Every stage of life can benefit from a positive mental outlook. As you age, this becomes even more important.
My sixties rained down like an unexpected storm. I had no boots, no umbrella, no jacket to protect me from the torrents of age and its forceful immediacy. The woman looking back at me from the mirror was old. Beauty had become the beast and her knees creaked.
All around me was loss. Appearances change, and not always for the better. Careers end. Children are grown up and don’t need you in the same way. Grief is in your figgin’ face and there are a lot of reasons to be sad.
This is it. There is no going back to get it right and the truth is, I didn’t really figure life out anyway. I just made peace with it. And about the time I made that peace, I heard a cultural whisper, an impolite rumble that pulled at me and wanted me to lie down and be quiet.
I said, “Screw that!”
This second chapter descends upon a generation of seekers of conscious awareness who will not go gentle into that good night. This is not your parents’ retirement.
So it is at this juncture that I offer the three Rs. Because how you traverse the coming years will either create celebration or depression, and I think we would all like to celebrate.
Here are the three Rs of aging consciously:
While walking through my youth, I discarded pieces of myself along the way: writing as a lifestyle and a career, an appreciation for the wild in me, cringeworthy memories of reckless decisions and poor choices, and unhealed psychic pain. The things in life that will not stay in the rearview mirror, but gather at your feet. And if you are going to continue moving forward, you must find a home for them in your heart and psyche.
This is reclamation. It is a realization that there are no “do-overs.” Pick up the pieces and move forward. All those broken, hurt, unattractive shards of life are the grit that gave birth to the pearl of your hard-won wisdom. And here’s what I have to share with the younger generation about that: nothing is ever as broken as you think, so reclaim the pieces.
Be the artist, the dancer, the outspoken person you have always wanted to be. Reclaim your pieces.
Life is already reinventing you, whether you like it or not. Beauty fades and physical prowess wanes.
If you haven’t thought about a healthy lifestyle yet, now would be the time.
For 25 years, I partnered my husband in business. I ran his office. I was his biggest fan and his biggest helper. He was able to parlay his work into a satisfying second chapter career.
As for me, I gained independence. I began my second career as a writer, the dream that got put on the back burner when life intervened and there was a mortgage to be paid and a business to be tended to. I gave away every suit in my closet, threw out every last pair of panty nose―the monster of my generation―and not a single pair of high heels made the cut to stay in my closet.
Instead I wear jeans. I wear flowing things. I get up every day and write. I write. I hike. I cook. I sleep. Rinse Repeat.
This is how I have reinvented myself. I am a writer, and at this age and stage, I finally have something to say.
There are no races to win anymore. There is no competition. There is only an inner striving for excellence, a personal best to the very last.
I renew myself by learning everyday. I study. I read, and of course, I write. I have become a perpetual student of the writing craft and it lights me up. I stumble around technology with a sense of humor and the help of younger friends.
And when the mornings edge into the afternoons, I leave my office and hike through the woods. This is what nurtures me and renews me, daily.
Conscious aging means staying awake and alive until the last little bit of life is wrung out from the fabric of your existence. Though the verdancy browns around the edges and sleep demands its due, life is vibrant in a new way.
You do not know where or when your path will end, only that it will.
Thus the elder drinks deeply, filling the heart and senses with gratitude for what has been and what will be. We are not here to die, but to live fully our gifts, stretching our creativity and imagination tight across the line of a new horizon.