First, that I get to. As they say, it is a privilege denied to many, and I am beginning to understand that as those around me die. My friend who died last Spring wanted more than anything to keep living despite the facts piled against him. He tried every treatment available and went to numerous doctors looking for a different diagnosis. He made the best of his remaining days doing the things he loved and saying goodbye to places and people he loved. He was only 62. He fought death for almost ten years.
Second, I can say things I’d never have said in my youth. In short, you can tell the truth. If someone does something stupid in your presence, you can tell them so. While I haven’t done this exactly, I have written some letters to various companies and complained about customer service, where before I would quietly accept their inadequate answers. As I get ever older I will be able to say more and more outrageous things. My grandma, attending the funeral of an unpleasant acquaintance, listened to people sing her non-existent virtues until she could stand it no longer. Family legend has it that grandma finally stood up in disgust and said something to the effect, “She wasn’t the saint you people make her out to be. She was mean and bitter and unpleasant and the only reason her presence was ever tolerated was out of common courtesy.” With that she grabbed her hat and purse and walked out of the church. I don’t know whether she later regretted her words. I hope not.
Third, I no longer care so much about how I look. I understand now how older women tend to gain weight. Why not? If you love food, you can eat (hopefully within reason) the things you enjoy and not worry about fitting into that Little Black Dress for the next party. You don’t have to have the latest fashions. A huge relief for many, I should think. It’s exhausting (not to mention expensive as hell) shopping every season for the newest, latest, best. You don’t care so much about wearing white after Labor Day, or having your shoes and bag match. Most of these things were never important to me, but I do find that I don’t mind going out without make up, or if my hair isn’t ‘perfect.’ I’m less worried about ‘looking nice’ and more about ‘being comfortable.’ I haven’t worn heels in two years. In fact, if I tried now, I would be very uncomfortable. I don’t worry about ‘bad hair days’ any more. In general, I just don’t care what someone may think about how I look. If someone has a problem with my dress, that’s on them, not me.
Fourth, if you are lucky enough to retire you find you finally have time to do the things you want. Although you probably don’t have the money to do some of them (like travel), you do have the time to finally learn to knit, do crossword puzzles all day, or write the novel that has always lay hidden.
I have learned to enjoy each day. I have learned time is precious and therefore spend your time doing the things you love. You have more freedom, not worrying so much about what other people are thinking about you. At least these are the truths that I have come to understand. I think for the most part they are the truths we all learn.
I started this blog shortly after my 50th birthday and unexpectedly retired due to disability. I was searching for meaning in my life. This blog, anti depressants, therapy, journalling, and a little Buddhism have helped my find my way. Now, my 53rd birthday next week, I am more comfortable and happier than I ever was before. I have mourned my youth with gut wrenching tears and have been able to move beyond them. I learned that regrets are some of the hardest things to accept and instead of accepting some of mine, I decided to make some of them reality. The people here at WordPress have encouraged me along my way and supported me during my rough patches. That’s the last thing I’ve learned about getting old; you need good friends.
Thank you, my many friends, for your support in helping me reach this point. I hope from here I will spend less time on “Me Stuff” and more posts about the world and our place in it. I hope to publish a book of my haiku and have a bit of a start. Maybe I’ll… picture, animate, picturate, photograte, punctuate (I can’t for the life of me think of the right word. Damn memory) add my own pictures to the book. I also hope to get my novel finished at last. That’s another thing I learned as I grow old. Do the things that matter to you first.