Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Wistfulness of Being Sixty

The Facebook photo I look at is a great one -- most likely taken by a grandchild or friend on some summer outing -- a closeup of a sixty-something friend of mine that somehow reflects the spirit of the woman behind the photo.  Nathalie's expression is of one deep in thought, and there is a wistfulness in her eyes.  On the same Facebook page there is an old group photo of one of the local bands of our youth, the lead singer a long-time friend of mine.  And I remember those times -- when we all looked forward to the future with great anticipation; no matter how wonderful or how lonely our high school lives had been, we just knew in our hearts that we would find love and happiness and success in the larger world.

We went our separate ways, and journeyed through life -- doing our best to create the lives of our dreams.  Some of us found great love; some reached the pinnacle of career success.  Some were blessed with good health, loving children, much joy.  Others struggled through life -- illness, family strife, job losses.  Some died.

For most of us, life was a balance of both the best and the worst times.  As we enter our sixties, we are a sundry lot.  Some enter this decade in financial comfort and good health.  Others are blessed with the contentment of having realized their dreams.  Some struggle daily with money or family worries and health issues.  All of us have experienced both those shining moments when the world seems perfect, and those crushing moments of deep loss and sadness, when it seems we will never rise up from the depths of sorrow.

However, as we move through our sixties, we come to realize that we are finally comfortable in our own skin.  We no longer judge ourselves by the standards of others.  We have reached the point where we can be who we are with confidence.  Whatever has happened in our lives -- both good and bad -- has shaped us into more interesting people than we were at seventeen.  We know that we are capable of working through the hard times and celebrating even the smallest moments of pleasure.  We are not in competition anymore -- we are what we are, and our family and friends either love us for what we are or they don't.  If they don't, we just move along with our lives without their approval.

There is a sense of freedom and accomplishment at this age, but there is also a wistfulness -- a remembrance of the dreams that were shattered, the losses that have left holes in our hearts, and a wish that some things could have turned out differently.  It is that wistfulness I see in Nathalie's face, and feel in my own heart.  We may be wiser and more confident and at peace with ourselves, but deep inside there is a wistfulness for that innocent hopefulness of long ago -- the "if only" in each of our lives.

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