• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • December 18, 2015 in Columnists

    Wait a sec, okay? I’m creating an old woman here.

    It`s not how old you are, it`s how you are old.
    Jules Renard

    How did I get from this...

    How did I get from this…

    I woke up the other day as 60. Sixty isn’t merely a number. It isn’t even just an age. Sixty is an entire freaking identity. I’m 60. Sixty.

    I don’t know what 60 feels like “officially,” but this feels better than I thought it would. I’m strong. Reasonably energetic. Sharp as ever. Sure, I unexpectedly fall asleep at random moments, much to my consternation, as I have yet to retire. Now and then my knee goes on a rampage and I have to wear a brace for a while. But I’m wearing the brace while riding my Can Am Spyder, so there ya go.

    I realized at 40 that I needed to get going on creating my old woman, although the sense of urgency about it was yet to develop. I started paying attention more, being more mindful. My journey was understanding, perceiving, evolving. Furthering my study about how to be human as I didn’t apparently come with any innate understanding of it. After all, I wanted to be a welcomed old woman, not dreaded far and wide.

    Age 28 with gorgeous daughter

    …to this…

    This has only been partially successful, but I’ll take what I can get.

    At 50, I stopped looking back at youth except to learn from it. At 40, I had still nominally been a member of the not-old society, although true youth really does stop some time after 35 and I would like to remind you that you will spend a bloody lot longer being not-young than you will being young, so you’d do well to plan for that. For one thing, realizing this lessens the shock when it actually happens to you.

    At 50, I finally figured out I wasn’t young any more, although I was flabbergasted by it. By then, I had let myself go and that wouldn’t do. If you’re going to live a long time and not actually regret it, you need to be as strong as you can manage, so I built on my years as a power lifter and got a red belt in mixed martial arts. Strength, agility and the ability to protect myself achieved. Check.

    Still, because what is normal to most is often something I can’t quite grasp, I was staggered to wake up 60. What the hell? And what was more HOW the hell? Once again, the obvious struck me like a load of wet cement upside the head — if I can turn 60, then only death will stop me from turning 70 and then 80 and then, hey, who knows, maybe even 90. I will wizen. My hair will at least get more gray in it (it’s been moving pretty slowly on that front) — that is, if I have any hair left (that’s another thing they didn’t warn me about (facepalm).

    I’m not just going to be old like 60, like “wow, you look damn good for 60.” I’m going to be really, truly old.

    ...to this?

    …to this (on a very good day)?

    Okay then. So if I’m going to be young old, then middle old, then (if I’m lucky) old old, what do I want that to be like? One of the graces of 60 is that it is a time of reevaluation. Of analyzing where I am, taking a hard look at where I want to go and figuring out how I need to get there.

    A few selections from my list:

    • I want to be sturdy and reasonably unbreakable. Fragility looks horrific and I do not want to go there. That means I need to eat well and tend to myself. I can’t be lazy. I will have to work in order to keep it. Alrighty then.
    • I want to be strong. Not just strong for my age. I want to be freaking powerful, just as I have always been. I can already attest that you keep more of that than you expect even in fallow years, but I want to build on it instead. Well, hell, I was a power lifter for 14 years and then there’s that red belt. I know how to do this. I just have to do it, which is the trick.
    • I want to simplify. I have buried myself in a comforting little hole, surrounded by panaceas for pains long acknowledged as unsolvable. It’s time to Let It Go. Donate stuff. Garage sale it. Whatever, but divest divest divest of all but what I truly cherish. Simplicity is freedom. I can’t enjoy old age if I’m tripping over crap every two seconds.
    • I also want to focus on accruing wisdom over stuff. You can’t take it with you may be one of the tritest things ever said, but it remains true nonetheless.
    • Or more usually, this...

      Or more usually, this…

      I want relationships that are built on love and respect. I can no longer bear the burden of the emotional clutter caused by people who are not kind. This one intimidates me, because I have people I love almost desperately who don’t treat me the way I deserve. I don’t want to hurt them, but either we reforge our relationship along new lines or we’re done. I just don’t have enough time left to waste on that much pain.

