Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Facing Aging at mid-life

I thought I knew a lot about mid-life, having already written a book on turning fifty, The Tao of Turning Fifty, (see book page at; it's  essentially a heads-up about the emotional turbulence of menopause and the mid-life transition. But this year I'm 59, and turning 60 in November. I want to write about it, but realize I don't have a clue about what it means to turn 60. It's definitely on my mind. 

I know it's on my mind because I am not telling anyone I'm 60 - I'm definitely still 59, and holding. Usually in other years, I have been anxious to add 6 months to my age and bump myself up to the next birthday's age. But not this year. It is a milestone, a major one, although maybe not as major as 65 - mandatory retirement age in some countries.

I did get a letter from the Quebec government asking me if I wanted to start receiving my old age pension or wait until I'm 65. It's a paltry amount, barely over $100 a month, so yes, I can wait for that. But it made me sit up and think, wait a minute, I'm just getting started. I'm not retiring yet!

Having raised a family and worked mostly at home for over 20 years, I have just begun to discover the freedom of having a work life, and an identity other than mother. I'm leading classes and retreats for women, and still studying and learning new things. I just completed a year-long training in facilitating rituals, for instance. And I'm auditioning for an ABBA based musical theatre show in the fall. Now that my kids are studying away from home, there is room for ME, and MY projects. Mid-life has been the great liberator, once I got through the ups and downs of menopause.  Does turning 60 mean I'm entering a new phase?

On the down side, I do see signs that I am not accepting aging very gracefully. I still dye my hair to cover the gray. I find it makes me look pale and tired when I let the roots grow out, - I've tried it twice now - there's just not enough glamorous shiny white hair to provide contrast. And I just bought a slew of facial products, natural based of course, to apply to my skin morning and night. Cleanser, toner, aging serum, skin tightening masque, and all. I never thought I would be a client for beauty products. See, roots showing and frown lines:

Wikipedia puts mid-life in a depressing framework: "Middle-aged adults often show visible signs of aging such as loss of skin elasticity and graying of the hair. Physical fitness usually wanes, with a 5–10 kg (10–20 lb) accumulation of body fat, reduction in aerobic performance and a decrease in maximal heart rate. Strength and flexibility also decrease throughout middle age. However, people age at different rates and there can be significant differences between individuals of the same age."

Since it's on my mind a lot, I'm trying to come up with a ritual to help women see the positive side of aging, and not just worry about wrinkle lines, laugh lines, crow's feet, saggy boobs and love handles. I realize there are many upsides - there's a rich harvest to this time of life, right? It's time to start reflecting on where you've been and where you are going, who you are, your authenticity. Instead of fearing old age, perhaps we can look at those fears and see them in a new light. Drop the external mask, and find the real inner beauty.

Reading Anam Cara by John O'Donohue, I fell eagerly upon the chapter Ageing: the Beauty of the Inner Harvest. He relates the four seasons to the seasons of the body, and of course, fall is the time of ageing. It's a book that talks a lot about the need for solitude and a quiet place to be with your own soul.

 "The beauty and invitation of old age offers a time of silence and solitude for a visit to the house of your inner memory. You can revisit all of your past.Your soul is the place where your memory lives. ... "In actual fact, old age, as the harvest of life, is a time where your times and their fragments gather. In this way you unify your self, achieve a new strength, poise and belonging that was never available to you when you were distractedly rushing through your days. Old age is a time of coming home to your deeper nature , of entering fully into the temple of your memory where all your vanished days are secretly gathered awaiting you.

Ok, so 60 is not that old. Maybe I need to dance with that world 'old' a little and find some new associations with it. Some old things are really good, like an old friend, an old worn pair of jeans that fit you just right and aren't too tight, an old comforter or quilt that has been well loved and kept you warm all your life or an old suede jacket passed down from your mother that has a special patina to it.

I invite you to muse on what ageing brings up for you. What does turning 50 mean? what does turning 60 mean? Is there less of something, or more of something? Does life seem less rich or more rich? I'll be musing on this in the weeks to come, and blogging here, so come back and check it out.


ps Our time is limited. If you make it age 80, you will have had 29,200 days on the planet. Which means that when you're 40 you only have 14,600 days left. That may sound like a lot, but it definitely feels finite; it won't go on forever. The age of 50 particularly seems to bring up fears of mortality for many people. It's do or die time. Literally. (see 

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