Being Old Is Full of Beautiful Surprises
Suzanne Braun Levine
The author at 70 catalogs how she’s acting her age
It seems as though everyone I know is talking about death. We are also talking about how, to our surprise, death seems more like the houseguest who won’t leave than the grim reaper. That’s the big difference about being over 70. Death is more of a presence — an active presence — and less of a threat than it was when we were 60. As my friend Robin puts it, when time is running out, we are blessed with the “gift of urgency.”
The bromide that “you are as young as you feel” has passed its use-by date for us. We are old — literally. That is not a judgment, just a fact. If someone who is 12 or 20 is young, someone who is 70 or 80 is old. Put it this way: If I died tomorrow, no one reading my obituary would think I had died before my time. The mantra for this stage is “as long as you have your health.”
‘Every Day is a Gift’
Being old is full of surprises. I never expected that when my glass was half full chronologically, it would feel so full emotionally. I am happier than I have ever been — or can remember.
This stage of life is as frightening and confusing as I anticipated, but I didn’t expect the serenity and gratitude that come with it.
Science confirms this. Studies are showing that people over 60 or 70 report being happy more of the time than those in their 20s or 30s. One explanation is that we have achieved a ‘What, Me Worry?’ outlook — we don’t sweat the (bad) small stuff; at the same time we are paying more attention to the (good) small stuff. Gratitude for what we’ve got today and awareness of what tomorrow may hold concentrates our attention on the moment. The message on my favorite coffee mug is “Every day is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.”
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