Relax, today is not my birthday. My birthday has already come and gone this year but its passage was recent enough it got me thinking about birthdays in particular and aging in general. I'd have to say, my attitude towards my birthday is something of a mixed bag.
It seems peevish to me when people complain about how old they are getting. The observance of a birthday speaks on its own to the obvious advantage over the alternative type gathering. (As in memorializing a life that has been lost.) How cinchy can a choice get? Eating cake and ice cream versus being dead.
Even mediocre cake and melted ice cream wins that bet.
I don't think of myself as ungrateful, and I'd like to resist anything that even smacks of whininess. I lived every moment of my life, and having been here for the entire ride? I tell ya. You just had to be here.
And I'm really truly glad I was. Is.
Some years my reaction to The Birthday is mostly about The Number. This year I turned fifty-nine. It doesn't feel like anything in particular, turning fifty-nine doesn't, but if I had to go out on a limb and sum it up at the front end? I'd say so far fifty-nine mostly just feels like Pretty Damned Close to Sixty.
And the prospect of Sixty? Well, sixty just feels old. Weirdly, impossibly, officially old.
[Said feeling mirroring precisely the way my youngest daughter feels about turning twenty-nine. She considers the year to follow turning twenty-nine primarily as extended dress rehearsal for turning thirty. Thirty for her representing unknown realms previously only noted (if at all) on her internal chart as terra incognita. "Here be monsters".]
So, yeah. Approaching sixty and there are a couple of things I've already noticed. First, I was seated on my front porch the other afternoon, enjoying the daily parade that is our neighborhood when I realized my posture in the chair, right down to how I was holding my glass of water, was a dead ringer for the way my Mom typically sat, as captured in any number of photographs. It felt eerie, and what was stranger was how off it felt when I arbitrarily tried to change the way I was sitting. As soon as I wasn't paying active attention, my posture slid right back into the previously noted position.
is that something genetics would even do? Pass along a way to sit? I'm pretty sure my Mom never taught me to sit any particular way at all past trying to stay properly erect and keeping my knees and ankles together when wearing a dress or skirt. But here I was, reliably duplicating her posture whenever I quit working not to.
Secondly it has become disappointingly apparent: gravity is indeed a harsh mistress. Most of what I am uncomfortably aware of as "change" in the way I appear these days has to do with the inexorable effects of gravity. I'm not unhappy with my thighs per se (for instance) but I am most certainly not thrilled with the way a certain amount of what used to be my thigh has insinuated itself into something of a gentle bulge around and ever so slightly impinging upon the top third of my kneecaps.
It goes no better with various other anatomical players. Eyebrows, eyelids, chin line. Waistline, boobs, buttocks. They themselves are not so much different or heavier, but they have all ever so slightly detached from where they used to live (where I thought they were happy - I was!) and are edging at glacial speed into nearby territory. A body fat diaspora if you will. Fun house mirror effects without any of the fun.
Me no likee.
Further, this birthday dread reaction to the prospect of the Sixties is simply not my usual birthday set point. Looking back a decade, I was eagerly anticipating my fifties. I'd read about biblical Jubilee observances and thought a lot about the freedom offered as I shook the last leaves out of our newly emptied nest.
But these days when I look ahead, I'm just not leaning forward in any of the same ways towards my sixties. Sixty-something in part represents the age my parents were when I quit paying significant attention to them so I've got barely any idea of how they themselves weathered those years, just for starters. I feel I am at a loss for nearby role models.
Fear not. I have no plans on hitting sixty unprepared. The jury may still be out regarding plastic surgery options but at least when it comes to the lack of role models, I've already taken corrective measures. I contacted several dear friends who are older than I am, (plus smarter, braver, funnier, and a whole lot else I'd like to be more of) and asked them their advice on gracefully sticking the landing that is Sixty.
As I hear back I'll share their wisdom naturally, but for now it is your turn.
What is your advice on How to Succeed at Being Sixty? I'm all ears (especially the right one if you'll just excuse me turning my head a bit so I can catch everything you're saying…..?).