Turning forty was no big deal. Heck, I went to college for the first time in my mid-forties.
Age 50 was a snap (which, unfortunately, my knees starting doing in my fifties).
But as I started my sixtieth year, my body started to rebel.
High blood pressure that I could not control by diet and exercise meant a medication.
Then I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Enter more medication.
And a few months ago, my doctor thought I had a mild heart attack. I did not, but a small clogged artery in my heart was discovered. I've got some more new meds--a beta blocker, and a daily cholesterol drug.
If you've read this far, you are probably asking yourself if I've made any lifestyle changes. The answer is that I have, but it's been a process to give up a lifetime of bad eating choices and couch potato-ism. Drinking a lot less diet soda, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and increasing the fiber in my diet, along with exercise, has helped a lot. I've also lost a lot of weight in the last three years.
But this journey of aging and lifestyle change also has an emotional component to it. Dang it, I'm getting old.
And a few weeks ago, I learned that one of my oldest friends died; she was a few months younger than me.
As I've been struggling with all of these feelings about my aging, I've been thinking of the minseries The Thorn Birds, which was on television in 1983.
The amazing actress Barbara Stanwyck (who was in her seventies at the time) played the aging Mary Carson in this miniseries. Mary Carson falls in love with a priest, played by the actor Richard Chamberlin.
At one point, while revealing her passion to Father Ralph, Mary wails that she may be old on the outside, but inside, she's still feels young. She can still feel passion.
When I watched this miniseries, I was in my mid-thirties. I laughed as Mary wailed about her lost youth, the passion she could not indulge.
And now, at age 63, I know how Mary felt.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not in love with a young priest!
But in the last three years, as my body has fallen prey to chronic health conditions, I've been in a state of denial about my own aging. Inside, I'm still the same young person! What the heck? It's my time to get old?
I've been having some long, hard discussions with myself.
It's decision time: Crap or get off the pot.
I have to take really good care of myself, get my rest, watch my stress.
It's time for a lifestyle shift.
I've decided to demote myself this coming summer--I'm going to give up my stressful supervisor position at a community mental health agency, cut down on my work responsibilities, slow down a bit.
Like the aging Mary Carson, I feel young inside. Gray hair, age spots, creaking joints, and wrinkles are daily reminders to me that I'm getting old(er). The person inside, this youthful spirit that still resides within me, wants to work a little slower, and take more time out to have some fun.
After giving the matter much thought, I've decided to chuck my angst over getting old. I'm going to keep getting older, but I can take care of myself to ensure that I stay fit, active, and fully involved in this business of living.
I'm planning on moving into senior housing this summer, so I will need to make less money than I am making now (wild idea, huh?). My plan is to work until age 66, which is my full retirement age, but at a less frantic pace than I'm doing now.
I'll have more time (and energy) to blog, read, exercise, spend time with my grandchildren.
Maybe work harder on my writing, develop my story idea and start the book I've been wanting to write for so long.
I don't want to be like the character of Mary Carson, grieving a lack of passion in my life. After all, passion isn't just about love, or sex. I can be passionate about living a quality life, filled with love and work that's important to me.
I intend to be passionate about taking care of myself, about not being afraid to tackle new projects, try new things, keep saying yes to life. I will post more about fear later; it's a big issue for me.
And I will keep thinking of Barbara Stanwyck, working in her seventies, doing something she loved. She must have loved working in show business; she did it for 59 years! Stanwyck died in 1990, at age 82, and her last acting job was 1985-1986.
I'm 63. Getting older. Aging.
Hey, it's my turn.
And I plan on making the best of it.
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