Country Living Series

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The wisdom of age

It's birthday time in the Lewis household. I just turned 56. Don will turn 61 in a couple of weeks.

At this point in our lives, we don't celebrate our birthdays, but they certainly make us more thoughtful. We've reached the point where we're aware of our own mortality. I hope that doesn't sound gloomy because it's not. We're quite happy and content, pleased with how our children have launched themselves into the world, happy to still have my parents with us, still facing challenges in work and on the farm. Life is good.

Which is why this article struck a chord: "Who was happier at 60?"

The author, Liz Jones, just turned 60. And my goodness doesn't she look fabulous:


Ms. Jones contrasts her incredible fitness at 60 with her mother's health at the same age. Her mother had gray hair, false teeth, arthritis, and hip and knee replacements.

But her mom also giggled at life. She never wore a swimsuit, but she happily limped to the beach and sat on the sand with homemade rolls and watched her seven children romp in the water.

In fact, Ms. Jones was "terrified" to look like her mom at the same age, and spent her entire life fighting it. She writes:
I’m the same dress size as when I turned 16. You can tell I’ve dedicated my life not to raising a family, or giggling, but to being 'beach body ready.' Effort is etched on my face. I’m anxious, too: do my arms look fat? Is my hair, dyed fortnightly from the day I turned 25, looking crispy? I only have a half-smile because, if I’m not smiling a little, my face falls. My teeth are veneered, not false. I don’t hobble; instead I walk and run, every day, for miles: a good thing, certainly. But all I can think when I look at the photo of me is my God, how exhausting, and how desperately unhappy. How lonely, too.

I’d been dreading my 60th (Wednesday was the Big Day) from the day I turned 50. It has loomed, large and dark, like an empty grave, because I fear it will mean the death of all I’ve strived for: to be desirable, sexy, fashionable, in and certainly not out. I don’t want to be invisible. I really, really don’t want to be old.

I’ve tried to buy into 60 being the new 40, and how liberating it will be to not feel obliged to Hollywood wax, but the truth is I know I will continue to battle to keep the years at bay. Why? Because I’m not where I should be: I’m single, not secure, not loved. I can’t relax. I have to keep trying.
And therein lays the sad part of this article. Ms. Jones looks like a woman half her age. But how long can she keep this up? When she's 80, will she look like she's 40? What about when she's 90?

Contrast this with her mother, who looked -- arguably -- older than her 60 years. Yet her mother giggled at the beach. She made homemade rolls for her seven kids. She had a husband who adored her and helped her put on her socks since she could no longer reach her feet because of the arthritis. She had already had a hip replacement and a knee replacement. "She was in constant, excruciating pain," noted Ms. Jones. "And yet she is smiling. ... She didn’t dread her birthdays, as I do. She never mentioned the big Six-O or expected a fuss; she probably spent the evening ironing."

Ms. Jones was a career woman, a journalist and a former editor at the beauty magazine Marie Claire. Yet in this painfully honest article, she asks who is happier at 60 -- her or her mom? "My mum was content with her lot, she lived in the moment, she didn’t put off life," noted Ms. Jones. "My overriding feeling, as the Big Day [her 60th birthday] came and went last week, was that my generation of women was sold a lie. We were told our mothers’ lives were disgracefully submissive. We were told we must battle our bodies into submission, land a career in order to hold all the power. Problem is, a great job doesn’t bend down each morning, without a murmur, and pull stockings gently over toes, as Dad did for Mum."

Don is the one who read this article and sent it to me. "You're given a limited lifespan," he observed, "and you're given seasons within that lifespan to accomplish things: marriage, children, retirement. One of the lovely things about having faith is knowing growing older is supposed to happen. No one will be 120 years old when you're standing before the throne. Everyone is immortal at 20. No one is immortal at 60."

My example for aging was set by my mother, who is almost exactly 31 years older than me (our birthdays are three days apart). My mom never fought her gray hair, she embraced it (she would instruct her hair dresser to cut her hair to show the gray to advantage). She and my dad rolled with the punches of life and got back on their feet. Now, having just celebrated their diamond anniversary, they move slower and take great care not to fall. But they're content and satisfied with their lives. What's not to admire? Sure, my mom has wrinkles. But you know what? She earned those wrinkles. They're beautiful.

