“When you get to the highest point on the roller coaster you can either scream in fear or squeal with delight.”
“How To Stay Youthful In Your 60s: A 6-Step Roadmap.” From the moment I wrote that title, something felt off to me. Did I really think that it was important for a woman to hang on to her youthfulness in her sixties? Wasn’t that like telling them, “look, you’re friggen’ old and there is no value in that, so here’s how to stay youthful. Youth: is it the be-all end-all of a woman’s life?
The truth about youthfulness is that it is a tiny, little spot in the rearview mirror of my life. Sagging has set into places that I didn’t know could sag. The skin under my arms has become a veritable sail. My graying hair, has for some reason, taken on a texture and life of it’s own, causing it to sproing. You know exactly what sproing means if you have even one gray hair. And don’t get me started on the sudden need for digestive enzymes! All of these things are the outward manifestations of aging. Is making them go away really what I need to make important in my life? Certainly the people on Madison Avenue would like to tell me that it is. Maybe the title I was searching for and wanted to write was “How to Stay Truthful in Your Sixties: A 6-Step Roadmap.” What would that look like? Here’s my 6-step roadmap suggestions for staying truthful in your sixties (and beyond):
1. PURPOSE: My neighbor, Austin is in her eighties. She’s a little wobbly at times, but she still climbs the hills around where I live several times a week. When Austin isn’t pumping up the inclines, she is making art. Recently she built a small studio on her land, replete with a garage door that allows her to open up her studio to the garden when she is working.
Austin has purpose in her life. Her hair is white, her hands, bony and veined. She has beautiful hands, hands that know the wisdom and wonder of making art. We all need a purpose. Something that makes us feel excited to get up for each day.
2. RELEVANCE: My husband and I have old Nordic skis. I remember the Christmas that we got them. All new and shiny. Couldn’t wait to get them out on the snow.
As the years went by, we found ourselves skiing with people half our age, who wore little skate-skis and blew past us as we did the Nordic trudge. I laughed and said to hubby, “Look at us honey, we’re getting old.” He replied, “You gotta keep moving to be relevant.”
That statement is not only true in exercise, but it’s true in things that develop around us. For instance, I did not grow up with a computer. I was the last person in my state to actually get email, but I have learned to keep up on what is relevant. Thirty years ago, I would have sent a copy of my article to a magazine or newspaper and now, I simply email it. Relevance. Stay up on what’s changing in your world.
3. INSPIRATION: If you are in your sixties, seventies or eighties, you get some automatic cred for living this long. I did more than a few things right and more than a few things wrong. Now I get to stand in the light of my truth and share my lessons with the world around me.
At the same time, I never want to be too old to be inspired. I have a writing coach who is half may age. She is my mentor and in addition to teaching me a lot about story structure, she has taught me that it is equally important to be mentored as it is to mentor.
Allowing myself to be curious, teachable and inspired by someone else nurtures vitality. I also have a relationship with young woman (she’s 16) that I mentor in writing. I like the inspirational balance of both.
4. EAT THIS IT WILL MAKE YOU BEAUTIFUL: I came of age in my kitchen, reading Jethro Kloss and Adelle Davis and though I have explored many diets over the years, I always return to the simple diets of these two health food pioneers that make sense in terms of staying balanced. It goes like this: eat a lot of fresh, raw and also lightly cooked vegetables. Eat lean protein. Avoid processed carbs, like crackers, breads and chips. Eat minimal fruit and stay away from sugar. Drink lots of water.
This is a good diet at any age, but is especially relevant (there’s that word again) as your body gets older.
Here is what I know: the biggest chemical reaction that happens in the body in the course of the day is the food that you put into your mouth for energy. Foods will either create inflammatory chemicals or anti-inflammatory chemicals, and those chemicals in turn can and will create pain. An alkaline diet that contains a lot of fresh veggies is going to be less inflammatory than a carbohydrate and sugar based diet.
Throw in some good fats too, like coconut oil and avocado.
I pretty much live off of soups and salads and I enjoy my time in the kitchen, creating my kind of art.
5. SAY NO TO AGEISM: We live in unprecedented times that afford us the luxury or the curse of living 30 years beyond our retirement. Not everyone wants to hang out and garden for 30 years. Our Boomer generation was built on the back of social change and activism. This is the perfect time in your life to be an activist. Educate those around you to the truth of aging, which is and should be, that we are human beings first, with the capacity to be well versed in traversing the terrain of the human condition. Our relevance, our significance is not dictated by an out-of-touch Madison Avenue, but rather by the sense of conscious aging that our generation is uniquely embracing.
6. GRATITUDE: Every single day that I am alive, I light a candle and I pray a list. I pray thank you. It’s a big list. I breathe it in and I breathe it out. I’m sixty-four, and each year I get this sense of how fast it all goes and how you have to make the most of every moment regardless of your years.
The body breaks down. Smooth, youthful beauty is replaced by deep and interesting lines, a map that shows where you have been. Pain is a humbling reality, both physically and psychically. Still the heart does not know age. Go for what the heart tells you because the essence of you, the soul of you is what never changes.
“The youth stands outside of life and wonders about it,” says The Sage’s Tao Te Ching. “ The sage, with arms open wide, lets life flow through them.” Be grateful unto your last breath.
We are meaning seeking creatures. Our paths change with each decade and significance slips away from us only if we do not embrace purpose, inspiration and relevance. One day I will hopefully be in my eighties and still be making art, like my friend Austin. I hope you will too.
In the meantime I’ll try to live by this bit of wisdom: seize the day, fill your heart, move your body and give thanks. Life is so much shorter than we think it is.
How do you find ways to stay truthful as you age? Share in the comments.