Turning 60 in Good Company

It’s been a hard year so far. I turned 60 in April, and have had a bit of a miserable time with it.

No one, it turns out, is sympathetic. Well, no one except for other people who are also turning 60 and who are equally freaked out by it.

Major life milestones have the advantage of not sneaking up on us. We know they’re coming. They give us time to prepare. And yet that very prep time also provides us with a certain relentlessness, or inevitability, that intensifies the meanness of the whole experience. You can’t just go to sleep and wake up to find it’s over. You can’t sleep for six months. That had been my preferred method of dealing with birthdays in the past.

Friends and family asked if I wanted a party.

I most certainly did not.

Instead, I decided to use my accumulated American miles on free tickets to travel hither and yon, and visit those friends and family members who live out of town, who I don’t see often enough. I wanted to find out how they were dealing with life in the seventh decade.

I found a variety of experiences, a group of people mostly retired, often beset by a variety of medical issues (some minor, others not), showing their age to a greater or lesser extent. And Lordy, it was a wake-up call I wasn’t particularly hoping to hear, but I heard it nonetheless.

I realized that I have to take better care of myself going forward, because this next ten years is critical. But I’m not entirely sure I know what that means. I’m only beginning the process of figuring it out, beyond the usual…getting enough rest, eating right, exercising, etc. It seems to me that to “take better care of myself” has become fraught today. Everyone offers advice. Infrequently do I want it.

I suspect this is too much to explore in a single blog post, because I have an awful lot to say about the subject. But I want to share something I saw this morning that inspired me.

There is a retrospective now at the MOMA of an artist named Adrian Piper, whose work explores themes of race, gender, philosophy, and abstraction. She paints and draws and does performance pieces, as well as teaching in university settings. Embedded in this article from Alyson Walsh (It’s Not My Age blog) is a performance piece that Piper did in the Alexanderplatz in Berlin at the age of 60(!).


This is the most inspiration I’ve found in ages.

(I’d been looking for inspiration. And not finding much.

Which is one of the issues with this whole stinkin aging thing.)

Suddenly, I don’t feel quite so bad about being 60.