Thoughts on Turning 60–What’s with that?

Sixty is a formidable number. Different from 30, 40, 50. One of those “decade” numbers that stops you in your tracks. Fifty was a bit intimidating but ultimately the approach and the finish of 50 turned out not to be a big deal. However, I’ve been thinking about 60 for a year now and I suspect I’m going to continue to ponder it for a while throughout the next several months. It is the top of some distant hill that I’ve reached, huffing and puffing along. Turning to look behind there are so many great memories but looking forward seems mirkier than other hills climbed in the past. Darker and a little frightening.

Why is that? Mortality is closer. Fears of morbidity arise. I’m a little stiffer and a little heavier than I’ve ever been. Getting pounds off is so much harder than it used to be and I’m less willing to put in the work to do so. What’s with that? I’ve always been a very goal-directed individual and now I find myself wanting to sit quietly, enjoy the moments and draw more often than choosing the next thing to accomplish. What’s with that?

I considered getting a master’s in something—Informatics being the most likely candidate. All my peers seem to be doing that—no longer is “just” an MD satisfactory. You need a Master’s in something—an MBA or an MPH (public health) or Informatics. So I did some research on pursuing that. I enjoy learning, why not? Well primarily because I wouldn’t have time to do any of the other things I am enjoying—traveling, drawing, spending time with friends and family. And what would a master’s get me—another frame on the wall and an opportunity to work harder? What’s with that?

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The drive to become something else is gone. Been there, done that–mother, doctor, wife, blogger, geek–check, check, check, check, check. My children are grown and successful, my marriage is happy, my career cemented. After years of ambitious productive activity it dawns on me–finally, I can do what I enjoy doing—drawing, writing, seeing patients, tinkering with Apple products–and saying no to ambition.

 

At 60, I get to choose just being better at the things I do now. I can quit dabbling.

 

And I am so OK with that.

 

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3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Turning 60–What’s with that?

  1. I’m headed toward 64 this fall. In my head, I feel much younger, more like 30-40, but without some of the non- productive, guilt inducing hang ups I had then. Of course the body says, “so what about your arthritis, gastritis, and sometimes foggy brain? Better face reality, chickie.” But I’m ok with all of that, the high blood pressure, the pounds that don’t come off easily. I could diet more but I don’t want to. If I want cake, I eat cake. I do keep moving, as I don’t want to rust like the Tin Man. Stiff joints that creak and yell at me in the morning are better after walking, working in the yard, swimming. We moved last year, but if I could find a zumba or tap class nearby, I’d go. I did Zumba for years & loved it. I find myself less judgmental and more patient, although there are some things in today’s society that bother me, but I live in a very small town now, north of Dallas on an acre with a pond, a pool, lots of trees & the house of my dreams, so nothing bothers me that much . I get to spend lots of time with my grandkids, I read, write, putter with things I like to do. My husband and I are taking our 13 year old grandson to Alaska for 2 weeks in August! Very excited about that.
    One thing that annoys the stew out of me is that I have to go on Medicare next year. I have good insurance from my teaching years & I don’t need Medicare. But of course I don’t get any say on that, thanks to Uncle Sam sticking his nose in my business. Other than that, the only things in my life that sometimes get me down are my very elderly parents, both 92, and the sadness I still feel for my deceased son. He passed away 9 years ago at age 27. I’ve had 3 years of grief therapy & I take medicine to help cope with that. I have to say, that I look at my parents & think that I do not want to live so long that I can no longer do for myself. But I’m lucky to still be able to enjoy talking with them, and their minds are slowing down but basically sound. It’s all their physical ailments that have them so restricted. All in all, I’m content with where I am. Age has never defined me or made me deny it. It’s just a number. My weight number bothers me more, but since it isn’t crazily overweight, I can blow that off, too. I do find myself more & more nostalgic, and often think of my childhood. Recently I met with 2 dear friends from over 40 years ago, & it made me so happy. We enjoyed each other as we did way back then. I think I should spend more time doing that. It’s very comforting. So come on, 64. On my birthday, I shall indulge myself as I always do. My family will treat me, too. The holidays will roll around and then I’ll already be in my next journey around the sun. See you then, 65.

  2. Your blog post about turning 60 struck a nerve with me, sometimes with an unconditioned reflex, sometimes leaving me wondering where our attitudes diverged. I, too, found 60 to be much tougher than any other “milestone” birthday. I blew through 30 (even tho I was of the “never trust anyone over 30” generation), 40 (before it became the new 60, 50—none of those even slowed me for a moment. But 60, and especially 65 became something that brought me to a standstill. I had more fears about mortality at 30 than now, and it was more than Peggy Lee’s “Is That All There Is” because I feel like I’ve lived an extraordinarily lucky life. Wife that I adore and still find erotic frisson in her presence, child that I am blessed to see every day, successful business, which doesn’t resonate because it was just doing what I loved doing. But now….now…all of the responsibilities that I took in stride, the deadlines and commitments, the being Godfather to 29 employees who all need stroking, advice, praise—all things I’m good at. All of those “fulfilling” activities now seem like intrusions, burdens, things that my first response is to say “I would prefer not to.” I have always been kind of a shoe-gazer, so aging has been like a lab experiment, endless fascinating, full of surprises. As things fail, body parts, brain function, glasses…whatever, I have always found it kind of fascinating much as I found my child’s development always intriguing and full of surprise. But I think the underlying routine of anyone’s life, work, home life, just cannot stand up to 40 or 50 years of repetition. I resent cooking, tho I have cooked our meals for 40 years and usually found it interesting and challenging. I resent the responsibilities placed on me by the store, when I used to just take them in stride. Where is the line between shit that is “just part of living” and shit that “I’m fed up with that and don’t want to do it.” And why 60 as you say? Why not 50 or 70?? I can’t answer that except to say that maybe there is some upper limit of routine life that will always chafe. Maybe after 40 or more years of doing many of the same things the brain rebels and says I want something novel, I want something crazy, I want these stones out of my pack so I can see if there is something new I can stick in there.

  3. Congrats on getting in the Louisville Doc list on Louisville (from experience you will now be inundated by people who produce plaques, posters, citations and such–the nature of the web). But I have only one complaint. During my recent visit, I had a couple of “complaints”, mostly ENT stuff, and I got a good recommend from you, the other was “Oh, my shoulder hurts when I raise it” which let to an Ortho appt which I cancelled. Yeah, lots of shit hurts when your 67 (you’ll get there God willing), but I guess my comment has to do with is it your job to fix every FUCKING little thing patients complain about?? Isn’t your job to look at the patient (me) and see that he accepts the inflammation/pain because it doesn’t interfere with his life?? It’s Family Practice as psychoanalysis, I know, but I somehow rely on you to make a judgement about my complaints. And I realize there are patients who come expecting life to be perfect. But there is the other kind, like me, who says “Yeah, it hurts, but a couple of Ibuprofen and a shot of bourbon takes care of it.” Don;t send me to a specialist. Life will never be perfect for a 67 year old, so take a moment to ask if this complaint impairs the quality of your life. Are you the type that can take the pain because you are an aging hippie who loves smelling flowers and doesn’t give a f**k about your rotator or tennis elbow or whatever. That’s my only caveat for a Doctor I trust and love dearly.

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