It’s official – You’re 65 and you can’t hide!
There are certain ages that seem to carry more weight and sixty-five is definitely one of them. We can color our hair, work out, and eat lots of kale but at sixty-five we can no longer ignore the elephant (or rather the senior) in the room. We may not feel or even look old but let’s face it, there’s a stigma attached to sixty-five; it’s serious. And once you cross that mountain it’s an express train to seventy and you know what that means; early bird specials, brittle bones and walkers – or it can seem that way! I’m not trying to be depressing but let’s face it, on a bad day we all think of these things. I know I do.
The first stage of becoming an elder is our Second Saturn Return at fifty-eight but as I wrote in the last chapter, we are merely entering that phase; we’re an apprentice elder and still in our fifties. OK, we’re barely in our fifties but hey, there’s time to deal with it or so we feel. The second phase of eldering takes place around sixty-four to sixty-five when transiting Saturn makes a square (a challenging aspect) to its natal (birth) position. No-frills Saturn is that planet of reality; cold, hard and sobering and turning sixty-five can be a wake-up call. Although it’s not a prediction, many people are vulnerable to depression at this point and depression is associated with the ringed planet.
If you fall into a rut, don’t furnish it. –Elizabeth Gilbert
It’s not unusual to find yourself in a rut once you retire. You’re used to being busy, having a career and a role in the world and suddenly there’s a void. Saturn is a “do something” planet; you need to find another role, another purpose. Once again, it doesn’t have to be an important career that pays big bucks; just something that gives you pleasure and allows you to be engaged in the world. If we haven’t done that at our Saturn Return we may find ourselves drifting and that can often lead to becoming isolated socially. Saturn represents structure; even if you’re not working you still need to create a routine and make new habits to support your current life. And if you haven’t done that, then this is the time. Saturn is a course corrector; a chance to refine and re-establish goals and priorities.
How to get out of a rut? Years ago my friend Roger was attending a spiritual gathering. A revered guru from India was seated on the stage answering questions from the audience. After every question, which included everything; health, love, money, the whole gamut, the guru would exclaim, “Achep.” Roger couldn’t understand what he was saying and thought perhaps he had a cold and was sneezing. Finally, out of frustration, he turned to the woman next to him and asked what the guru was saying. “Accept!” the woman replied. That kind of sums it up – about life and aging.
Acceptance leads to expansive change. -SARK
What Saturn is asking us to do at this stage is to accept the limitations of aging but that doesn’t mean we have to be defined by them. In fact, once we accept something and stop fighting against it, it has the chance soften and ultimately shift. It’s important not to label or demonize it. Just be with it. Allow it to be there but also open up to what else is there. What are you grateful for, what’s good in your life, what brings you alive? As Pema Chodron, says in her book, When Things Fall Apart, “The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”
That is why the Uranus phase in our early sixties is so important; taking risks, having adventures and discovering new sources of energy, creates the impetus that allows us to embrace this new elder phase with a sense of excitement and not dread.
Happiness Peaks at age 65!
Yes, you read correctly! According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California and author of The How of Happiness, happiness actually peaks at age sixty-five! In her book she describes a 22-year study that was done with about 2,000 healthy veterans of World War 2 and the Korean War which revealed that life satisfaction actually increased over the course of these men’s lives, peaked at age 65, and didn’t start significantly declining until age 75. So if you’re not happy at 30 or 40; don’t give up; there’s still time!
One of my favorite books is The Way of Transition: Embracing Life’s Most Difficult Moments by William Bridges. I’ve quoted it often in previous chapter because what he says about transitions is so valuable in dealing with any kind of crises and change including these generational cycles. But what I want to tell you here is William Bridge’s own story. Bridges was an author (Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes; Job Shift: How to Prosper in a Workplace Without Jobs, etc.) and a consultant to organizations on transition. Don’t you love the fact that his name is Bridges and his specialty is transitions? When he was in his early sixties his wife of thirty-seven years died and although he was an expert on the subject of transition, he wasn’t prepared for the unknown and uncomfortable place he found himself in. He suddenly felt as if he didn’t know a thing about this business of transition. Being around people was difficult; so was working. To his credit he hung out in that in-between place and mined it for all it was worth. He spent time alone; he travelled, but mostly he thought deeply and consciously about his life, his marriage and the choices he made. In a sense he did his own version of Life Review.
What he discovered made him rethink the whole subject of transitions and to open his heart in a way that had been impossible before. This led him to write the book, The Way of Transition. Unlike his other books, this one is deeply personal and intimate; he shares honestly and openly about his own struggles, the challenges in his marriage, his wife’s illness and his own journey, which is why I resonate with it; I learn best from knowing people’s stories and finding out how they transformed. Around the same time he met and fell in love with the woman who would become his second wife. He was sixty-three years old. His story is an inspiring example of what is possible when we are willing to do the inner work and how that exploration can lead to change in the outer world.
The Coming of Light, By Mark Strand
Even this late it happens:
the coming of love, the coming of light.
You wake and the candles are lit as if by themselves,
stars gather, dreams pour into your pillows,
sending up warm bouquets of air.
Even this late the bones of the body shine
and tomorrow’s dust flares into breath.