Names matter…

Yesterday I did something I had been putting off. I reread a chapter on aging entitled, “Older” from Anna Quindlen’s book Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake (2013). I had been putting it off because I have a lot of respect for Quindlen and didn’t want her words to put a damper on my efforts to capture my own thoughts and experiences on this topic. In case you don’t know, Quindlen is a Pulitzer Prize winning opinion columnist, author, and journalist. She also happens to be just a few months older than me. I had read Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake when it first came out and had forgotten until recently that I had made a copy of the chapter on aging. When I came upon it, I somewhat reverently took it to the spot in my favorite room that is reserved for my journals and books on aging, reinvention, fitness, weight loss, and creativity. And there it has sat…

One of the best things about being a Baby Boomer is that there are all these incredibly smart and articulate people just ahead of me who are already tackling life’s biggest challenges in new, fresh ways. But that can also be intimidating.

Finally though, I took a deep breath and started (re)reading. It turns out that I’m not alone in finding that I’m happier now than I’ve ever been; that I’m more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. But the idea that resonated the most with me is our collective struggle with what to call this stage of life.

We don’t even have a name for this time in our lives, or a name that seems to work. Second adulthood, one writer called it. The third chapter, says another. Late middle age? Later age? (p. 107)

We absolutely know that senior, elderly, or old are totally wrong. Those labels have nothing to do with who we are at 60. But what we call things matter and not having a name is a challenge. In just a few minutes I’m going to a friend’s 60th birthday celebration and she texted that there will be 20 to 30 “old” people there. She meant it jokingly (Gallows humor?) but still…words have power and they can shape how others see us and, most importantly, how we see ourselves. But hey, I’m two years ahead of her and I was bitter and angry around my 60th. Each of us deals with this milestone in her own way. Now that we’re in the same club, I look forward to talking with her about this.

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