Don led a rather "wild'n'crazy" life as a young man, before we met. He tells me I wouldn't have liked him at 20, and he doesn't think God would have either. "God blesses people who managed to make it into their 60s," he said, "because He's given us time to make up for our earlier shortfalls. To get square with God can’t happen if you can’t contemplate your own mortality. Since everyone at 20 thinks they’ll live forever, it takes age to acquire the wisdom to know they’re NOT immortal. Growing older is a gift -- if for no other reason it allows us to focus on the next life, not this one."

Ms. Jones apparently spent her whole life desperately trying to stay within one "season" -- her young adulthood. By obsessively focusing on staying a perpetual 25, she's missed the other, more mature seasons that come with life: stable marriage, having babies, raising kids, empty nesting, grandkids, and finally rocking on the back porch, watching the sun go down with a beloved spouse. She bypassed this so she could pretend she's forever 25.

At least she's smart enough to realize who was happier at 60 -- her mom. I sincerely hope she starts to contemplate her own mortality -- a cheery thought, not a grim one -- and gets square with God.

26 comments:

  1. Happy birthday to you both. Nice message about embracing the change the age brings. To paraphrase 1 of my favorite quotes: If a man holds the same opinions at 50 as he did at 20, he's wasted 30 years of his life.

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  2. I'm on the utter backside of 57. I've earned every wrinkle and every grey hair. I don't hide them. They tell all the young 'uns that, no matter how little they think I know, I'm still in the game... and I didn't get to stay in the game by being stupid...

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  3. I dreaded aging but not for what you think. The number I dreaded most was 63, everyone on my mothers side was gone before the 63rd birthday. I have since found my father and everyone there lives to be in their 90's, so I have a chance. We got our little place in the country by 63, a new start in life in my opinion. Now at 66 I'm glad of it due to at least a little wisdom collected. When something goes wrong in the medical department I always ask the doctor if this is another old person thing. You adjust to your ailments and keep going, so far my doctor always states that I am in great health. People should not fear aging so much, it will age you. Your parents are great examples.

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  4. And Ms Jones forgot to mention that she had "work" done as well. She claimed it was for research when writing articles.

    I'M 68 and still don't have much in the way of wrinkles, no "work" done. Gave up the hair dye years ago.

    BTW, Ms Jones is seen as a bitter woman by most who read and comment on her articles.

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  5. Great insights! Turning 60 was really hard for me, not because of my health, looks, or aging, but because I wasn't yet a grandma, something I thought would have happened by that time. I come from a long line of old-fashioned women, stay-at-home homemaking moms who never died their hair or tried to look younger than their age, although, because of clean living they all did. I hope Ms. Jones wakes up soon to living a full life and not worrying so much about her body (sounds idolatrous to me). I'm sure grateful for my full life, and some time in January, after I turn 61 in December this year, I'll be presented with a grandbaby from our married son and his sweet wife. Life will continue to be full.

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  6. I'm all for staying fit, but not for living in fear or vanity.

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  7. The Narcissist is never happy with themselves, and never will be.

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  8. The other day I was in the pool at our retirement community in Florida and someone was complaining about the weather. I thought of my brother in law who would never retire, never sit in a pool and never complain about the weather because he died of cancer right before his 29th birthday. Some people are never satisfied. SuccotashRose

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  9. I'm 44 and content. I inherited one grandma's beautiful skin....she easily looked 20 yrs younger than she was. That doesn't mean I don't have wrinkles, but they are less and they are crinkles at my eyes and mouth from laughter. My other grandma went grey later....while I had maybe 5-10 grey hairs a year ago, they are more now. They started coming in a bit more with a late in life pregnancy, lol, and then stillbirth. It's been a harder year. But as of yet, I can't imagine coloring my hair....maybe I'll want to in a few years? Idk. Right now it doesn't bother me. Doesn't seem to bother dh, either. HIS bother him, but I told him that even as a teen....silver hair on men made me swoon! Lol!

