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"All my Future is Behind Me"
Thought for the Fortnight
We were both waiting for the same train. I had sat down next to her in the waiting area and she had moved her things slightly to make room, which meant we began to talk. For some reason, the conversation turned quickly to age.
I told her I was 81 and I liked being old. She said she was 61 and she didn’t. I asked her why not? “Well…because all my future is behind me,” she answered.
Oh dear, I wondered. Do a lot of people feel this way?
Is your future behind you at 61?
There is something about age 60, which sounds like a new level, like the levels in children’s computer games. Except they are always seeking to get onto a new level, whereas this isn’t something that many of us are trying to get to.
It sounds like the beginning of ‘old’, which means the beginning of ‘the end’. Even if people at age 60 are not yet worrying about death these days (not so long ago, such thoughts might have been very reasonable), it is a time of thinking about retirement.
And retirement means stopping. Life as you have known it comes to an end. I guess it is an easy step to your “future is behind you.” (This brief companion also told me that she had lost one husband through divorce and another through death, so perhaps that sounded like the end of the road in the romance department.)
We turned to the reasons why I liked being old. “You are SO much more confident”, I argued. Yes, she said, and noted that she hadn’t really thought about that. I persisted: “You feel SO much more comfortable in your own body.” She agreed.
“And you do whatever you want and say whatever you want to say”, I added. She didn’t demur. I don’t know whether I won her over, but I did give her a flyer for my recent book on the subject of growing older, where these issues are explored in more depth.
She said she would look into it. Our train was called, our seats were in different compartments and I didn’t see her again.
So much to look forward to
But good heavens, life doesn’t stop at 60. It doesn’t even stop at 80. Twenty years ago, I hadn’t written the three books I have written since. (In case you are curious, the other two include one on hospice care and one about how it feels to be a grandmother.)
I hadn’t written a word for the website for older women, SixtyandMe, for whom I have been writing articles for eight years.
And I certainly hadn’t begun this Substack Newsletter, which has grown from 25 family and friends last November to over 450 subscribers at last count.
All of which have made for a very rewarding period as a writer.
On the family side, which is of even greater importance, I didn’t have either of my two wonderful grandsons, who have added so much to my life.
And the last twenty years have left me happier than ever with my long-standing husband. Many a friend has meanwhile found a new loving relationships on the far side of sixty, so even that side of things is not finished.
Nor are the joys of life counted solely by what one has produced or the people in your life. There is a wealth of everyday experience to be enjoyed.
Everybody is different in what brings them joy, but I have gained hugely from the books I have read, the music I have sung, the places I have been. Not to mention those hours just chatting to a friend. Or lying on my bed thinking my thoughts.
I wouldn’t have missed them for anything.
I intend to have a lot more.
My future is still in the future.
A version of this article was first published on SixtyandMe.com