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MEEKS: Age is more than a number

A few days ago I turned 70 and I am delighted. This past Sunday when I went forward for the customary blessing that is given in my church for birthdays and announced that I had turned 70, there were a few folks who remarked that I must have missed the memo telling me that I should say that I was 29. I could only tell them how proud I am to be 70.

These past years have been filled with many lessons, joys and griefs and I would not trade them for anything. I am totally uninterested in going back to any of the previous years. I am excited about the prospects of the future. I don't know what is ahead, I'm just like all of the rest of the world who don't know either, but whatever it is, it will be fine with me. I have learned a few lessons about accepting life as it presents itself.

So many of the things that used to cause me great distress do not make the list of concerns anymore. My view is wider and I can see around the corners of situations that in years past would have been immobilizing, but now I am energized by my awareness of their true nature and I can put them aside.

As a nation, we have a preoccupation with youth. There are thousands of products being marketed daily that are touted as being able to remove wrinkles or to erase other signs that aging is taking place. I wonder what it would be like to live in a land where the elderly were held in high esteem and their wisdom regarded as a valuable resource?

I wonder what it would be like to have facilities for the elderly to share with their peers which support their gifts and talents so they could be more productive and have a greater sense of being valuable? They deserve this because they have lived to be 70, 80, 90 or above and when they embrace their age with gracefulness they are truly gifts to all those around them. Their gifts are valuable to those who are younger and less wise.

We can see the results of our collective lack of regard and respect for those who have passed 60.

When the elders do not take their rightful place, confusion is created. There needs to be wise voices among us in a time when voices echo unreasonableness and hopelessness are found in folks who have not lived through many toils and snares. When one has been through a few toils and snares, some of their egocentrism is put to rest and space is made for a more authentic person to be born.

So I am taking my place alongside the other old wise women and men who have walked on this earth and I am going to share in every way that I can from the wealth of my limited knowledge that has been acquired up to this point. And as I get older and my experiences change, I pray that I will have the courage to go forward and embrace each day's gifts with gratitude.

I have no interest in being stuck in some prior age and stage. This stage as a 70 year old is great because it is the present which is the only place where living can occur. Embracing the present is empowering because it calls us to face the reality of the moment without trying to falsify it with the past.

The only way to avoid getting older is to die which we will all do someday. But in the meantime lets celebrate every day of every year and embrace each birthday with great gratitude.

I am celebrating for 70 gratitude-filled years of joy.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. Email her at kayma53@att.net.