    My weight bothers me. Hormonal changes with peri-menopause, pregnancy, postpartum....ugh! But I try to dress well and dress flattering...and flirt alot with dh!

    24 yrs with my dh this month! We are looking forward to the kids moving out in a few years! We have plans for our "old age"!!! We're looking forward to his retirement in 12 yrs! Traveling and being US! We don't need alot of money, so he plans to retire a few yrs early, and us living on less. We've worked the numbers and they are quite favorable for a frugal, traveling lifestyle.

    I'm thankful the Lord showed me the negatives of feminism early on, and how He has shown me to trust Him, to not be anxious, to be content, and to live in peace and in joy. My kids and my dh make me laugh soooo hard! I spend all day with the kiddos (we homeschool), and while life is busy...I don't have the extra stress of pleasing people at my job on top of trying to please everyone at home. My best is given to my family! Now that we are mid 40's, dh can tell the women who have the extra stresses of work....there is an extra exhaustion upon them....and it ages them.

    I'd love to look like I am in my 40's when I am 60....but...it's not important. I want to still be laughing then. I want to live, laugh, and love exuberantly then!!! Being greyer, being more wrinkled....that doesn't keep one from LIVING! But idolizing youth does seem to do so....

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  10. This will rank as one of my favorite articles from you Patrice. I love getting older, love my gray hair very much (as does my beloved of almost 23 years!) and especially am thankful for wisdom acquired with getting older. I tell my children often that getting old is better than the alternative. My body is breaking down, even with trying to be healthier but I still look forward to aging. I’m so very thankful for the opportunity.

    Happy Birthday to Don and you.

    Ouida Gabriel

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  11. My ex-husband left when I was 30. I had 3 small kids, no job, no money, and a car and house payment. He never sent more than $200.00/mo for the kids. He wanted no visitation but now that the kids are through college, married, have kids of their own and gives them $$. Two of those kids haven't spoken to me in over 18 years because I "ruined their life." I went to business school, got a good job, paid off the house early, and thought I was a good catch. But I'm 75 and nobody snapped me up. I may be gray and wrinkled now but I'm happy and content.

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  12. I have to give Ms. Jones an A+ for honesty.

    At the risk of being publicly flogged here twice in one week I'll speak the ugly truth about the failed Feminist Movement.

    It is no wonder Feminists are getting angrier and more hateful each year. Paraphrasing a quote by Brandon Smith, ‘I cannot imagine a torture more terrifying than to realize in the face of one's final days that one wasted her entire life trying to tow the Feminist Movement line and promote their establishment view, instead of taking God’s natural path, leaving a legacy and molding a better tomorrow for their children, real or in distant dreams.’

    Yes ma'am.
    Dock Guy

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  13. Sorry, IMO, she looks every bit of 60...dyed hair especially looks fake.

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  14. Who’s happier when they’re older?? I don’t know. My grandmother lived a life of service and submission- or maybe I should say kindness, because there were times when she told her husband how it would be, for his own good. She was still laughing at 90. She smiled on her deathbed.

    My mother-in-law also lived a life of submission, but resentfully and without much kindness for herself or anyone else. She’s trying to stay ahead of depression at 70. I wonder how much of that is chemical, and how much attitudinal.

    My aunt also lived a life of service, and until recently I would have said submission. Is she happy at 62?? She laughs a lot. I don’t know how many of her smiles come out of a whiskey bottle.

    What have I learned?? I think, with God’s guidance and a prayerful heart, I’m going to try to base my life on wisdom and common sense, service to others, being myself (within the bounds of God’s guidance), and not listening to societal dictates about what women should be (which change almost as fast as hemlines).

    Ignoring that advice has brought me from 30 to 40 with more regret and bitterness than I want to carry. Hopefully taking it will get me from 40 to 60 with a cleaner conscience and a smiling spirit.

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  15. We live in a culture saturated with the concept that youth is the highest point of one's life and geared towards preserving it as much as possible. With this the case, why would anyone question what is valuable in life at 60 - after all, that is so far away, is it not?

