How To Age Well by Amanda McLeod

Three Poems by Kristin Ryan
April 1, 2018
Small Fry by Jessica Brown
April 3, 2018

Your nineties. Greet Death as an old friend. The legacy you built remains, long after another body fills the space in the universe you vacate. No one else has ever lived a life like yours, and no one will again. Let what you leave behind be the echoes of your history, rather than a dusty box in someone’s attic.

 Your eighties. Your body may not be what it once was. Nonetheless, keep your mind agile with books and music and conversation. Devote time to reflection on a life well lived.  Wonder at how far you’ve come, the things you’ve seen. Share your wisdom and story with younger folk; they may brush it off with light laughter but they follow the path you tread and will understand one day. Doze, if the mood takes you. After all, a lifetime of trailblazing can be exhausting.

Your seventies. Practise actively letting go. Understand memories and stories are not tied up in objects, but in your heart, where they are weightless and can be carried forever. Accept that others may not want the burden of all your worldly goods. Without the memories attached to them, they are dead weight. And the cost of excess baggage is prohibitive.

 Your sixties. Life lightens further. Retirement may beckon, and with it the headiness of entire days, weeks, of unencumbered time. Treasure the transition. Tend your garden of good friends and make sure you water each other, so your life is full of blooms and sweetness. If you have children, they might expect you to watch theirs as they seethe with jealousy over your carefree daily existence. Caring, or not caring, is a lifestyle choice. Choose carefully.

 Your fifties. A delight. Your career may be reaching its zenith; your children may be completely independent of you. This is a time of rich possibility, especially for those who have given much of themselves in service to others. Rediscover your passions. Rediscover your partner if you have one. Laugh a lot. As the demands of your earlier life loosen their grip, the world beckons you in new and thrilling ways. Go on a voyage of self discovery. Throw the map into the ocean. It only tells you where other people have already been.

Your forties. You have as much to look back on as to look forward to. The scales of youth and experience are perfectly balanced, although the bathroom scales may be less kind. Take care of your body. It still has a long way to carry you. There are numerous trite platitudes about this being an age of rebirth, generally spouted by those who wasted birth the first time. This may be a time of crisis or celebration, depending on how you read the clock. Do not squander days looking for your lost youth; you are unlikely to find it in a red sports car.

 Your thirties. Your balancing skills are sorely tested. If you have been blessed with children, you understand the eternal struggle of something so richly rewarding yet utterly draining. You may despair at finding a place for everything meaningful. You might reassess what is truly important to you. Be mindful of your partner, if you have one, as you navigate this minefield. Their feelings, while different to your own, are no less valuable. Resentment may simmer. If it continues to boil over, throw it out. There are enough ingredients in life’s pantry for a new recipe.

 Your twenties. The years of strife with your parents are behind you. Keep them close, in spirit if not in body. This is a time for independence and exploration. You may be building a career, which is wonderful. You may be building castles in the sky, which is also wonderful. Many dreamers have let their light go out when they arrive here. If you are one of them, find someone or something with a match. Try on identities like costumes until you find one that fits. You may meet the tongue to your groove. Enjoy the feeling of fitting together, of being part of something bigger than you.

 Your teenage years. You will arrive here confident you know everything there is to know about the world. You are mistaken. These will be difficult years, yet also full of lessons. You may feel your space in the world shifts and changes, becoming as ill-fitting as last year’s party clothes, trying to squeeze you into a preconceived mould. Take heart, and let the heat and pressure transform you, as it does to carbon, resulting in diamonds. You may not be ready to withstand it. Fear not, life will present you with many opportunities for reinvention; but you must watch closely, lest they be buried under the avalanche of papers tumbling across your desk.

 Birth. There are as many first experiences of life as there are people on the planet. No one was ever born the way you are, and no one ever will be again. Everything is a wonder. You will learn more in your earliest years of life than at any other time. The universe has a place for you; fill it wisely.

Amanda McLeod is an Australian author, artist and bookworm. You can find her fiction in The Fredericksburg Literary Arts Review, Sick Lit Magazine, KYSO Flash, and elsewhere. As well as writing, she likes cheese, coffee, and people with nice manners. Find her on Twitter @AmandaMWrites