The Highway Signposts of Life.
“Very early in the new year, I will turn sixty, an age I never imagined I would see. My older friends told me what a big deal forty would be, and then fifty, but neither of them felt like a big deal to me. Forty felt like permission; fifty felt like letting go of whatever filters remained. Forty and fifty were signposts, or maybe toll booths, on the road to becoming increasingly okay with who I am.
Sixty, I can tell already, might be a pretty big deal. It is the age after which, when things break, they don’t ever fix completely. It is the age after which 5 or 6 hours of sleep in a night will never be sufficient again. Sixty, I think, is when a woman steps fully into her role as elder. My mother, at sixty, had her second of five facelifts. That is not the sort of elder that I hope to be. I have heard people say that sixty is the age when it is no longer possible to believe the time you have ahead is infinite. But I never believed the time ahead of me was infinite, and I have always tried to spend my time well.”
Thanks to Wisdom Well reader Heather King for introducing me to this rumination from Pam Houston, who just turned sixty a couple of weeks ago. If I had any wisdom to add and continuing the roadmap metaphor Pam used, I would suggest the following signposts would define each of the big birthday markers of adulthood up to my present age:
20: To be cheeky, I’m inclined to say Careful: Speed Hump, but what’s more accurate is Beware of the Dip. It’s natural to see one’s life satisfaction decline during this decade, including sometimes when you may feel like you’re in a freefall.
30: How about Congested Traffic Ahead since this is when we often feel the mash-up of so many responsibilities and identities?
40: There are many possible choices here. Since this tends to be the decade with the lowest happiness, maybe I’d choose Soft Shoulder to describe where we want to bury our heads and cry? Or what about Hairpin Curve to describe the reaction to the infamous midlife crisis that leads to mid-lifers making major changes?
50: I loved my fifties, partly because I felt the ability to get off the superhighway and enjoy the country roads of life a little more. Winding Road speaks to me.
60: Now that I’m nearly a year and a half into my sixties, I agree with Pam’s assessment that our body starts breaking down a little more, which is why I could choose: Begin High Fine Zone. The truth is, we do have to be more careful how we test drive this vehicle of ours. On the other hand, another signpost is probably more accurate and in true alignment with me and our MEA mission. It is a sign to remind us to appreciate every moment. I wish I had seen it earlier (of course, it’s never too late, right?)