This I Believe

Carol - Neenah, Wisconsin
Entered on July 19, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65

I believe we have lost touch with the adventure and the wonder of aging.

I will turn 60 next year and I am excited about that. Bring it on! I don’t fear my impending coot-hood. There is nothing shameful or unnatural about getting older; rather it is the goal.

I learned that particular truth several years ago from my friend Adele, who is a role model for aging. In her sixties, she was planning her annual canoe portaging trip to Isle Royale National Park. The first thing she did to prepare for a week in the wilderness was to revamp her weight-training regime. More weight; fewer reps. And by the way, she had to take time off from her part-time job and her many volunteer activities.

In her sixties and seventies, my friend Lavon traveled all over the world. China, Russia, Norway, on and on. Lavon’s husband liked to stay closer to home, so when the spirit moved her, she grabbed a friend or one of her daughters and headed off to explore.

These are women whose minds and spirits became stronger as they aged. And with them as role models, I have gained something I didn’t have at 20: a sense of perspective and an understanding of what’s important.

Adele and Lavon taught me to welcome each year as a chance to be better, to learn more, and to have adventures, without worrying about what others think. Lavon was famous for the time she danced with a stranger to the grocery store’s canned music.

Oh, I know I’ll need to fine-tune myself as I continue this exciting journey. I’m ready to do that. I’ll stay open and attuned to change, to new ideas, to other people. But then, that’s what I have always tried to do.

And like my role models did before me, I am living more freely and more fully than I ever have. I have discarded the unnecessary: Fashion trends, outmoded ideals of beauty, the judgment of people who don’t know me. I no longer have time for those things. Definitions of beauty change with amazing frequency. Kindness and curiosity and a sense of adventure are ever-lasting.

I am lucky. My adult kids have chosen to find me charming. And now that it’s just us, my husband and I have reinvented our relationship, becoming closer and more comfortable with each other than we were when we were young. We see our shared aging as the last great adventure and we have committed to enthusiastically throwing ourselves into it.

Aging? Bring it on. I have the example of two strong women who aged not gracefully, but powerfully and with gusto.