Until about five years ago, if you asked what the number 65 meant to me, I would’ve replied, “That was a great year! That was the year the Beatles released Rubber Soul! I was 14 and I’d just written my first batch of songs.” These days, however, it means I have to make a trip to the Social Security office to fill out a bunch of forms, and make an appointment to see my doctor to check the dosages of the prescriptions I must take.
But, really, if I’m honest, it means less to me than it used to. I’ve been on a pretty involved, eye-opening journey for the past five years, one that’s led me to realizations that seem to be pretty typical of a lot people my age. Sometimes it’s been complicated by the constant battle of Old Notions vs New Insights, which I think is especially pronounced in this time of age bias and youth worship. I don’t think my grandparents—or even my parents—had to draw so many lines in the sand and stand up against so many devils. Life during their generations was pretty cut and dry. Grow up, marry, have kids, have grand kids, get old. The pressure to stay youthful, firm, fashionable (women), productive (men), f**kable, and fascinating just wasn’t part of their reality. Not like today, anyway. It was perfectly fine at a certain age to start dressing less provocatively, to gain a little weight, to go gray, and to slow down. I remember that if a woman didn’t dress in “age-appropriate” clothing, if she wore youngish makeup and jewelry, colored her hair, or surrendered to cosmetic surgery, she was judged severely for not growing old gracefully. We still battle this to some degree, but not as much as, say 40-plus years ago.
As I move closer to September 24th, I really don’t feel 65. Or what I somehow imaged 65 was supposed to feel like. In fact, as long as I stay away from mirrors it’s easy for me to drift into a perpetual state of thirty-something. Not physically, but internally. Me. That person who looks out through these eyes. Some days I feel even younger and I’m obligated to do things I used to do, like put on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and dance with myself (which usually plunges me into feeling a lot older the next day). But as I get older I’m coming to understand that time isn’t a linear thing. We slide around acquiring as many experiences and learning as many life lessons as we can, and one of these lessons is that “young” and “old” are two-dimensional concepts. The time continuum just doesn’t adhere to such a limited, linear view. I’ve come to recognize a huge paradox: life is a coil that we slide up and down, always seeing the same view, but from different perspectives. At 65 I feel younger than I did when I was 19, for instance. The trick is to stop thinking of age as a three-dimensional thing. When we can do this, the non-physical us gets younger as the physical us gets older.
“I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.”
I’ve lived enough lives to be three or four people. Seriously. While writing my memoirs I’m amazed at how much I’ve packed into a few short years. You name it, it’s probably happened to me, or I’ve done it, or I’ve at least tried to do it. I’m proud of this and I can honestly say I never was afraid to try untested things, follow uncharted roads, and trust unexpected strangers. Am I finished? Hell, no! If I’m lucky, I still have a good 20 to 30 years left to take in more experiences. The trick, of course, is to stay healthy and to continue refusing to get old, and that too is part of the paradox: we refuse to get old by turning off the voices that demand we refuse to get old. I no longer feel the pressure to be eternally youthful, firm, fashionable, f**kable, and fascinating, for instance. Actually, that last one is happening on its own. All I’m doing is reinventing what getting physically older means to me. It means staying in step with the thirty-something within and continuing to allow her to live an authentic, fearless life. It means never losing my curiosity and never falling into the trap of believing I’ve actually arrived somewhere. It means putting on the Beatles’ Rubber Soul and dancing with myself, and then gracefully allowing myself to rest up from it the next day.