Kevin here. . .
I am writing today to encourage you to reinvent yourself in this latter part of your life. Let this time be an exciting adventure, not a slow and disappointing decline.
Let me tell you why. I look around at my aging friends, relatives, and acquaintances, and they tend to sort themselves into three types. First, those who seem to give up being alive when they age and end up mostly on the internet, watching TV, or eating and drinking. Then, there are those who resolutely try to carry on as before and resist the changes brought on by age. And third, those who continue to grow as they age, reinventing themselves to accommodate the changes aging brings.
And boy, you can sure tell the difference! The first two groups often seem bitter, frustrated, and defeated because the world just isn’t like it used to be. They see the past as far better than the present and are acutely aware of their diminishing abilities as they struggle with the challenges of aging. But those who embrace change and adapt, those who reinvent themselves, seem to float with grace and excitement through their old age.
The rhythm of life
Our lives seem to have a rhythm. The long, innocent days of childhood are followed by the turbulent physical and emotional changes of adolescence. These teen years of overwhelming metamorphosis give way to the more stable adult years as we accept the responsibility of building a life, family, and career.
We continue to develop our mental, physical, and emotional skills during those adults years, and our bodies and health remain stable for the most part. Sure, there is a big difference between a 25-year-old body and one at 55, but those changes take 30 years to develop, and they feel gradual.
But inevitably, one day we start to really age. Be it at 55 or 75, we realize our body is no longer young, that we have become old. Once again, we are thrown into a period of rapid and overwhelming physical and emotional change. Our body shifts with alarming rapidity as our physical skills deteriorate, our mental acuity declines, and our stamina fades. And, disease often begins to take its toll.
If we fail to adjust to these changes, we suffer and decline even faster. Just as we came to terms with the changes of adolescence, we must adapt and reinvent ourselves as we enter the final years of our lives.
Why I had to reinvent myself as a senior
My arthritis, which I had largely been able to ignore most of my life, worsened in my late 50s, and I raged against it. When I was diagnosed with leukemia at 59, the treatments that saved my life hastened the aging process more, and I was able to do even less. I was devastated. How could I live without skiing, long mountain hikes, scuba diving, and all the other outdoor adventures that meant so much to me? Diminished by my limitations, I felt small and weak.
My new limits galled me to no end. However, one day I had an epiphany. I don’t remember the exact moment, but I realized with great clarity that I’d always had limitations, during every stage of my life. And, I realized I’d lived happily with those limitations without even thinking about it. The only difference now was that I was faced with a new set of constraints. Like in the past, I merely had to change my aspirations and select activities I could do within my new limits. I could choose to live a full and happy life. . .I had only to reinvent myself.
So, I did. I took up painting and fulfilled a lifelong ambition of becoming an accomplished artist. It certainly didn’t happen overnight—that was 15 years ago—but I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t started then and painted every day for years.
When the woman who was my wife for 30+ years, the woman with whom I raised our children, decided she no longer wanted love and intimacy with me, I was again devastated and forced to reinvent myself. I separated and searched for a new way to love, a more satisfying, sustainable way to be intimately connected. And again, I found it, but it took five years of learning how to be in a loving relationship in an entirely new way. Now, I am happy to say that I have the most intimate relationship of my life.
When my potency waned at 64, I was not about to let that interfere with the new life I was building. I knew I had to change yet again. And, I was willing, now eager, to do whatever was necessary to keep my sex life going. To my surprise, the changes I made vastly improved my loving relationships. And, my sex life thrived! Believe it or not, there are upsides to impotence.
Here we go again
Now some years later, my limitations are surfacing again. I can no longer live the life I have chosen in the place I selected. The maintenance on our ranch is getting to be too much for me. Three hours of work on the place and I am done for the day. Rising before dawn to hunt ducks wipes me out. And, the vegetable garden looks daunting as winter gives way to the spring weeds.
Victoria and I want more human contact than we have living on this marsh. So, we are selling the place and moving on, going someplace closer to people and where the weather is kinder to our old arthritic bodies. Somewhere I can do less maintenance and more painting, and Vicki doesn’t have to drive 45 minutes to yoga class.
We are going to miss this place with its amazing beauty and abundant wildlife. We both realize we’ll never live this close to nature again, and that is a loss. But once again, it’s time to adapt to our limitations and reinvent ourselves. We’re both excited about the move and eagerly anticipating the new life we will create together.
I know this won’t be the last time I reinvent myself. Each time I’ve done it, I’ve been compelled to do so by the pain of my circumstances. Perhaps in the future, I can make changes before my situation becomes dire. But I may never move through life with such grace. . .
In our next post, Victoria will share her story and thoughts on reinventing herself throughout her life.
Have you reinvented yourself? If so, let us know in the comments below!