My Ultimate Stage

The season is changing, and it feels like the blinking yellow light between green and red. Pause and proceed with caution, cuz things are gonna be different. Autumn is our annual metamorphosis when we give up the pretty dress we wore all summer and start to let our leg hair grow again. It’s pie season. Enjoy the harvest calories and chuck down some sugared fruit. Let go of your inhibitions and have a second helping of something delicious. Prepare to put on your winter weight. Autumn is our last hurrah before the season of rest when we sit beside our lamps and mainline stories, books, films, podcasts, the content blanket that comforts us while we wait for the light to change. We’re in transition.

Billie Best writes about her ultimate stage.

Yellow light heralds the autumn equinox, a time when day and night share the clock as equals, six months from the minty vernal equinox in March, when I’ll be 70. This is my latest ponder. It’s only math, but it’s also time, a very long stretch of time. Like the autumn light changes colors and lengthens shadows, seven decades illuminate a new perspective. I’m mapping myself. Asking myself questions. Reconsidering the ways I spend my energy, what seems like it’s working, what feels tired, how I can improve.

Being 70 is a new beginning. My dad is almost 91 and goes for a miles-long recumbent bike ride in the morning. His mother lived until the week before her 100th birthday and my maternal grandmother lived to be 103. If our lifespan has increased to a century, then it seems to me we should be defining middle age as 40 to 70, and our ultimate stage as 70 to 100. So, I’m like an autumn leaf turning from middle age to my ultimate stage. I like the leaf metaphor because it conveys an ongoing cycle, one generation puts down the nutrients to feed the next. Our ultimate stage is regenerative. We are the medium in which the future is planted. Youth sprouts from our story. 

These days ultimate olds are everywhere. Society has never seen so many. But despite the trend, we are not a monoculture. Our hair may be similarly aluminum, but there is great diversity among the soft shoe set. Of course, if you’re reading this, I’m not telling you anything new. In our heads we hear the same voice we heard 50 years ago. My partner and I went to a Carlos Santana concert and saw 10,000 seats filled mostly with olds. A sea of grey hair sparkled like tinsel under the lights. We are changing what it means to age, morphing the cultural blueprint followed by our parents and grandparents, doing recreational drugs, dancing to the music, using social media, shopping online, driving EVs, going vegan. Still tuned into what’s cool. 

As my 60s unfurled I felt unprepared for aging. Now at 69, I’m a pro. And in my ultimate stage, I’ll be even better at adapting. I have less resistance, and more momentum, although now it’s mostly mental momentum. I accept how people see me, the saggy face, the crow’s feet, the grey hair and the eyeglasses denting my nose. I know they make judgements about who I am and how I think. But don’t we all do that to everybody? Don’t we always judge people first by how they look? In my ultimate stage I expect ageism. It doesn’t ruffle my feathers as much as it used to. Maybe because when I look at the youngs around me, I think how lucky I am to have grown up when I did. I don’t want to be young anymore. 70 is cool. That’s the insight I carry with me into my ultimate stage.  

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10 thoughts on “My Ultimate Stage

  1. I am taking my 20-something son to see the Eagles in November. He appreciates that I was in high school and college at the peak of their popularity. He can play most of their hits. Steely Dan are opening. We are both stoked. I love that we have music to bridge the age gap.

  2. Eloquent writing, again. I’m 67 and retired. I feel so much more at-peace than ever before in my life. Feel like this is my reward for raising 3 children and working in public ed for 32 years. I still feel strong although my knees don’t agree. BTW, I experienced the same sea of gray hair, but at a recent Tears for Fears concert. Keep doing the good work, Billie.

  3. Gosh, I just figured out if I scroll down long enough i can leave a comment! Enjoy your blog. Turning 70 myself next month and almost looking forward to it. Almost….but getting there cuz I am definitely not ready for the alternative!

  4. My one mirror regret: the hammock of goiter like skin sag running from chin to neck. Seen in profile. Not in a straight on. I can do the Susan Sarandon chin in air to falsely hide it so, well, fuck it. I yam what I yam, just like so many of the rest of us. No big deal as long as it doesn’t hurt. Saddest are the losses of those no longer here. Part of me envies them not having to deal with the tumult this planet faces. But God, I miss them. I miss that my newer friends never got to meet them. I think about all of them a LOT.
    Love ya, Bil

    1. I get the neck skin thing. We all have it. Katherine Hepburn wore turtlnecks, cowls and scarves for the last 20 years of her life because she hated her neck. Ah, well, vanity…

  5. Brava! I think that 70 is the new middle age (not “the middle ages)” although, some may differ!, and I personally feel stronger now than at any time in my life – because of the new knowledge I’m absorbing about… everything! I think my grey/gray hair is giving me an open mind! Hey, it’s on top of my head, so ugh, as a modern caveman, who knows? Let’s cheer for our gray/gray hair and our faces and bodies that are changing like the seasons and embrace it like Billie Best!
    eeoo, Billie, way to go!

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