Tell Me, What is it You Plan to Do with Your One Wild and Precious Older Years?

Mary Oliver’s beautiful line from her beloved poem, A Summer’s Day, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” has inspired countless people. We think of someone asking that question at the beginning of their life but in fact, we can ask it at any time and at any age. Who do you want to be in your older years? What kind of life do you want to be living? Perhaps most important of all, what kind of attitude do you need? What actions can you take now to help create that future? And what habits, thoughts, and old baggage do you need to let go of? Thanks to the Uranus square, in our early sixties, we have some momentum and we can use it to move the decisions and choices we made at our Saturn Return forward.

Role Models

What we all need, whatever our age, are personal role models of living in the present – and a chance that never ends. We need to know that life past sixty or seventy or eighty is as much an adventure as it ever was, perhaps even more so for women, since we are especially likely to find new territory once the long plateau of our role is over. –Gloria Steinem (Doing Sixty)

My friend Marguerite was one of my greatest role models. When we met in Rome in the early Sixties I was just nineteen. Marg was in her early fifties, drop-dead gorgeous, feisty, and funny.  She was also an avid reader (she devoured a book a night), a world traveler, a gourmet cook, and she could repair, restore, and sew just about anything. When I was growing up, my own mother was ill, and I had to become the parent. Marg was not only a role model but the mother I never had; her home became a refuge. When she was around sixty she relocated from Rome to Lisbon. A move to another country with a new language is daunting at any age, but Marg pulled it off and made a life there. She had always loved music but never formally studied. In Lisbon she found a teacher and began studying the viola seriously; the viola became her late-in-life passion.

We’re living in an aging society. As a result there is more research, information, and inspiration about aging and the second half of life than ever before. There are also more fabulous role models—beautiful and vibrant people who are leading rich, full lives in their fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. These men and women are creating a new paradigm for a fierce elder, a juicy crone. Gloria Steinem, Helen Mirren, Diane Nyad, Edie Windsor, Mary Oliver, Ram Dass, Billy Crystal, and Pema Chödrön, to name a few. No doubt you have many examples from your own family and friends. Create a vision board of beautiful and fearless older women and men. Find inspiring quotes and articles. One of the greatest things we can aspire to as we age is to become a role model for the younger generation.  Inside the elder the eternal youth remains awake to its life vision. Inside the youth an old sage is beginning to stir for knowledge. Awakened elders are necessary if youth are to awaken to the inner dreams of their lives.-Michael Meade

Wabi Sabi

I love the Japanese term, wabi-sabi which, by the way, is not a garnish for sushi. Wabi-sabi describes an aesthetic based on imperfection, irregularity, simplicity, economy, modesty, intimacy. Wabi is associated with rustic simplicity, quietness and an understated elegance in nature as well as in man-made objects. Sabi refers to the beauty or serenity that comes with age. The most common examples include a bowl, a tea cup, wood, paper or fabric. Imagine a bowl whose patina has been worn off; one that contains some cracks and chips but is well used and loved and has with the passage of time become more interesting.

Several years ago I did some work with a Jungian psychotherapist, a lovely woman who I guessed to be in her late sixties. I was talking about her with a friend who had met her. Although I could describe the sessions we had and what I learned I found it difficult to describe her physically. My friend said it was probably because she has let go of a lot of ego which made perfect sense. When I think of wabi-sabi in relation to a person, I imagine someone who has shed a great deal of ego to reveal what is essential and eternal within. It’s as if the outer veneer of personality traits become more porous so that the soul can shine through. I want to age like that; perhaps less shiny and polished on the surface but hopefully more real and authentic, fully present; at ease with myself and the world.

The Bucket List

The Bucket list is a great ritual and the perfect metaphor for this period. In our early sixties, when Uranus is making as aspect to its natal position, we’re feeling restless, frisky, adventurous and more inclined to push the envelope. You don’t have to do anything that doesn’t feel right but we don’t learn anything by never venturing outside our comfort zone. If you have never thought about sky diving and the idea of it makes you sick to your stomach, then it’s probably not for you. But if you’ve always secretly dreamed of going white water rafting down the Colorado river or learning to Tango, maybe even in Argentina, but simply never got around to it, then perhaps that’s something you should consider. You know it is right if, in spite of your fear, you feel really excited about doing it.

What’s on your Bucket List? What have you always wanted to do but never allowed yourself to try? It doesn’t have to be dangerous or cost a lot of money; it just has to be something that gets your juices flowing. Maybe it’s researching your ancestors, getting a tattoo, self-publishing a book of your poems or stories or finally learning to meditate. What about learning how to design a website, reading War and Peace or The Lord of the Rings, being photographed nude or learning to speak Japanese? With hundreds of websites devoted to Bucket Lists, there’s no end to the rousing ideas or possible adventures. And although a Bucket List experience may be temporary it gets the energy moving in the right direction and builds momentum. Besides, you never know where it will lead. Just like a casual date can turn into an enduring  love affair or marriage, a bucket list jaunt may transform into a late-in-life passion or career.

What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that. –Billy Crystal at sixty-five (Still Foolin ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys.)