less pressure to perform (and added playfulness), sex is more erotic, orgasmic, and satisfying for me than ever before.
10. Buffer is gone.
I used to be able to bounce right back, all that youthful energy like money in the bank would carry me. Not much wiggle room now, so I experience the consequences of who I am and what I do almost immediately. My life is winding down, which means no future bailout or even palliative care can save me now. Although sobering, I prefer to live with this level of honesty.
After all these years of trying to meditate, I believe I have finally settled down enough to begin to meditate. I will never be great at this, because I am an action-oriented person, but I have become more thoughtful and quieter, and this feels like a blessing.
12. I am fully alive.
What can I say? The older I get, the more alive I feel. I’ve shifted from thinking my way through life to moving toward what feels congruent, whole, and harmonious to me. Gone (almost) is fear-based worrying, evaluating, comparing, and judging. In (almost) is accepting life as it is and flowing with it. I have learned to love and appreciate myself. Gotta say life is much richer this way.
13. I can truly give.
I wasn’t philanthropic until my 60s–didn’t have the heartfelt calling to give back before then. Now I take action to stop violence against women and children in ways I never imagined possible when I was younger. I’m accomplishing the most meaningful work of my life right now—and I’m supposed to be staying home nursing my aging body and failing mind. I DON’T THINK SO!
It may be that Aging is the hero’s journey, an adventure of epic proportions that we navigate with our inner stars to guide us.
But don’t take my word for it! If you’re lucky, you’ll live long enough to get your chance at this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. This third chapter, as the Europeans call it, has the potential to be the richest chapter of our lives, the time we finally come home to ourselves and can connect most genuinely with others and the divine.