This (with a smile, thanks) from one who at 64 was riding horses in Kazakhstan and Turkey, and who this year at 65 is training to climb yet another bigass mountain in Africa: baby it ain’t over til it’s over. While I write pretty extensively on this very stuff, Lisa, there are just a few clear cut guidelines: DUMP all the toxic meds. Eat well for your body. Exercise your ass off. Ignore conventional wisdom. When people try to talk you out of doing X, that’s your cue to DO X.
I was four years older than you when I wrote my first triple prize-winning book. Another followed. I did Kilimanjaro at 60. I’M NOT LUCKY. I work my ever-loving ass off. As does every other uber achiever who carves a path late in life. None of it is easy. As we age (and I continue to stumble, falter, and fall largely because I can’t see where the hell I’m going) I’ve learned that the only limitation is in my head. I work with an aging body that responds incredibly well to work. I work with an aging brain that responds incredibly well to challenges, especially about long-held bullshit beliefs and assumptions. I work with an aging skill set, that by God improves every time I exercise my fingers on the keyboard.
Sexually I am more active now that I ever was in my twenties and thirties with a man 17 years younger who can barely keep up. He tried running the stairs I do, and mind you he’s an athlete- he made it 1000 stairs. I do 3600 at a pop, with a 17 lb backpack and I add more weight every week. That’s not lucky. That’s discipline. There are oldsters where I train who make me look like a third-grader, senior Olympic athletes who pass me at speed, and who are getting ready for 103 mile hikes in the Swiss Alps. They are ten years older than I am.
We can accept the blue-haired cultural norm, the up to 27 annual prescriptions shoved down our gullets by a predatory medical system, the shoving us aside for cellulite-free adolescents. Screw you is my response. We are only just now hitting our strides. Getting old isn’t a jail sentence. It’s a minute to minute negotiation with Nature. If we are willing to work, we win back quality time. We win our brains, our intellects, develop our gifts, and earn the right to see them in their fullness. In endless ways, this is the only time when we have enough wisdom and perspectives to be able to make a difference, enjoy ourselves and become who we were truly meant to be.
Or we can shuffle around the house in our pink bunny slippers, settle our bulk onto the couch and watch Ion TV reruns.
I can’t speak for anyone else. But as I train for a lengthy horseback ride in Madagascar after Mt. Kenya this November, I don’t have time to think about age. I only have time to fill with as many experiences and lessons as possible. I live on a disability income from my military service, and I save my pennies for the best possible life adventures possible. Being richer wouldn’t make me richer. How I embrace life, and its occasional shit sandwiches, makes me rich.
The responses to your article are in many ways testament to what’s possible. We are living breathing possibilities, Lisa. What we do with our time is up to us and us alone. Thanks for a thoughtful article and for pushing the argument forward.