How life goes
SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura () - October 6, 2007 - 12:00am

How does life go?  I ask myself once in a while.  It is interesting, you know, to reduce it to a type of formula, like Gail Sheehy does in her book Passages, which grew along with her until she recently turned 60.

The first age-related trauma I felt when I was turning 30.  Omigod, I am getting so old, I thought.  Look, I’m beginning to have lines.  My body is sagging, getting one inch closer to the floor.  I remember staring out the window of my office at a horrible grey sky full of telephone and electrical wires and feeling dismayed.  That was on my 32nd birthday.  Strangely I remember that mixture of panic with a dash of depression, a sense of impending doom.  True enough, within the following years my relationships broke up, my life fell into a million little pieces. I messed up my life in my 30s. 

It was a mid-life crisis.  Women have it in their 30s, men in their 40s.  We never do things together.  Everyone has a mid-life crisis but no one can tell you exactly when or how it will happen but something terrible will happen and life as you know it will change.

Then my 40s came around.  Didn’t bother me.  I was turning 40, so what?  I was working, mending my life, trying to glue the shards of glass together, making myself work hard to provide for my future.  No trouble being 40 at all.  But when I was 49 and turning 50, there it was again.  “How old are you?”  someone asked and I found myself stuck on “Fffff—,”  I could not say “Fifty.”   That seemed really old to me.

But what can you do?  Now I say the 50s are wonderful years.  By then you have found yourself.  You have achieved some success.  You are earning well.  By then you know what it feels like to have authority.  Now I can tell you that for the most part, my the 50s were my happiest years.  They were my laughing years.  Now I read that in the US they call the 50s “The New 40s,” meaning when you hit them life’s tape begins to rewind.

So what does being 60 mean?  I turned 60 very quietly.  It was after my stroke and I had not fully recovered.  Now, having observed  various 60th birthday celebrations,  I think the 60s might be “The New 30s,” maybe the same as being 30 but this time with wild abandon.  We don’t care so much about how we look though we can look wilder.  Dye the white hair red.  You have no man?  Buy a DI and dance the wildest tango with him.  Have him lie down on the floor and walk all over him in your skirt.  Who cares?  This is your last chance at life, your last round of cheer.  Live it well, take it with all the zing and zest you can call up.  Do what you want and do it as well as you can.  This is your enthusiastic last curtain call, your final encore.

You are over the people-might-say part of your life.  They said what?  Ha ha!  That’s the only attitude worth keeping.  I don’t care what they say, I’m enjoying myself.  People are getting on your nerves?  Tell them off.  You have only one life to live.  Live it well according to your standards.   Sure, there are dreary days but they pass.  Shrug them off.  You are in your 60s.  This is your final chance at some real fun. 

What does it feel like to be in your 70s?  Will it be like being 20 again?  Why not?  Think of how naïve you were in your 20s.  Maybe you will be that again except with a twist of wisdom, like the olive in the martini, the pickled onion in the Gibson, the lemon slice in the old vodka-on-the-rocks you used to love to drink in your 20s.

And after that will I be a teenager again?  In attitude, I think.  You will enjoy life, enjoy dance, enjoy whatever it is you can do but now with large doses of silliness and abandon without caring what people say.  You know you can die any time but it will be a happy, smiling death, with you being content with what life gave you — freedom to enjoy yourself heartily, to be truly what you wanted to be. 

I know when I die I will smile at how I felt turning 30.  Sure, my 30s were messy years but they were also among my best years.  I was most physically beautiful in my 30s.  They marked the beginning of real life for me.  Thirty welcomed me into the real world and I really enjoyed that.  I think that’s how life goes.

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