A meditation on my upcoming seventh decade, about a year and a half away
A few months ago I had the pleasure of a long conversation with fellow Medium writer extraordinaire Vienna De Vega, who hails from my original part of the woods. She lives not far from where my brother went to military academy, not too terribly far a drive from where I was born. Vienna writes one hot story about sex, and as a yogi in her seventies, we are both facing down the latter parts of our lives. We’re both aware of it.
I didn’t get the impression she was the slightest bit frightened, for I believe she and I hold many of the same notions about energy transference. The shell slips away, Something goes on. Who knows? Could be a lot better than some aspects of what we have now.
However, she’s already past seventy. I have about eighteen months. And in so many ways I am so jazzed.
I honor both perspectives, and as always value Dave’s kind humor. However if I may take a slightly different approach.
AARP, which was so kind to remind us of having turned fifty some twenty years ago, produced an article which outlines what typically happens -- but not always -- as we age into our later years. The reason I want to offer this is Carol’s comment:
There is something else which might be only relevant to retired health professionals. We see ourselves as role models. Inexplicably, we believe our health status is due to our own excellent personal care, and so when things begin to go wrong, we have failed. And that sense of failure is bound up with the concept of becoming a patient. Suddenly we are sitting on the other side of the desk , and the transition is painful and, dare I say it, humiliating.
I absolutely understand this and have to throw down this gauntlet: what on earth makes any of us think that health professional or not, we aren’t going to age? Somehow our bodies aren’t going to sag, bag, drag and otherwise shriek I’M GETTING OLD because we are? Where does it say in any medical professional’s manual that you are a failure because your body succumbed to science? Nah. I think we’re off the hook for that one.
Call me nuts. However, for my inching-close-to-70 dollar, it’s not that we are aging that is the role model. It’s how we manage it. Dance with it. Defy it to beat us into submission.
Dave’s terrific sense of humor which allows him to skewer what ails him and many of the rest of us as we ache and take pills is what mastery looks like to me.
Vienna does yoga religiously. Eats carefully. Manages her thinking and emotions, has lovely sex regularly (I’m reduced to a buzzer but I am perfectly happy with that, it’s cheaper to feed). She is well aware of encroaching age, but she works against encroaching decrepitude both of body and mind.
That’s where I am. Who knows if it will work? Has so far.
And not just for me. My buddy Margaret Kruger down in Sarasota and I had a long talk recently. She was discussing a serious health problem she was dealing with and was describing her hives, which blew her up horribly, as causing her to look like a “pool toy.”
I nearly choked laughing. That’s the whole point. Of course it sucked. Of course it’s scary. However when you can make comedy hay out of life’s shitsicles, they don’t own you. You own them. She’s fine. This past year she finally finished her IFR flight rating (Instrument Flight Rules). At 68. She is unstoppable.
When Maggie and I met last year I did a story on her life:
From the article:
In a recent conversation, Maggie commented about what it’s like to be 67. For her, the pace of growth has sped up at the same time she’s reached a point of great peace and satisfaction. She confesses great happiness to be 67, to be at this point in life, gifted with the perspectives of a broad and varied life.
She told me she couldn’t wait to see what 68 brings.
That is why Maggie is a friend. Who wouldn’t want such people around you?
As you and I approach 70 and beyond, we are able to dip a spoon into the soft centers of who we have been in the past. All the people we were, the parts we played, mistakes we made, our triumphs and troughs and glories. Because of that, as Dave mentioned in his article, our writing takes on a whole new meaning. Therein lies the role model piece. We have layer upon layer of life to reference when we tell stories. You don’t have that at 25.
I would refer you to the saucy, funny, sexy and irreverent Carol Lennox, who pens great shit like this:
From her article:
We wax or let our freak flags fly. We dye our hair, or let it attain that gorgeous silver younger women just wish they could get from a bottle. We work out, dance, swim, do martial arts, run, walk and stay healthy. Some I know even manage to stay slim. Those of us who don’t are proud of our sexy lady curves. Or we should be.
My kinda woman. Like Vienna. Like Maggie. Like my friend Rosennab who is a fourth-degree black belt, marathon runner and body builder in her late sixties. My kinda woman. Jay Geary and all those guys who lift and run and push themselves late in life.
To Carol Price I would say this: my much younger VA nurse dropped her pants on a Zoom call (figuratively) by telling me that she as a health professional tells people to exercise and eat right but she doesn’t. Nor do most of the ones I know. I have met perhaps two or three true doctor jocks, and one was a fellow female adventure traveler. She rocked. We understood each other. My nurse assumes, in spectacularly wrong fashion, that because she tells others to take care of themselves and doesn’t, then that is the case with me as well.
Oy. As in Vay. No honey, I walk my talk. Otherwise I fall apart. I’m already glued together in a lot of places, stitched in others, other parts clip in. I have to work out. I’d leave parts of me all over Oregon.
What I do know is that first, the number 70 is relatively meaningless. We have perhaps two or three more decades, and the real question is how we build on what we have, make fun of what creaks, negotiate with what falls off, rolls away or rolls up over our belts? These are what make life worthwhile. I have put in yeoman’s time at the gym, and those hours are paying off. However anyone at any time can start a workout program which will in every way put more spring in our step. There is no better RX for an aging body. Which is why lately I’ve added steeper climbs to my runs and I am looking for a martial arts studio. Yep. Why the hell not?
I’m not trying to be young. I am making my body happy by working it. I love physical work. I have terrible-awful CMC arthritis in both hands, surgery is coming. I have rotator cuff surgery in November. Parts of me need overhauls and upgrades. Meanwhile…..
Yesterday and today, to reference David’s comments about his rescheduled cruise, I got two emails which indicate, Covid notwithstanding, that I will spending September in Kenya and Tanzania. That’s another story. Mongolia, whose healthcare system is terrible, opened and two weeks later promptly closed, causing my red-faced trip planner to ask me to postpone until 2022. Kenya will do. I am back in full training mode, at the gym, on the hills, am looking for a lap pool. I am back in business. At 68 and counting.
It’s not the age. It’s what we do with the time we are given. It’s not the number. It’s the number of times we can laugh, be profoundly grateful, and in doing so, be the example. Seventy has nothing to do with that.
Life does. And how well we choose to live it.