Conscious Aging: The Difference a Decade Makes, Part II

On Tuesday I wrote a post about what life was like for me ten years ago, when I was 63. Today I’m reflecting on what has changed over the last ten years. I think of it as being conscious about aging.

A quick clarifying image is the contrast between 59 year old Meryl Streep in the original 2008 Mama Mia!, when she jumped into the air from her bed and touched her toes, and the 2018 version of Mama Mia II. No one in that set of older actresses — Streep, Cher, Christine Baranski, Julie Walters — is doing any jumping in the air and touching toes in the remake.

Ditto for me. I’m still quite active. I do something physically challenging for 90 minutes to 2 hours a day, with a goal of 10,000 or more steps, or 4-6 miles. Included in that is resistance training, for muscle and bone health. I usually do 7 days a week, although on the weekends I might well do a long walk rather than a gym workout. But I’m not jumping on beds or tumbling on trampolines, or cross country skiing — too much tension on my knee joints when I fall — or biking much. No more trying to bike across the Andes, or climbing to the highest mountains on the big island of Hawaii. Those days are over for me. Some women my age do bike long distances, even across the country. But it’s too grueling for my taste, and I don’t enjoy it enough to stay in that kind of shape.

I’m now fully retired, a decision I made when I moved to Seattle in 2010. I felt that I’d worked to metrics — someone else’s in my very early career as a teacher, then my own as an entrepreneur — for 40 years, and it was time to focus on spontaneity and flexibility. I occasionally take on a pro bono brief consultation around a topic that interests me and where I feel I have something to contribute. But that’s it. I do think the world of work is more strategically complex, faster moving, and harder than what Jerry and I did. I’m fairly content with what I achieved, and what we achieved, given the starting point and the assets available to work with — and I had many fewer than Jerry did. The College of St. Elizabeth/University of Rochester simply didn’t have the launch potential for me that MIT/University of Illinois offered him. But I took what I had, and ran with it. Jerry and I did good work, and achieved financial independence. It’s an open question how well I could compete now in this newer, harder work world — but it’s a question without an answer.

Eight years on, I’m no longer in recovery mode from the difficult ending to Jerry’s and my careers. Jerry died, and I had to contend with the departure of key employees at a hugely vulnerable time in the business and for me personally. That cost a lot, including my friendships with those employees and my belief in the basic decency of people. But I survived, and whatever impact Jerry’s death and the two years after had on my physical and mental health is long resolved.

I think they call it “tincture of time”. đŸ™‚

Tomorrow: my social life over the last decade.

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