Happy Birthday to me. I just turned 61 years old. Telling you this makes me feel a whole lot of uncomfortable even downright queasy. I rarely reveal my age. Really only to my closest friends. And now, here I am sending it out into the universe.
Why now? Because it’s time to change the narrative in my own mind around aging. Let me start by saying I know it’s a privilege to grow older. I know what the alternative is. I’m grateful to be here especially after going through breast cancer more than 10 years ago.
At the same time, I don’t want to feel toxic positivity. Maybe toxic is too strong of a word. Perhaps forced positivity is a better descriptor. There’ll always be people better off and worse off than you or me in every aspect of life.
But, denying how I feel and then adding guilt on top of that for not feeling grateful doesn’t help. I feel what I feel about getting older. And that feeling didn’t grow from within me, but from the influences around me throughout my 61 years of life.
Our society values youth and beauty which is generally fair, smooth skinned, thin bodies. Is that changing? Maybe, but so slowly that our great grandchildren will still likely be receiving the same message.
Do I feel like a 61-year-old? No, I feel like a 40-year-old, ok maybe 50, lol. I do notice I don’t recover as quickly from aches and pains, and my memory is not what it used to be.
But, what I really feel is I have so much more to accomplish and time is running out. I’m now on the downward side of that halfway point. It’s a slippery slope and that frightens me.
I think what contributes to this is my life doesn’t look like most of my contemporaries. Most 61-year-olds are retired or at least thinking about retiring. I’m trying to grow a business that can support me.
Women in their 60’s are enjoying their grandchildren. I have a 17-year-old daughter who is about to graduate and go off to university. Which reminds me, I saved the 1 and 6 birthday candles from her 16th birthday and we used them on my cake…in reverse. Much easier than blowing out 61 candles!
Also, not being part of a couple adds to that feeling. I never thought I would be single again at this point in my life. Of course, I know I’m not the only one. There are plenty of women on their own whether by choice or not. You can’t deny though, the world favours couples once you get beyond a certain age.
We really don’t treat our elders with much respect. There’s a point where people become invisible, are set aside, especially if they don’t have family close by. Just look at our long-term care facilities. Our whole system doesn’t celebrate getting old.
We could learn a lot from Indigenous communities. Elders are pivotal members of the community. They are kept close by as stewards and teachers of history, customs, and traditions passing on knowledge to the younger generations.
In my daughter’s Grade 12 Challenge and Change in Society class, their assignment is to interview an elderly person. When her teacher was asked, “How old is elderly?”, he responded 50 and up. What the what! 50, really? So much for challenge and change in society. Although I did read an article that said the older we get, the further along in age we consider elderly to be. I’m guessing her teacher is not yet 50.
I hope this is not coming across as one big whiny diatribe. That’s not my intent. I would like to change my thinking around aging and hopefully, that’ll help change my daughter’s thinking, and her children, and so on.
And, doesn’t change start with admitting you have a problem, an inaccurate belief or way of thinking that’s not benefitting you, and then owning it? So, here I am at 61.
Let me know in the comments how you feel about aging.
Until next time,