This year is supposed to be a big one for me – 2017. Turning 60 in the year of the Rooster (my year) in Chinese Horoscope or the year of the Fire Bird in the Tibetan calendar. Whichever you believe, it is still predicted to be a year to remember. To use an old clique getting old is a privilege, which in my case is. My father died at 42, my mother at 55, my eldest at 58 so here I am turning 60. Where does the time go and we did we do with all those years.
Turning 60 is also a time to reflect on one’s life, to look at yourself in the mirror to see the lines around my neck, to see the turkey’s neck with loose excessive skin starting to sag, not to mention the lines around my mouth and chin and of course around the eyes. Of course the graying hair a dead giveaway (I have refused to colour it for the past 10 years now. Grow old gracefully they say…and so I am…I hope.
I am now travelling in Sri Lanka, on a trip partially for business and partially for pleasure. This is a solo trip and have had time to reflect.
My childhood, my teens, twenties through my late fifties (a lifetime indeed) The highs, the lows. Now it is time to enter a new phase – being a ‘senior’. Having recently read an article where it said that people over the age of 60 and live alone are at a high risk of being ‘lonely’ and can go for weeks without being touched. There is a centre in Britain which measures loneliness. How did we become disconnected from each as a society, not caring for our old, making them invisible? Is this the life I want to carve out for the last part of my life?
During my trip to Sri Lanka I was acutely aware of this. Staying at a place which advertises itself as a surf and yoga retreat centre. By its sheer name it attracts young people, mainly single young women, youngish and older couples and families. Not an older woman in sight like myself. Where were they? I did yoga with the young and to my surprise managed to keep up. I didn’t have a conversation with anyone except with the waiters and they were passing words. Lucky for me, I was interested in having some ‘me’ time so not being involved was no great issue. But what if I was wanting some involvement, a conversation with a stranger. After all, being this old has given me a life time of travelling and of striking up conversations strangers and hearing other people’s stories. Most of us who are listeners are experts at this. I strike up conversations at airports, railway stations particularly in India where people have more interest in ‘chatting’. I have had some wonderful conversations with complete strangers in India in railway carriages, waiting in queues at airport check ins.
In another part of this lovely small island, I was recommended to go to a famous seafood restaurant, you know the ones where the waves crash on the very building you are sitting in. I heard it had the best seafood in town. On entering the restaurant was full, the only tables were up the back away from the sea and the views. I sat there deciding what I should eat, when the best table in the house (a table of 4) became available. I immediately jumped up, rushed over and sat there, saying to the waiter, can I sit here….she nodded. So here I was alone, sitting at the best table in the house, looking over the way feeling as though I had every right to be there, 1 person in a 4 person table in the best seat in the house. I didn’t order the most expensive meal but the basic fish and chips, exactly what I wanted. As I left I thought to myself, I wouldn’t have thought to do that years ago. To sit alone, up front, the best table and feeling as though I should have been there for me was a telling point.
Another burning question, is it too old to have romance again in ones’ life, to pick up on compliments on someone who is attracted to you? To take that further, to bury a lifetime of not trusting men as partners and to learn to trust again in the romance kind of way. Are older men more faithful? But why? Will it interrupt my peaceful life that I have carved out for myself? To do as I like, when I like and not have to consider anyone else (except my dogs of course). On the other hand, I would like a travelling companion to go on trips, do the things that we would suit us both. My mother who was widowed at 42, said she would like someone to go out with but leave her companion at the door. Some 40 years on, I also reflect on this, maybe she had something but perhaps I would take it one step further – these days we call it ‘friends with benefits’. I’m still thinking on that one, and wondering when the opportunity comes up perhaps I will take that one step further. I have an interested party but as I have never been particularly good at partner relationships and avoid them. It may be just the year to do change this.
What I can say, is that turning 60 is something that I am looking forward to. You see I have been building my life to be solitary as I get old (as it has been for the majority of my life). I have always been a seeker – which has bought me an interesting and varied life. As I have aged and settled I have found new joys – being a serious and committed to regular yoga and meditation practices, reading and consuming novels again – ones that are written well, no violence, ones that talk of people’s lives and the lessons of those, not eating or drinking too much, tuning in and out of popular media as I see fit..Not watching movies that are violent or denigrate women, avoiding toxic people, being happy with what I have and not looking for the next thing. Being aware of what is good for me and what to avoid.
Being old and bald (as I was described by a young Ayurveda doctor) is something to behold, and as they rightfully have a lovely saying in India ‘old is gold’. Not so where I am originally from, they are neglected and shunned. Wherever I am, my journey will continue, to be at one with myself, to have or not have a partner, to have friends, the choice is mine and something I am looking forward to. To being comfortable of who I am regardless of where I am, what I am doing…being true to myself, to be authentic is powerful place to be. Bring it on!