Sex, death, survival...
Aging in the 21st century is an exciting new frontier. We are redefining its meaning as we live it. Younger men (and women) need to know that we do not have a "shelf life," that passing 40 and 50 and 60 is not the end of our lives but an ongoing challenge and opportunity to enjoy the benefits of having access to decades of experience and, hopefully, at least a little wisdom.
I began The New 60 almost two years ago, when I was turning 59. I wrote the column, now a book, in order to explore my personal and professional relationship with aging, agism, surviving AIDS, and outliving myself. It developed into a look at how to live openly and vitally at 60.
The New 60 examines struggle, complaint, doubt, and prejudice, external and internalized. It also celebrates resilience, earned wisdom, and embracing continued sexual pleasure as we enhance the present with mindfulness and laughter -- creating a possible future that is worth sticking around for.
Not everyone is having a great time at 60. I know that. However, that many of us are thriving, enjoying our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, seemed to be something of a secret -- a dangerous secret, because it propagates internalized agism, a turning against oneself by buying into the bigotry in the culture at large.
My perspective is heightened by having faced my own mortality in my 30s and 40s -- and surviving. I am truly fortunate. Not many of us went all the way to AIDS and came back without damage. Post-catastrophe, I do not take anything for granted. I am grateful for my vitality and well-being. And I am grateful to see my seventh decade -- something that once was unimaginable.
I try to live as if every year might be my last on Planet Earth, tempered by the newfound reality that I might also live to 90. Like many of my peers, I am a holistic science project, benefiting from a just-right-for-me combination of medication, meditation, exercise, vitamins, hormone replacement therapy, and sensible eating, plus good luck in the gene-pool lottery.
I have been too ill to walk across a room -- and today I can run up the three flights of stairs to my apartment, do AntiGravity yoga, and keep up with friends half my age -- when I choose to. That choice is part of the benefit, as well. The ultimate gift of turning 60 is embracing the freedom to be myself. To quote Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken."
I am passionate about working as a psychotherapist and workshop facilitator with men and women facing crisis. The quality of life is not determined by our circumstances, but by how we respond and transform adversity into opportunity -- not always easy.
Turning 60 not only means that I can no longer die "tragically young," or that my skin doesn't fit as well as it used to, but that life does get better on almost every plane!
Follow Robert Levithan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/robertlevithan