    • I want my surroundings to be clean and serene. My wants and needs are pretty simple and would likely be handled just fine in a slightly oversized tiny house (need room for art and craft supplies, which are staying – sorry about that, minimalists). But I want a place that’s pretty, easily cleaned and mine. I want a little privacy, thank you, and quiet.

    None of these things are unreasonable or unattainable. They’re pretty much common sense. Common sense or no, it can be hard to figure out. Writing a list is a good idea (I just did that — didn’t I?). It helps me gather my thoughts. I’m sure I’ll add to it, but this is a start.

    Here’s what I want for you, loves, who are quite likely to be younger than I. I want you to think on what’s truly important to you and aim for that. Don’t waste as much time flailing around trying to solve the agonies of the past as I did – and then numbing that unhealable pain with things unworthy of you (stuff, addictions – however you fill that vast, aching emotional hole). None of that works anyway. You have all your original pain plus the pain of the trouble you’ve gotten yourself into.

    Instead, sit down with pen and paper or computer screen and keyboard and make yourself a list. What do you want for future you? He or she is inevitable and you are his or her parent. You are the only one who knows what is best for future you. Now go forth and make it so a lot sooner than I did. Doing it now means a lot more years to be happy instead of drowning in your own life.

    Me, I’m hard at work on my old woman and I will keep you posted…

    P.S. I’m keeping the pets. All of them.


      • Madgew

      • December 18, 2015 at 8:16 am
      • Reply

      I am 67 and as of now still not feeling the vestiges of “old” as you describe it. I see myself as a young middle aged person-not old. My parents were old when they died because of health issues. I have always lived a better, more balanced and healthier life than they did. They taught me you are only as old as you feel. Taking care of oneself is a great start. You are on your way Maya to taking back your oldneds and turning it into a great mid life adventure. Give yourself permission to drop the old.

      • Maya Spier Stiles North

      • December 18, 2015 at 10:31 am
      • Reply

      I met a,woman who looked younger for her age than I did for mine, which was saying quite a bit. When I complimented her on it, she asked me “Why is younger always considered better?” Got me thinking. Why is that? What’s actually wrong with owning and taking pride in my actual age? Age doesn’t devalue me, and if some people think so, that’s their problem. My brother wanted with his whole heart to have that opportunity. Now he’s forever young, which turned out to be a real tragedy…

    • Happy 60th Birthday, Maya!!! From one old woman to another! 😀
      I love your list of “wants.” I may adopt them for my 60th!
      But, also, a pony.

        • Maya Spier Stiles North

        • December 18, 2015 at 6:24 pm
        • Reply

        Why thank you (curtsies, wobbles, rights herself, grins sheepishly)! Please adopt any and all. Is a miniature horse a pony? And could I please please please have a sloth? A sloth of my very own??? 😀

      • Terri Connett

      • December 18, 2015 at 6:55 pm
      • Reply

      You knocked this outta the park, Maya! I’m 61, middle old, and agree with everything you said. Especially about ditching the negative energy those Debby Downers, Bitchy Bettys and Unkind Karens bring. Well done! 🙂

        • Maya Spier Stiles North

        • December 20, 2015 at 5:45 pm
        • Reply

        Oh, thank you, love! Honestly, this is a great age — it’s just that the world as defined by the shallow mainstream media doesn’t think so and people go with that. Our society tries to sideline us but we absolutely do not have to cave in to it — or to believe the bullhonky hype, either. It is our job to stay fresh (not YOUNG, there’s a difference!), to stay relevant, to continue to engage. I see elders drifting around grocery stores as if they’re already ghosts. I make it a point to meet their eyes, to smile, to say hello, to engage in the same conversations I do with people of any age — I actually have way too much fun socially at grocery stores 😉 But when I am middle old and old old, I will continue to engage with the full expectation of being enjoyed as a person that I do now (and that was hard won, let me tell you, for the kid nobody liked (NOBODY)). And you, my angel, are not middle old. We’re young old. 70 to 75 is middle old. 85 and up is old old — most of the time. Let’s not rush ourselves ;). XXXOOO

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