Fortune smiled on me at every stage of my life. Not fortune in terms of monetary gain, but currency in terms of joy and gratitude. Being a young woman during the '70s in a rural community was comforting and structured. Life envisioned was college, marriage, and children. Becoming a mom was fulfilling and satisfying. Days were built around the needs of my children and husband. What they wanted and needed became my first priority, along with the demands of a full-time job.
The joys of an early retirement
Full days of working outside and inside the home left little time for me, however. After 40 years of attention to others, I experienced strong urges to step back and reassess. At 62 years old, I took early retirement and indulged my yearnings. For 36 months, I participated in activities that fed my inner child: ballroom dance classes, singing in a choir, and traveling to exotic places. Having a deep well of energy, a youthful appearance, and good health, this phase in my life was playful and inquisitive.
When age reality sat in my mailbox
On an ordinary day filled with appointments and a long to-do list, I was collecting and sorting mail. There is always a heightened level of anticipation while sifting through the daily barrage of catalogs, bills, and general correspondence. Did someone send a greeting card or an invitation for an upcoming social gathering? Sadly, this was not the case. Age reality sat in my mailbox today -- my Medicare card arrived. My hand shook and a wave of sadness moved through me. I know I'm aging, but to hold that card drummed it home. It was time to step back and assess what deep fears were arising, and why.
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How would I choose to age?
Did this card represent a dependency, a loss of power, or, worse yet, a stage of invisibility? As a woman, my sexuality is diminished and contributions discounted. Will I be alone and forgotten? Are health complications for myself or husband on the horizon? The voice of my mother echoes in my ears: "When a woman can no longer have children, she loses her value in society." A wave of anger washed over me. How I age is a choice, and I choose vigor.
My value takes on a whole new meaning
Being physically no longer in my prime, I'm painfully aware that the needs of this aging body must be balanced with my wants and desires. If I choose vibrancy, I choose the now, the present moment. Changes are in order -- a healthier diet and a daily exercise routine. Just as important as my physical maintenance is my mental health. Time must be set aside for the quieting of the mind, so my inner voice can be heard. Let my inner voice guide how to use the knowledge and skills acquired over the years. Now is the time to use my skill sets to assist the community I live in. My value in society will take on new meaning.
With each day . . .
How I measure the passage of time and its different life stages is noteworthy to observe, but any negative feelings around those stages must be released. Even though the Medicare card reminded me that time is ticking and my days are limited, I have chosen to live in the moment. The present moment has no time. Old fears and future expectations have no place in the present moment. I will stop to feel what is stirring within, see what is awakening. If every day has an awakening, aging and time lose their influence. I'm filled with a profound sense of well-being.