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All Grown Up, at Last

Novelist Barbara Neely on embracing the person you've become after 65

Boomers@65Dear Boomers:

Welcome to 65 — and be glad you’ve arrived. If this were 1911, given the life expectancy back then, you’d more likely be about to have a funeral than a birthday celebration. Of course, every generation creates aging in its own image; now it’s your turn. Here are three things I’ve observed since 65 that you might find useful.

1.  At 65 you are a distilled and aged version of who you’ve always been: you, only more potent.

As a part of my 65th birthday, I skimmed my journals from my 40s forward — from this vantage point, I consider my pre-40 years part of my childhood. My entries reminded me that the heavy load of fears and foibles I’d once strapped to my back — all those childhood traumas, heartbreaks, disappointments and misconceptions that kept me in a near-perpetual state of self-criticism — had diminished. By 65, this trunkful of angst could fit into a small change purse. Now, as I turn 70, the change purse is so tiny it gets lost on my desk or left in my jacket pocket for weeks on end, unmissed.

It would be nice to report that I was able to ditch my emotional baggage through meditation and sheer willpower. But what really happens, I think, is that — if we’re lucky — we grow into ourselves. We become more nuanced, more able to see the shades of gray, the thing beneath the thing. And we have less room for self-defeat, less patience for the useless and unnecessary. So we begin unloading our bags of woe, bit by bit. It’s as if the unconscious mind knows that the clock is ticking and we don’t have a moment to waste on being anyone other than the person we genuinely are.

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