I’m Younger in My Sixties Than I’ve Ever Been Before
Published in The Huffington Post July 29, 2010 By Virginia Bell
It didn’t happen overnight, this late-in-life sense of youthful possibility; it crept up on me slowly, like time released vitamins. Once I hit fifty I felt liberated; I no longer had to maintain my status as a sex object. At sixty I experienced even more freedom. Then, over the past few years I started noticing that I felt good, really good; calmer, saner, more at peace with myself and the world. It wasn’t the result of any outer event or accomplishment but more a inner feeling of well being. And it’s not that I don’t have problems; I have less money and security now than I did when I was younger. Life isn’t perfect and the problems still exist but somehow the angst associated with them has dissolved or perhaps, like a fever, it has run its course.
No one is more surprised at this than me. I’m not by nature a happy person; I lean towards melancholy, depth psychology, and Russian novels. Nor have I lived a charmed life. Quite the opposite; my life has always been a struggle. I grew up in a wealthy, Jewish suburb on Long Island; the only problem was that my parents were poor and Christian. My mother was schizophrenic; as a result I had problems with men, issues with food, and instead of low self esteem, I had no self esteem. During my twenties I lived in Rome, acted in films, and had lots of adventures; it was a great life but it just wasn’t mine. I returned to New York City and in 1974 I opened a natural foods restaurant. It was better than rehab; it taught me how to work hard, be responsible, and function in the world. A second restaurant I opened in the late eighties turned out to be a disaster; I lost a lot of money and ended up closing it after two years. Several years later, burned out and broke, I sold my original one. Suddenly I was in my early fifties and starting over. Dear God, I remember thinking, I’m too old to be a waitress. What now?
I took a series of part time jobs (from teaching computers in methadone clinics to dog walking) and tried to sort out my life. I had been studying astrology since 1990 and during this time I began building a small astrological practice. The real turning point came when I finally had the courage to let go of the various jobs I was juggling and focus on what I love: writing and astrology; that’s when it all came together.
For me, one of the best things about getting older is realizing that I don’t have all the time left in the world and that’s not such a bad thing. I’ve become aware of what’s important and I’m no longer willing to waste my time or energy on non essentials. I hate the word multi-tasking; it’s not that I’m less ambitious; I just don’t care about having it all, doing it all, or being it all. I want to concentrate on what really matters to me. End of story.
Sure, the hormones, energy (not to mention the flirting) diminish as you get older but so does the drama – thank god!!! Things that used to drive me crazy don’t bother me as much anymore. I have a longer fuse and a lighter touch. Age has also given me a broader perspective. When you’ve experienced loss and illness; when you’ve had your heart broken and hit bottom – and still manage to land on your feet, you realize that the crises can’t destroy you. By the same token, success, wealth, and designer shoes won’t redeem you – although money and Manolo’s have their place. The good thing about being around for a while is that you gain some wisdom, compassion, and humor along the way.
It doesn’t happen automatically. We don’t have a choice about aging; that’s nonnegotiable but how we grow old is our responsibility. Who do you want to be in your fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties? Someone who is brittle, bored, and boring or someone juicy, passionate, and free spirited? Start now. Start by loving yourself and your life; find things that make you happy and bring you joy. Focus on what works (and stop complaining about what doesn’t). Feel good; be grateful – no matter what is gong on in your life or in the world.
If you want to stay youthful, sexy, and as they say on American Idol, relevant then don’t concentrate on removing the wrinkles and cellulite; work on letting go of the stress, anger, resentment, and especially the self criticism; those things are far more toxic than sugar, fat, and cigarettes. Hey, I love facials, spas and a good juice fast as much as anyone, but the real fountain of youth is not what you do (or eat) but who you are and how you feel about yourself.
When I was in my twenties and working in show business I was panicked about getting older; I lied about my age, my weight, and my resume. I was obsessed with dieting and exercising and although I had a terrific body I didn’t like myself very much. Now, I’m more comfortable with my flaws and a few extra pounds; maybe I’m not the star I once dreamed of being but I’m also not the failure I feared I would become. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to grow and evolve but I’m just not attached to what people think. There’s tremendous freedom in that.
Astrology has taught me many things but perhaps the most important is that we all bloom at different times. A rose is no less than a daffodil because it blooms later in the season. We all have our own individual timing and its important is to honor that timing and trust the process. Don’t buy into the cultural myths that say you have to go to college, get married, have a child, or achieve success at a certain age. Julia Child published her famous book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, at 49; nine months later she launched her career in television. Frank McCourt didn’t even begin writing Angela’s Ashes until he was 64; he also got married around the same time. Until recently, Alice Tan Ridley, age 57, was singing in the New York subways. She auditioned for America’s Got Talent last season and her stunning voice has landed her in the semi-finals.
Some of us are late bloomers and slow learners. Who cares how long it takes? Dreams don’t have an expiration date; it’s never too late to be the person you always wanted to be. It’s taken me a long time to finally be where I am but I don’t regret any of the detours and delays; it’s all been part of the journey. In fact, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
by Virginia Bell