I dreaded it for months. But my 65th birthday came and went recently and life is still good. Grand, in fact. Despite recurrent depression, despite self esteem issues, despite everything about myself that I’d like to change, I am so looking forward to what lies ahead.
Why do artificial milestones hang us up?
What is it about these artificial milestones that throw us for a loop? Maybe it’s age 40 or 50 for you. Or maybe you’re closer to the traditional doorway of old age, like me. Or maybe you’re beyond it. Wherever you are on the spectrum of “getting older,” I bring you a dispatch from “young old age,” as Wikipedia defines ages 65 – 74. I never, ever imagined myself as old so this is new territory.
Three days before my Dec. 11th birthday, my 36-year-old son Timothy invited me to lunch at Google’s New York office. He’s a lawyer for Google and works on the West Coast. My older daughter, Eliza, a physician who is seven months pregnant with her fourth child, came along to make it a party.
My younger daughter, Amanda, the surgeon who ran the New York marathon, couldn’t make it. Sam was invited but he decided to leave the Google party to us.
Googlers use scooters, of course
After being badged in several times, by humans and by kiosks, Eliza and I finally found Timothy. He was lost himself as he’s not familiar with Google’s main NYC building. It’s 16 stories high and each floor is the size of a city block. The corridors are wide and long enough that Googlers use scooters to get around. The sections on each floor have fanciful names like Red Hook (a neighborhood in Brooklyn).
Atrium spaces rise several floors high. To make the open spaces more intimate, colorful blankets are draped over nooks, with comfy quilts and pillows tucked inside to create little forts for, presumably, retreat and meditation. Tibetan prayer flags are strung about for good measure.
Google’s delectable snack stations
Meticulously displayed in the snack stations are tiny packages of perfect baby carrots, cheeses, and nuts, organic apples, five kinds of yogurt, artisanal chocolates, and every kind of healthy coconut and sparkling water. All free to Googlers and guests. And the coffee stations have at least four different ways to make fresh-brewed coffee or espresso. Timothy told us that baristas show up in the afternoons on the Mountain View campus to pull the shots. Eliza and I were entranced.
But still not the best part
But all this wasn’t the best. The best part was listening and watching, over the delicious lunch, as my two older children bantered and chatted and caught up, about their own kids, their work and the impossible cost of housing in Brooklyn and Silicon Valley.
Although it was ostensibly a birthday lunch they mostly ignored me. I loved it. I loved being a fly on the wall as the two of them laughed and teased each other. It’s hard to describe why. It is surprisingly pleasurable to be in the company of one’s adult children and to watch them being happy with their lives despite all the challenges.
So that is snapshot #1 of life at 65.
Vulnerability and the desire for clarity were going to be today’s topics
Coming to terms with depression, admitting it publicly, and learning how to cope with it through daily meditation and other mindfulness techniques is part of my story and part of reinvention. To my surprise, that story resonates with many of my readers. That’s what I was originally going to talk about. That, and how I’m learning that being vulnerable and more open is the ONLY way to connect with people.
I’ll come back to this topic in the upcoming months. As well as the companion topic to depression – the desire for clarity. In the meantime, a gentle reminder for this holiday season: depression is invisible. Often you can’t see it on someone’s face. So if you hear it in a friend or colleague’s voice, reach out with a comment on how you appreciate something about them, how they make you laugh or whatever it is.
But for now, let me offer snapshot #2 of turning 65.
I have a difficult, prickly relationship with my mother, who is a spry 85. Sometimes I despair. She can be judgmental. She can make me feel awful about myself. No doubt she feels similarly about me. In an ideal world I would fix this relationship before it’s too late. But family relationships never exist in the ideal. They are complicated. They can be bruising and confusing.
So snapshot #2 is to report that over the past week I’ve had several good conversations with my mother on the phone. Nothing momentous, but friendly and productive chats. These are a reminder that it’s never too late to make amends, to try harder, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it feels to take the first step. I am so grateful that I am making progress with my mom.
Give yourself the guilt-free gift of time and space
Finally, for snapshot #3 of turning 65, ignore the endless should’s and ought’s. That becomes increasingly clear as you get older.
Forget about big and little goals. Put aside your niggling To Do lists. If you have unfinished writing projects, as I do, let them marinate luxuriously. Stop trying so hard. Find guilt-free time to play and be playful. Remember Google’s comfort forts for Googlers to crawl into.
I’m putting off my review of 2016 and goal-setting for 2017 until after January 1st. I want an agenda of free space. I want to rest and rejuvenate. Maybe I’ve earned it by reaching 65 – ! No matter where you are on the timeline of growing older, I hope you enjoy this holiday season.
Let’s look forward together to a year of possibilities.