I met woman on the beach last week. She was one of the few actually swimming in the cold Maine water. As you do sometimes with strangers, we talked pretty frankly about ourselves and life. She was 87, as it turns out, and enjoying a great vacation with friends, one of whom just celebrated her 90th birthday the day before. My new acquaintance shared that she’d been a ‘widow’ twice; although in longstanding relationships, she never married. “Some of us just aren’t meant to,” she said simply, and ran off into the waves, laughing.
Ruth is another woman I look forward to seeing every year in Maine. She takes the bus each morning to the YMCA and swims laps, after which she walks on the beach for nearly an hour. Ruth is fascinated by the life and work of Leonard Cohen, and has seen I’m Your Man several times. She’s also a fan of Stephen Hawking, and can converse on any topic from physics to marketing strategies. Ruth’s in her early 90’s.
Mary, who owns and operates the Inn, is probably around 80, and likely older. She and her late husband bought the Inn as a retirement career, and she’s been the engine behind its restoration and great success. Day and night, Mary’s on duty – greeting guests, planning upgrades, and baking breakfast treats shared in the Inn’s Gathering Room. In the slower season, Mary’s off traveling the world or visiting one of her many children or grandchildren.
Carla was a client I had the privelege of working with many years ago. In her seventies, she started her last – and most successful career – as an antique dealer. A widow, she also found a lover who enjoyed life as much as she did, up until she died of ALS.
One of the departments I oversee at my workplace is Healthy Aging. We offer evidence-based programs like A Matter of Balance, and Chronic Disease Self-Management. Fine programs, for sure, but that’s not what leaps to my mind when I think of healthy aging.
I want to be like Carla, or Ruth, or the woman who rushed into the waves of the cold Atlantic. Full of curiosity and openness to life, honest about the joys and the painful losses. Sexy, adventurous, and self-confident.
Sure, these women have had some advantages and resources that no doubt contribute to their longevity. They’ve had the means to afford education and travel. They haven’t been spared life’s disappointments, though, nor have they all been blessed with the best health.
It just seems that they chose – and keep choosing – to live in life’s possibility rather than in fear or regret. They laugh easily, at the world and themselves, and march to the beat of their own drummer.
Ready for a date? A concert on the beach? I plan to age with sass!