Tomorrow, I begin my sixtieth year on this planet. In other words, I turn 59. I’ve always been one to savor my birthdays, stretching them out into week-long celebrations, never playing them down, but raising them up as the most tangible expression of my presence. (And I like receiving cards and presents and eating cake.) My fifties tended to blur together, I often found myself forgetting my age or giving myself a year or two more than I deserved. Perhaps it was because I was parenting teenage sons, tending to aging parents and wearing the mantle of CEO as the economy lurched into a downward spiral. 2008 was both a supremely hopeful and harrowing year from my Libran perspective as I stared down 50. So rather than “turn 60,” I am choosing to give myself a year to contemplate all of the joys and privileges and responsibilities of growing old. If we’re fortunate, it’s the only option we have, so why not leverage it?
Three practices stand out as a beginning frame:
1) Seek Inner Beauty
It’s hard not to fall prey to the dominant culture’s obsession with a glorified “fountain of youth” and the language around products and activities geared toward “anti-aging” as if growing old was something we should be fighting against. What if we took a deeper dive into what’s on the inside – searching out more knowledge and truth and wisdom, connecting more with heart and empathy and love, recognizing the bonds of our shared humanity? These practices may hold the keys to bringing us together in a time of agonizing polarity.
2) Deepen Outward Service
There is so much need and so many opportunities to serve one’s community. There’s never been a better time to recommit to spending more time each week in the service of others. Whether its volunteering at your kid’s school, or your place of worship, or investigating board opportunities with your favorite nonprofit or even running for office, there’s a place for you to make a difference to balance out your time spent on self, family and work. These activities are the healthy roots that build stronger communities while feeding our souls and keeping us grounded.
3) Increase Curiosity and Reflection
More than ever, life seems to be moving at warp speed. As technology accelerates, anxiety grows and we wonder how we can possibly keep up. Perhaps the antidote is to slow down, to flex our curiosity muscles rather than leaping to foregone conclusions, to write stuff down with a pen or pencil in a journal made of paper to make sense of it all. Then to return to what we’ve written and reflect, again and again and again. Practice does not make perfect, because I truly believe there is no perfect, just a relentless desire to show up and do the very best we can.