As I await my first pension cheque, opposing forces are doing pushups in my head. I worked hard, sacrificed much as a career-driven mother, and damn well deserve this pittance from the government. And then the significance of this brown envelope settles into my gut with a wave of nausea. I am at the age of eligibility. I have crossed over the line which separates middle age from old age. No amount of reassuring me that it’s just a number is going to change that.
I remember completing employment and benefit forms, 40 years ago. I was disinterested and impatient. It was for a time in the future that echoed with unreality and impossibility. I was only interested in my salary at that moment. And how soon I would get a raise and ascend to the next level on the leadership ladder. To finance my wants and needs. As a measure of my success. As a power tool for my ego. Putting away money for my old age was an unfathomable agenda. I imagined myself as invincible to aging. Invincible to retiring. Invincible to accepting government subsidy. And now it’s here. I didn’t even ask for it.
I’m caught up in the number. Not because of how I physically feel. Not because of the fear of diminished mental capacity. I’ve shared before that when I look in the mirror I see my mother’s etched face looking back at me. That’s part of it. I only remember her as old.
Our western culture worships youth. And thinness. And material possessions. At 65, I feel the threat of irrelevance. I’m not young. My shape is loose, with ripples on parts that are meant to be smooth. And I have more than I need–of everything. I yearn for fewer details in my life. For less to manage. For our most precious possessions to be frozen in time while the superfluous evaporates. I’m too embarrassed to take another truckload of excess to Value Village. I know what feels good when I put it on–I want the rest of the folded and hanging material in my closet to be recycled. Reused. Not wasted–yet gone.
I’m facing my mid-sixties in a conundrum. I am filled with hesitancy and angst. I want my birthday not to happen and to have it be a special occasion. I surf websites looking for a unique experience to lighten the weight of my age. There’s at once too much to choose from and nothing that fills the void. The gap between my 30-something daughters and me feels wider than ever. And yet my recollections of experiences at that age are as fresh and clear as five minutes ago. It doesn’t matter. Other cultures revere elders, wise matriarchs, even old royals. We compete to look the youngest, fittest, busiest. To challenge and deny our age.
Forty was a badge of honour for me. Sixty-five is a tarnished medal hidden in my pocket. And the quandary is getting louder. Screaming that acceptance is the only way out of the crossfire.
It softens the face, smooths the lines, unfurrows the brow. It opens the mind, puts kind words on the tongue, and warms the heart. Whispered affirmations keep me practicing yoga, swimming lengths. And writing and speaking my truth.
At least, that is my experience.