As you read this, my husband and I are travelling around Morocco by rail to mark my 60th birthday. I am NOT sharing this news to attract felicitations (Please don’t!) or sympathy. Rather the contrary.
I usually keep very quiet about such occasions and am no great celebrator of birthdays in general. I cannot remember the last time I had a party with friends and cakes and candles and all that jazz. On the other hand, I do recall a whole lot of birthday trips, excursions and adventures which will live in my memory for as long as I am blessed to have some.
As my Catalan friend Juncal says «If anyone ought to be congratulated on my birthday, it is my mother. After all, she was the one who brought me to this world!» However, since I now sitting here wondering how I got to this point – and so very quickly – I have decided to share some reflections about life in general.
First, the hard facts. Ageing is something we all share. From the day we are born, we age – every day, hour, minute and second. To live is therefore to age. It is nothing we can avoid and certainly nothing we should be ashamed of. Yet I believe that most women my age are reluctant to or outright refuse to admit how old they are.
I am rather the opposite. I usually lie upward and have been saying “We who are in our 60s…” for a while now. Perhaps because I think it is funny and quite absurd. The (good) voice in my head is still the same as 30 years ago, and like my son pointed out last time we met, I still act like a fourteen-year-old most of the time.
Lately, I have become acutely aware of some age-related Spanish expressions, like código de barras (Bar Code) which refers to the vertical lines that appear with age on one’s upper lip. Not to mention alas de murciélago (bat wings) which naturally refers to the loose flesh and ‘love muscles’ that hang on the underside of one’s upper arms. Yes, indeed, age creeps upon us, but thankfully it also usually brings a tad of wisdom. And the great thing about getting older is that one cares less and less about what others think. Like my late mother-in-law used to say on that very subject: «No me dan de comer» (They don’t feed me).
With my somewhat advanced years in mind, the only things that really matter to me are keeping my health and my head intact. If I still can knot myself into a human Pretzel and stand on my head in my morning yoga, who cares about a few wrinkles? Every scar and crevice is duly earned. My goal for the, let’s say, next 20 years (not to be too greedy) is to see more, breathe more profoundly and to always stop and smell the jasmine and orange blossoms.
A sermon by a Norwegian priest really resounded in my heathen heart. It spoke about how we always live ahead of ourselves. I am certainly guilty of thinking about undone tasks while I eat and making mental lists of what to do the next day if I wake up in the night. The only time that I possibly live more ‘in the now’ is when I have my hands deep down in the dirt in our allotment garden. So perhaps I should add digging in the soil as a thing I should do more of in the next couple of decades.
The other day I came upon an interview with a woman who became 122 years and 164 days old (not that I expect to get there …)! She has now passed on to greener fields, but in her lifetime, she was a real inspiration. She took up a new hobby – fencing- when she was 85, biked until she was hundred, and quit smoking (a habit she started at 21, in 1896!) when she was 117 because she was too blind to light her own cigarettes. In a conversation with a journalist on her 120th birthday she said;
“To be young is an attitude. It doesn’t depend on your body. In fact, I am still a young girl. I just haven’t looked that young for the past 70 years.»
So, cheers for Jeanne Luise Calment. Remember to add life to your years, whether you celebrate it by blowing out candles, or skip the cake entirely and go straight for the adventure.