My dear friend Melissa sighed heavily. I could envision her face, framed by a touch of silver, her hair having finally been allowed to go all grey. It looks terrific. I’m not there yet – but getting close.
“I just took Jan to the airport,” she said, her voice tinged with sadness. “We’ve agreed that it’s just been too long since we spent time together. We want to travel.”
Jan’s 75. Melissa’s 63. They’ve been close friends forever it seems.
Melissa and I were discussing the nature of our relationships, and the tradeoffs we make.
I had just taken a long trip in Canada by horse, deep into the wilderness. It was the toughest trip I’d ever taken. Our guide, who is something of a legend in his part of Canada, took us through that wilderness. I had flown to his small town and stayed with his wife and him to do our pre-trip preparations.
I got to know his wife, albeit briefly. At 60, a published author and very accomplished writer, she is dealing with a dilemma.
A few years back, she dumped a 25-year marriage, with kids, to follow this man and marry him. The promise was that she would spend summers in the wilderness, with him. Those would feed her writing. Her poetry.
What actually happened is what evolves for far too many of us, all too often women.
At first, she did go on a few trips. However, as she is detail-oriented, somehow she became the chief cook and bottle washer, office manager, secretary, and organizer of all things business. Her husband was all too happy to have this kind of unpaid help.
Of course, she hasn’t seen the wilderness for years. At the same time her husband is the busiest, she is completely overwhelmed.
She’s sanguine about it.
The farmhouse that her husband bought takes a great deal of upkeep. She mows the lawn, tends the garden, helps with the animals.
In other words, she does every single thing except what she signed up for. For love.
Melissa’s friend Jan, who is in her second marriage, has the same problem. At 75, she is also expected to support her husband’s business to the extent that she has no life of her own.
These two women are facing the reality of time. The choices they made. The stilling of the birds in their chest; their heartfelt dreams to live a very different life.
At 66, I do not have a mate. There are times that I would give anything to exchange the bolsters and body pillows on my bed for a warm, loving body (okay, I would also take a dog, but I travel too much).
Someone with whom I can share the giggles, fails, faceplants, and aches and pains as we march toward a very uncertain future.
That didn’t happen this life.
However, as I listened to my new friend in the far north, I wondered about the price we pay.
For comfort. For security. For company. For freedom. For adventure.
Each of us makes a deal with our internal demons and our dreams. You and I often have to forfeit something. We pay for what we have – in one way or another.
Sometimes, especially as we age and begin to feel our mortality, the question arises: are we living our best lives? Is what we chose what we wanted?
In the wee small hours of the night, when my pillows don’t stroke my face or hug me back, I have to wonder.
But I don’t wonder when I ride a spicy horse in Spain, hike to the top of a pass to see grizzlies bound up the side of a steep hill, or kayak sparkling waters in Iceland.
These things put the bird in my chest. For me, it’s worth the loneliness. It’s my dream, my passion, my great love. What I always wanted.
This is our one, precious, magnificent life. Are you living the life you imagined?
Is it time for you to do that thing, that incredible, amazing thing, that you promised yourself?
Is it time for you to teach in Nepal?
Is it time for you to start your own exercise studio?
Is it finally time for you to write that book?
We regret far more the life we never lived than those chances we took and failed.
What trade-offs have you made to live the life you always wanted? Was it worth it? Are you considering taking a huge leap right now? What would it take for you to do that One Big Thing that thrills your heart? Please share with our community and let’s have a discussion.
Ready to get more from life after 60? Get inspired with our very own Sixty and Me “Aging Beautifully” cards. I wrote every word just for you!