Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Joy of Aging

It’s hard to tell whether Nora Ephron, the wonderfully witty author of I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, is being serious when she says, “This insistence on the joy of aging. . . is all garbage.”

But if she is serious, I couldn’t disagree more.

While growing old has its obvious perils, it also has its pleasures.

I recently had dinner with nine women who are well into Ephron’s “third act.” (At 53, I was the youngest.)

One is learning to play the cello. Another just returned from a six-week textile-hunting trip to India. A third went skydiving to celebrate her 70th birthday.

Despite the fact that some of these women are of modest means, aging has brought each of them greater freedom and less responsibility, more confidence to pursue their passions and fewer reasons to care what others think.

Most importantly, it’s brought them increasing clarity about who they are and what they want.

Growing old is a humbling experience, but let’s not forget that youth has its own challenges.

Instead of fruitlessly debating whether it’s better to be young or old (after all, we are what we are), why not follow the example of my dinner companions?

They’re embracing the opportunities that age has provided them rather than lamenting the ones that have passed.

NOTE: The photo at the top of this posting, which I took at the beach near where I live, symbolizes for me the possibility of breaking through whatever barriers society puts in our way.