ChangeFamily/CommunicationReflectionFebruary 22, 20154Getting Older and Better

Aging is an inevitable result of staying alive. But you can have tremendous control over how you do it.

I’m about to turn 63. For­tu­nate­ly, age holds very lit­tle neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion for me, so I’m excit­ed, as I am every year: I love birth­days. And I love how my hus­band cel­e­brates my birth­day with me.

It is fas­ci­nat­ing being a good deal old­er than many of the peo­ple in my life. A num­ber of my clients and a few of my col­leagues at Pro­teus are young enough to be my chil­dren (and a few are younger than my actu­al chil­dren). For the most part, I don’t notice the dif­fer­ence in our ages mak­ing much of a dif­fer­ence in oth­er ways. All the noise folks of my gen­er­a­tion make about the Mil­lenials is large­ly puz­zling to me; I don’t see them as being that dis­sim­i­lar to me, at heart. They want to cre­ate work and rela­tion­ships that are mean­ing­ful to them, and to feel proud of what they’re accom­plish­ing. They want love and respect, and they don’t like peo­ple who lie to them or take unfair advan­tage of them. Sounds right to me.

But even though I don’t feel that dif­fer­ent, gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, from peo­ple who are a gen­er­a­tion or two younger than I am, I do notice some shifts hap­pen­ing in me as I move into the last third of my life. Some of these changes are pos­i­tive and excit­ing; some are a pain. Some help me to live a bet­ter life; some get in the way. Here’s my per­son­al list – your mileage may vary.

Great things about get­ting older:

  • I am more inter­est­ed in oth­er peo­ple than I’ve ever been. I’m just fas­ci­nat­ed by peo­ple and how they see them­selves and the world; the sto­ries they tell them­selves about their real­i­ty and the impact it has on them. I love to lis­ten and do it much more than in years past.
  • My reac­tions to cir­cum­stances are much less black–and-white than they used to be. I can see more pos­si­bil­i­ties in a giv­en sit­u­a­tion, and am more will­ing to enter­tain alternatives.
  • I am less inter­est­ed in get­ting cred­it and more inter­est­ed in oth­er peo­ple feel­ing moti­vat­ed and excited.
  • It both­ers me much less to be inept at things; I am more will­ing to take the time to under­stand and get bet­ter at new endeavors.
  • Patience, which has nev­er been my strong suit, is much eas­i­er for me than before. I’m will­ing to take the time to do things that deserve my time.
  • Because I have more finan­cial resource than I did as a young per­son, I have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to go new places and do new things. I love that.
  • I’m wis­er: hav­ing had lots of expe­ri­ences, I often have insights that I wouldn’t have had in ear­li­er years – and those insights ben­e­fit me and others.
  • Hav­ing grandchildren.
  • Still being my kids’ mom, but also being friends and equals in a com­plete­ly new and pos­i­tive way. It’s a fan­tas­tic com­bi­na­tion that can’t real­ly hap­pen until your kids are grown.
  • I don’t want to waste a sin­gle hour. I choose more con­scious­ly how and with whom to spend my time. I am much less like­ly to engage with neg­a­tive peo­ple, in use­less activ­i­ties, or in think­ing about unhelp­ful or unhealthy things.
  • I am much kinder to myself than I used to be. I’m more like­ly to acknowl­edge my good qual­i­ties, and much less like­ly to beat myself up for mis­takes or per­ceived lacks.

Not-so-great things about get­ting older:

  • I can’t expend as much ener­gy for as long as I used to with­out pay­ing a price. Even ten years ago, I could work a 14-hour day, sleep 5 hours, and do it again – and again – with­out any dis­cernible impact. These days, not so much. It’s part­ly that my body doesn’t put up with it in the same way, but – per­haps more impor­tant – I’m just not inter­est­ed in doing it anymore.
  • I have aches and pains. Don’t get me wrong: my health is excel­lent, and I’m fit and flex­i­ble. But I do notice that I stiff­en up if I sit in one posi­tion for a long time; my neck hurts if I’m not care­ful about how I hold my head while I’m work­ing on the com­put­er; I have to stretch my back when I first get out of bed in the morning.
  • Mor­tal­i­ty is real: The time in front of me is less than the time behind me. That’s daunt­ing; I love being alive, and I don’t want to die. I want to be around to see my grandchildren’s chil­dren grow up and get mar­ried; that’s high­ly unlike­ly. I want to have at least 50 more years with my hus­band; pret­ty cer­tain that won’t happen.

As you can see, the “great” list is con­sid­er­ably longer than the “not-so-great” list. And that actu­al­ly is my expe­ri­ence; for the most part, I like and appre­ci­ate get­ting old­er. In fact, I very much enjoy feel­ing like a trib­al elder, know­ing that there are many ways in which I can be a help and inspi­ra­tion to those who are com­ing after me.

I’ve decid­ed that I’m going to con­tin­ue to age like a great wine or a Stradi­var­ius vio­lin: get­ting deep­er, more com­plex, and more valu­able; bring­ing a greater degree of sub­tle­ty, beau­ty and joy to the world.

How about you? 


  • Christine (Moritz) Johnson

    March 20, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    I wish this post had a “like” but­ton I could push. Won­der­ful to hear you so happy.


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