A friend once told me that when he reached his 60s he enjoyed the best decade of his life.
His 60s, he said, felt like a reward for years of raising children, building a career, and working hard. His boys were married, having children of their own and enjoying successful careers. His long-term marrige was stable – and, though you can never be absolutely sure about these things, seemingly happy. His career was at the point where he could slow down a bit and work fewer hours, while still enjoying his role as the founder of his professional practice. With all of that, his health was good too.
And – I almost forgot – he had a nice place at the lake to which he and his wife retreated most weekends for reading, walking, and quiet evenings by the fireplace.
So, good for him, right?
As I enter my 60s – reluctantly, but without much choice in the matter – I find that I am enjoying a few of those same things. Not all, but some. (Going away for the weekend has, in my line of work, never been part of my life.)
But here’s the thing, and if you’ve read this far, you must have anticipated something like this: It’s not all good.
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am more grateful than I can say for everything I have. I am blessed in ways I could not have imagined. I am in the rare position right now of being able to live a lifelong dream. But – how do I say this without seeming ungrateful? – it’s not all good.
In fact, I am beginning to wonder about that idyllic picture of this stage of life that my friend once painted for me. I don’t think he was telling me everything.
I had a moment yesterday that I should have ignored, but I couldn’t. It was a moment of grief and sadness. More than a twinge, it was more like a wave that washed over me and left me feeling unexpectedly low.
My girls who for 20 years were pretty much my whole life are now gone. They are doing all the things I dreamed for them – and more – so that’s not the problem. I am prouder, as a matter of fact, than anyone can possibly imagine. The problem is that chapter of my life is now closed, and I miss it terribly. I miss them. If I could, I would do it all over again, including the worries and sleepless nights that are inevitably a part of raising children.
But I realize that those times are now gone. They are not coming back. And I know that I’m terribly selfish for wanting them back.
I try to live in the present. I want to be grateful for this moment and all of its wonder and potential. And mostly I am.
I am beginning to see, though, that at this stage of life the losses become more apparent. They add up and accumulate. The little ones, the big ones, they can’t be ignored.
They don’t diminish the joy, but they certainly balance it.