Too Young To Be Seventy

Age is a matter of the mind. That’s a phrase I’ve used often that seemed to take on new meaning as I approached my seventieth birthday. I love it when I get comments that I don’t look as old as I am. Or better put, that I look younger than I am. But being seventy snuck up on me and I’m not sure what to do with it.

As this milestone birthday approached, I was beside myself thinking about crossing over into the next decade. I’d no longer be able to say I was in my sixties. And that felt old! Maybe age is no longer a matter of the mind but a matter of facing reality.

In a conversation with my friend, Betty, who will pass this same landmark later in the year, she reminded me to “think of all those who haven’t made it this far.” We’ve had friends our age and younger who’ve left us before their time and that’s a sobering thought. Betty reminded me that we’re lucky to be seventy.

book 003I happened upon a book by Judith Viorst that made me laugh. The title, I’m Too Young to Be Seventy, mirrored my thoughts and feelings perfectly. Then on the news I heard a declaration that 60 is the new 40. I guess that means that 70 is the new 50. I feel better already.

People are living longer, said the reporter, and we’re a healthier society, more active now. There are articles everywhere about how, after retiring, John or Mary changed their life by pursuing a new career, striking out in a direction they’d always wanted to try. But that’s not me. I’m not looking for a new career and am pretty content to have my work years behind me.

There are also many advice articles about planning the next phase of your life. Whatever that might be. Retirement is a challenge and I’m still working on that. I have days when I feel useless and lazy but it was shocking when I realized how often I was saying “I waste so much time.” Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying I’m idle because I’m always doing something. Reading a book, writing an essay, watching TV, lunch and other activities either with friends or alone. But all these things seem to lack meaning or purpose.

Some days I even feel guilty. Especially when watching TV news, it’s easy to see that the world is in upheaval and how unhappy so many people are. How come my life is so serene? Do I deserve this? Everyone says you’ve worked hard for many years; you’ve earned this time; enjoy it. I guess my challenge is to find a satisfying way to use all this leisure time.

I’ve been taking stock lately. When I first retired, I purposely decided to take it slow and not jump into any responsibilities or commitments. That would have been just my style: stay busy so you don’t have to think. Now, after two years, I’ve reached a plateau where I’m comfortable with my life, am okay being alone and able to occupy myself. I’ve reconnected with many friends and have developed a pretty satisfying life.

Maybe I’m finally ready to take on a volunteer opportunity, assume just a bit of a schedule, be needed or depended on just a little. There’s a hospice two blocks from where I live. Think I’ll give them a call. An elementary school has a reading program where their students come to my building and read with our residents. Next school year I think I’ll give that a try. I feel younger already.

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