To my surprise I think I am happier now than I have ever been.
And it is a surprise. I hadn’t expected it. Maybe I am lucky with reasonable health, but I don’t think that this happiness is entirely health dependent.
When you are young, it seems impossible that you could be happy living with a short life sentence doesn’t it? You can’t imagine what it is like to be old, wrinkled and rusty.
I had a student once who told me she didn’t care when she died so long it was before 40! I do hope she reaches this rather lovely state of serenity. Though perhaps before you get here you find it hard to believe that such a stage of life exists?
I didnt. But it does.
Here, as far as I can explain it, is why life feels so good at 81.
There is nothing now that you have to do. No more musts or shoulds.
It is entirely, Coulds? Might if I feel like it? Whenever… or not at all. Your choice now. No one can make you, you can rebel! Pull the old age card….lovely to do that!
You can put off doing anything you don’t like until tomorrow.
Wonderful relief to discover how many things you are now not going to have to worry about. My Aunt at 87 was fretting about the cost of sorting rot in her window frames My Father, ever pragmatic, told her not to be so daft “They’ll see you out “.
And on that theme. How nice to be able to put off almost anything on the legit grounds that you may never have to do it! With a wicked internal grin I slide my trainers off at night without bothering to undo the laces. If I am still around tomorrow I will do it then…..maybe the dusting and cobwebs too?
Income tax? Late January of course!
Maybe some things have to be done. But you can have fun with them.
Really ought to leave things sorted, make a will, clear the attic, Oxfam whatever, so they don’t have to? I have been having fun with that. Finding family memories, old school reports, swimming prizes, letters about truancy, my secret diaries …all of which I am leaving for them to discover, be embarrassed by, and enjoy.
My old friend Lily spent time making up little parcels and funny notes for all her friends to be given after she died…she had cancer. She knew my love of local history and left me her cherished local book collection plus her best jokes.
Looking back becomes a pleasure. You have a treasure trove of memories, your own box set you can turn on without a controller.
So much to think about, think over, be amazed by. The ” Was that me?” “Why on earth did I do that?” questions. Sometimes looking back on your own life is like remembering a book you once read, almost fiction about a person you can’t quite recall. Such an idiot! But also,” How dared I?”
The absolute delight is remembering things that have gone.
I can walk the lanes and paths of my childhood village and remember it all. Though the fields were long ago covered by a housing estate, for me everything is still there, the stiles, the sounds, the scents and my Mum. I can go there whenever I wish.
The tree with a hole in which we made fairy dens, the field with rabbits, who scattered with white tails when you clapped your hands, the log shaped like a crocodile which we always crept up to in a state of excited caution, I can still see them and feel that excitement.
Great Fun to be had revisiting your stupid mistakes and embarrassing moments. None of them now matter at all, you can look at that idiot and think “Good grief!” -and then tell the tale with relish to your grandchildren. And embroider it , with a quiet grin, hoping of course that you might be creating a family legend.
You are short of time so you make more of it. Value it
Everyday is precious and because you know it, you use time better, you notice things you never bothered with before: the details in a flower, watch a spider weaving. Did you ever make time to do that?
Even time to try something new like Blogging! I really do recommend it. Super to discover that you can still learn something new at 80.
Oddly, there is an exquisite pleasure and agony in seeing old friends.
The delight of joint nostalgia, the warmth of shared memories is always sharpened by that underlying thought “We may not see each other again”…parting hugs are especially poignant. Almost beautiful. I think it is hard to explain to someone much younger how quietly real that feels at 80.
The sense of loss becomes different when you are older. It is in some way a shedding of layers of life, but it feels an inevitable and a surprisingly calm state to reach.
But you certainly make sure to say to friends and to family those things you would be sorry never to have said. Though maybe it would be kinder to be tactful in some cases!
Nostalgia is an enormous pleasure.
You can positively wallow in it! It is always a shock / thrill to go to a museum and find your life is now in there! Your wartime ration book, the chamber pot with the rose on it, your Grans old wooden mangle.
I so enjoyed being a Friend of my local Museum and cooking again on the old Yorkshire Range. Such fun talking to children about it. The idea of an oven with no temperature switches totally bemused them as did the idea of boiling a kettle on an open fire! One thought it might melt.
Things that were important are so no longer. Who now cares about ambitions? Winning and competition are fun when you are a keen supporter of your team, but personally? Not any more, at least for me. My bridge, bowls, bingo, golf and gardening friends of course are Fanatics still, the lot of them. I would rather create the adrenaline with my friend Curiosity when we go exploring for our Magic Walks blog.
Though you do get a rather delightful secret kick when your grandchildren are amazed to find you were once County Swimming Champion or actually hitchhiked alone around Europe in the 50s.
Love the nonsenses of being ancient too.
Had to go to buy a new casserole. On being told that one is more expensive than another because it has a 40 year guarantee, I delighted in telling the somewhat snooty sales assistant that I would have the cheap one. “Not because I am mean” I said ” but I won’t be needing it for long, will I?” He didn’t know how to deal with that. No one seems able to face the reality of your imminent death do they? They ought to, but for many it is still a sort of taboo. In the modern world that needs changing and I am happy to do it. Of course we ancients know we are due to die. It almost becomes a joke and I love to catch out the unwitting deniers by happily talking about it. Certainly it is no worry of mine, but I will blog about why I fell that another time if anyone is interested.
The great relief is looking back at all the fears and worries you had, the bad things which seemed catastrophic at the time. You got through them!
So many things turned out alright in the end.
The out of control son is now a respected father of two and you can commiserate with each other about teenagers. The career path you planned went haywire, but look how it turned out. The doors which opened when you least expected it, the kindnesses which pulled you together, the hurts which faded, it is amazing to muse on what you have lived through. And now a happy old age!
If only I had known!
Homeless single mum at 30, widowed at 45, collapse and suicidal despair both times. I could never have thought then that I would make a successful career, have travelled the world, be happily married and blogging about the fun of life at 81!
If someone young and in trouble gets to read this please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Happy to talk about anything, if it would help.