29 December 2011

February Fifteenth Twenty Twelve

My - over 60 - cousin Susan & her lovely daughter Kimmy
No matter how I say it or write it, the reality of the upcoming year for me is that it is the year I turn 60.  And that's freaking me out.  Sixty years old - some synaptic process interacts with some idea I picked up somewhere - years ago - and I only think "Old!"  Reality, evidence to the contrary, how others see me, what I see in the mirror, what I feel - none of that matters in the face of this belief - that, at 60 I will suddenly become old.

I suppose it's no different really from the belief I had in adolescence that I'd become "adult" at 18, from considering 30 as the age to "get serious" about life, from feeling, at 46 (don't ask me why it was 46) the entrance to "middle age."  The belief itself - the message I've carried around within me - isn't different, but how that belief has affected my capacity to imagine and consider is VERY different.  For reasons I don't yet understand thinking of 60 as "old" has kept me from planning for or playing with what life might look or feel like, what life might hold when I am old.

So - though I could put it in terms that make me sound more OK with it - the truth is this belief tells me that when I get old, life is over.  God, have I swallowed the Cultural Gatekeeper whole, or what!  Our culture tells us older women are invisible, that we're "done" - no longer desirable sexually or even as customers (which, of course, is the most important thing anyone can be in our culture).  We become overlooked, even invisible, after a certain age.  And because I have held this belief I haven't imagined anything about what life may be, look like, feel like, hold, or bring into being once I reach 60.

I understand that writing this, telling it, confronting it - I'm doing the work of debunking this myth I've given space to in my head for so long.  So that's a good thing.  But I'll tell you honestly that prying loose this belief that 60=old=game over brings up tons of uncertainty, wheelbarrows filled with the rocks of self-doubt I've always tended to throw at myself.  Going against such a long held belief, backed by the cultural dictums, reminds me of the labor of birthing.  The pain of birthing comes from opening - as the cervix widens the entire body loosens to prepare to push - and our core musculature and skeleton becomes more flexible.  We require support - physically and emotionally.

I guess, in allowing my words to flow here I'm finding the metaphors my imagination can work with.  Birth is a good one - and one I have worked with many times in the past ten years.  Yes, it involves pain, and hard work, letting go of trying to control the uncontrollable - but what in life, what that's worth having anyway, does not.  A re-imagining is required then, and now.  And sharing the unfolding story, developing it, getting feedback from those who hear it - this too is necessary.

At least that's how it looks to me as I sit outside in the breeze and sun of this late December day.  Sure as the weather changes so will my consideration of what it means for me to reach 60.   I'll keep writing here as it happens.