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  16. This made me think of Mom and Dad, by the 21st of this month, it will be 1 year since they went home together to be with God, I pray that I will have the strength to age gracefully as they did.

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  17. Hello Patrice, I value your blog everyday for guidance and wisdom. I don't feel one bit sorry for this woman, who is only obsessed with her good looks via good insurance and lots of money. I'm 61 1/2 now, was treated for cancer going on 3 1/2 years ago. Now I have so many medical bills, credit bad; I know I'll never be able to pay it all back in my lifetime. But you know, I thank God everyday for getting my health back to where I can face each day with my last horse, my 2 dogs, 2 cats, and my other half. And even having to work at a 28 hour measly a week job, which I loath, I make just enough to get by for food and pay bills. I had to put down my 20 year old horse down back in May also. So when I see stories like this lady, that violin just gets smaller between your 2 fingers. Bless you and your husband for your blog, Irene.

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  18. Turning 40 'liberated' me from a failed marriage, and caring about what others thought of me. By 50, I had found my new outlook on life was much healthier, and I was much happier. I can't wait to see what 60 brings me! I have lost weight, I proudly wear my hard earned gray hairs and wrinkles. Met my soul mate, and he thinks I am beautiful just the way I am. Grandkids keep me young...

    Happy Birthday Don and Patrice!

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  19. Just turned 77, the first of the month. Wonder at times how long I can continue to farm 80 acres of hay, without help. Have guess the good Lord will make it clear. As long as I can still climb on a piece of equipment, I will keep at it. At this point in my life, don't think I could last five minutes in an old folks home. Hope I never see that day arrive.

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  20. While this was a very good article, the reason for this comment is the masthead photo. That is just stunning! Everything is just right, the composition, the lighting, the way the focus changes highlighting the left side of the color, just everything!! Thanks

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    1. Thanks! This ks looking out the back of our barn door down into the woods (morning shot).

      - Patrice

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  21. A family friend who is in here mid80s had the best comment when I turned 60. She exclaimed: "you're finely interesting!".
    SJ in Vancouver BC

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  22. under the picture was stated that the woman just turned 60 and doesn't she look fabulous? Actually she looks SAD and wanting. Wanting I do not know what, but wanting and sad. I am 66, have grey hair, of which I earned every one of them, overweight, have always been single and enjoy a Life of which I am proud of. I chose not to have children but that is for another discussion. I live as I want, where I want and as I want including going to church each week, working about three days a week and going out to eat with friends when I want to. So to this woman I would suggest she get out and enjoy, eat more, laugh more and Love more. Have REAL friends that, if you get into trouble, they are not the ones to bail you out because they will be WITH you in trouble. Or as a lot of people would say, She Needs To Get A Life. From a retired Sailor who moved outside a small town where I knew one person and now has some of the Greatest Friends in the world who consider me a "local".

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  23. My mom's hair is dyed an unnaturally dark color, her makeup is always perfectly applied, and she spends a small fortune on skincare products and diamonds. My hair has never been colored, I wear a small amount of makeup to work, I am frugal and have been debt free for years. My fifth grandchild was born this week. I don't look like a teenager. I'm a grandma and proud of every wrinkle and gray hair I have. One coworker keeps telling me that my gray hair is making me look older, but my dermatologist tells me that I have the skin of someone thirty years younger. (I always wear sunscreen and don't go to tanning beds or lay out. I never have.) I just want to be happy, healthy, productive, and enjoy my life with my husband of 35 years. Most of all, I want to happily serve the Lord and see my children, grandchildren, and all of the generations after me do the same.

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  24. Such truth in this article! I just turned 65 this month and I look at it as another milestone. When I see myself in the mirror, I see who I am now and embrace it. (I have waited most of my life for the beauty I see in dark hair that has streaks of white in it! I can thank a beautiful in professor in college who had thick salt and pepper hair that she wore in a long braid---I remember thinking that I hoped to look like that some day. My grey is not as pronounced but I love it! It shows the life I have been blessed to live.

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