Fifteen years ago, my friends Barbara (in her 50’s), Muriel (in her 70’s) and I (in my 60’s) wrote about our lives in our each of our respective decades. Our never-realized plan was to turn them into an article and maybe even a book. The following is a condensed version of what I wrote about my sixties, found tucked away in an old three-ring notebook.
by Judy F. Kugel
I would have never guessed that during the first two years of my sixties:
- I would meet an 82-year old half-sister that I never knew existed
- I would make my first visit to South America and fall in love with Chile
- I would have an op-ed piece published in The New York Times.
- I would finally get pie crust right
In my sixties I am meeting new work challenges, I am content with who I am and love getting away with saying pretty much what I please at work and at home.
But there are downsides…I am dealing with various aches and pains that come from nowhere and won’t go away. I admit to regularly using my two index fingers to pull the drooping skin around my mouth in the direction of my ears to picture the outcome of the plastic surgery that I’ll never have.
I work hard to slow the inevitable changes that my aging body inflicts upon me. My SPF-15 or higher creams are to prevent wrinkles (not working so well). I bike to work every day and I lift 30lbs in shoulder presses. I’ve had minor setbacks, like the knee surgery that ended my jogging and the emergence of a latent gene that makes me gluten-intolerant which, for a pasta-and-bagel lover, is pretty sad. But other genes have spared me that menopausal-matronly spread. Though my hair is about 95% silver, my hairdresser tells me that people pay to have hair streaked like mine. I am mindful of how much worse things could be and am grateful each day that they are not.
As I watch my friends contemplate retirement, I realize how much my work is a part of my identity. Am I ready to give that up? Not yet.
My own family is the luckiest thing about my life. Regrettably, our two grown sons are not nearby. But email and cheap phone rates bring them closer. My husband of 34 years is still the man of my dreams. If possible, we love each other more with each day. And hold each other tighter, fully aware that this cannot go on forever. The kids say we bicker, but we don’t think so. We think we have spirited conversations about subjects of great depth.
I don’t have a lot of spare time, but I have been trying to develop a non-fiction writing career, and I’m having some success. I call it my night job. And I expect when I retire, it will become my day job.
There are other issues that move to center stage in one’s sixties, such as religion and spirituality, dealing with loss, life-threatening illness and more. It is important to prepare for the inevitable, but just as important not to become obsessed by it.
And what about the future? Like all Americans, I feel the loss of security brought on by September 11, 2001. Yet I continue to live my life as normally as possible because I see no other option.
Our sixties remind us that there is much to be done, and never enough time.
(Funny how things don’t change much - I could have written many of the same words today - about my seventies.)