It’s December, and it seems like only a few months ago I kissed the pet store goodbye and came home to take up the writing life. Of course, as I’m fifty-six, a few months is a shorter time, proportionate to my life, than it used to be.
My ex-husband turned fifty-five last week, and I sent him an email to wish him happy birthday. I laughed out loud at his response: “I only look in mirrors, where I’m 22.” Then he said I seemed to be taking the whole getting-older thing in stride, and asked me what my secret was.
I’m not sure it’s a secret. I just like being in my fifties. I have a lot of experience now, and it’s like a library full of books in the furnished room of my mind. (Don’t look in that corner over there, the trivia heap sometimes leaps out and attacks!) Seriously, I couldn’t have written twenty years ago what I’m writing now. I needed to, well, mature. Okay, maybe “mature” isn’t the right word, but I definitely needed practice and time to digest the experiences I’ve had, and to learn and read and absorb. All of that has fed into the writer I’m always becoming.
I also like cronehood, the part of a woman’s life where the question of childbearing is no longer up for discussion. I never had children, or wanted them, but there’s still a difference in my life now that all the hormonal stuff is done. I sometimes think I might actually qualify as a wisewoman someday. Also, old women can say just about anything, and stereotypes to the contrary, we’re probably almost unshockable. Oh, sure, I’d like the thirties body back, or maybe just the thirties knees. But you know that’s not gonna happen, and at least I still have my mind.
There are a lot of wonderful things about being an artist, but one I’ve always liked is that they can’t fire you, and they can’t retire you. If they want to get rid of you, they have to shoot you. An old artist is just an artist with lots of experience. I was never a wunderkind, but so what?
I do have a sense of my mortality. I figure I’ve got maybe twenty-five good years left in me, God willin’ and the creek don’t rise. I plan to fill it with art and writing and friends (including the friend I’m married to) and wine and other things that only improve with age.
I can’t give you any advice on how to accept ageing gracefully, or gracelessly, either. But I have to say this – even when the time comes that I’m no longer allowed candles on my birthday cake because they set off the smoke alarm, it’ll still beat hell out of the alternative. And it keeps providing material for writing, too.