Tuesday, November 4, 2014
This Strange Autumn
I began my morning with a column posted by a much younger friend, about the pleasures of being forty. It was a sweet and peaceful view that made me remember the whirlwind craziness that characterized my own forties, when I began to relive my twenties in another mode.
In another week, I will wake up to a new number. Recently I've been looking at what 66 means. Today, prompted by that young slip of a girl in her forties, I want to look at what 66 is.
My first book came out just as I turned 60, and writing has been a hallmark of this decade--I'm working on my fourth this year (and will be well into the next.) My sixties is a time when I can wake up, make coffee, and start writing, without interruptions or human speech getting in the way.
My sixties are turning out to be a time when I can completely and unreservedly enjoy my children. Adult children are the payoff for the years of toilet training, listening to backtalk, arbitrating sibling squabbles, monitoring homework assignments, and preparing three meals a day, more or less. At 66, I am unabashedly enjoying being a parent. Going for a beer with people who once kept me awake when they were teething is a profound joy.
I've had the great good luck to travel a lot in my sixties, filling up two passports from the time I was forty-five to sixty-five. My next passport will probably never be completely filled--although who knows? I recently met a redoubtable and charming lady in her late seventies who makes an annual trip to Japan to visit her son. Perhaps in my later years, I'll actually be able to sleep on a plane--that would be bliss, instead of catching up on every movie I've missed in the past year, and being worried that sleep may cause me to miss a serving of bibimbap.
I love the detachment from some longstanding desires that have come with being 66. I don't give a jolly damn if any man ever calls me again (other than the aforementioned offspring), and I've become the kind of woman who can pass a Clinique counter without any trouble at all. I keep my clothes instead of obsessively buying new things and giving the old away--and it's hard to remember my last pair of high-heeled shoes. And I don't diet anymore.
I treasure female friends at 66--and my male friends too. But for honest conversation, you can't do better than sitting with a glass of good wine and a woman whom you trust and like. On the other hand, my male friends provide perspectives I'd never find on my own, It's all good.
Yes, aches and pains are more frequent and more annoying as my body begins to wear out--and I see no more reason to talk about those than I used to discuss the acne that plagued my life well into my middle years. Acne and wrinkles make up one of life's crueler jokes--back aches really can't compare to that.
And there are still things to discover. I carry a camera with me so I can keep what delights and surprises me in the outside world. Cooking is a rediscovered pleasure, and poetry too (reading and learning by heart, not writing, thank goodness). Learning the beauty of the changes in light and heat as the seasons progress and remembering that after Christmas, daylight begins to return--not so long a wait.
At 66, my pace is slower and more attentive. I like it that way, after a life of rushing. I suppose that my drug of choice now would be marijuana, not methedrine--although I still love the speed and heroin rock of the Velvet Underground. Although I would never have believed in the years from 20-50, 66 may be the beginning of the best time of my life. I'm looking forward to finding that it is.