The Big Secret No One Tells You About Aging
By Virginia Bell
It actually gets better as you get older. You get better. Life gets better. The merry-go-round slows down and you can finally enjoy the ride. I’m not going to tell you it’s easy or that it happens automatically but it is possible as long as you’re willing to do the work; the inner work. It’s necessary to make peace with yourself, your past, and the whole process of aging. That naturally involves patience, compassion, and the F word – forgiveness; for yourself first of all and for others. It doesn’t happen overnight; it’s a daily practice and an ongoing process, but ultimately it is life changing.
1. Finding a purpose for this phase of life is essential:
There must be a goal at every stage of life! There must be a goal. – Maggie Kuhn
(Who in 1970 at age sixty-five, created the Grey Panthers).
It doesn’t necessarily have to be professional but we all need something that brings us joy and gives us a way to be in the world as an elder person. What’s important is that the projects we pursue and the life we lead need to be aligned with who we are now and not who we once were. For many it’s the time to teach or consult in their field. For others it means spending quality time with grandchildren, traveling, volunteering, or finally writing that book that has been calling them. Still others are reinventing themselves and finding new energy in the process. The beauty of these late-in-life pursuits is that they are based less on achievement and recognition and more on passion which is why they are so often succeed.
2. If you don’t have a purpose then take some time to discover it:
In the theater, the Third Act is when everything that happens in Acts 1 and 2 must pay off if the play is going to be memorable. “Maybe life is like that, I thought.” Maybe, in order to know how to have a good Third Act, I needed to look back at Acts 1 and 2 – to do what is called a life review. -Jane Fonda (Prime Time)
To know where we’re going, we need to examine where we’ve been and a life review can give us that perspective. This concept was developed in the early 1960’s by psychiatrist, gerontologist, and author Robert N. Butler. A life review is a valuable process that involves writing down (or sharing in a group) past life events as a way to bring to consciousness the different stages of our life and integrate any unresolved conflicts. The result can bring a fresh perspective, greater self-acceptance and empower us in moving forward.
3. Develop your inner life:
A mature spirituality will seldom provide us with answers, and necessarily so, but will instead ask even larger questions of us. Larger questions lead to a larger life. -James Hollis (Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life)
Carl Jung believed what healed patients in the second half of life was to cultivate a spiritual outlook and he recommended using contemplative tools such as dream analysis and creativity. Journaling, yoga, prayer, or spending time in nature are also ways to awaken those parts of the self that were not developed while we were building a career and constructing our social persona. Meditation is one of the best ways to not only deepen our inner life but become more present and live more fully. It also reduces stress, increases levels of empathy, boosts creativity, and helps with depression and there’s absolutely no downside.
4. Simplify, simplify, simplify:
That’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff? -George Carlin
Comedian George Carlin’s famous routine about our “stuff” remains relevant because it’s so true. We carry around a lot of “stuff” – material stuff as well as emotional baggage. Most people in their late fifties and sixties begin to give away their stuff. There’s less and less desire to acquire and accumulate, and a need to scale down and that includes letting go of relationships, situations, and activities that no longer energize us and are holding us back.
6. Role Models:
What we all need, whatever our age, are personal role models of living in the present – and a change that never ends. We need to know that life past sixty, seventy or eighty is as much an adventure as it ever was, perhaps more so for women, since we’re especially likely to find new territory once the long plateau of our role is over. -Gloria Steinem
We’re living in an aging society and as a result there is more information and inspiration about the process of aging as well as wonderful role models who are leading full, rich lives in their sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond. People like Gloria Steinem, Helen Mirren, Patti Smith, and Diana Nyad are creating a new paradigm for the fierce elder and juicy crone. Consider creating a vision board with their photographs and quotations (or those of your own personal role models) One of the greatest things we can aspire to as we age is to become a role model for the younger generation.
In Closing: Getting older doesn’t mean you have to give up your fabulous high heels or highlights – hell no! On the other hand, you don’t have to suffer in those towering heels and you have the freedom to let your hair go grey if you choose. It’s being flexible enough to change and grow but not feeling pressured to stay relevant and look youthful. Ultimately, aging well is about being authentic; making your own rules, going at your own speed, and being true to yourself!
Virginia Bell is a full time astrologer and writer based in New York City. She has written astrology columns for Us Weekly, TV Guide, The Daily Mini, Tennis Week, etc. She currently writes for Watch! the CBS magazine and contributes to the The Huffington Post. She is the author of “Midlife is not a Crisis.” Learn more.