The Swinging Sixties

Not the 1960s, this time, but the time when you enter your sixth decade of life.  This article talks about it, somewhat superficially, but  number of items had me nodding along.  Here are a few examples:

By age 60, you should have acquired almost everything you need, or learned to live without it. Possessions start to feel like an albatross, so you don’t blow as much money on dumb stuff like clothes, makeup, new phones, and cars.

Very true in my case.  Just about every thing I own is old and still works.  I don’t remember the last time I bought a new shirt, for instance — even though I take considerable pride in my appearance and always make sure I look presentable.  New Wife has almost given up on making me wear short pants in public, and thank gawd that fall and winter are coming so that this clothing choice becomes less viable.  I have too many pairs of shoes, certainly “dress” shoes (a hangover from my time as a corporate executive / business consultant) and considering that I have only one suit left, I can’t see any reason for owning more than one pair of my old black Johnston & Murphy toecaps.  I practically live in Minnetonka moccasins — I own three pairs in moosehide tan, dark brown and black, and just replace them as they start wearing out, about every three years or so.  I hardly ever wore denim jeans after my twenties because I found denim less comfortable than gaberdine or even linen trousers.  New Wife has prevailed on me to start wearing them again because she says I look good in them.  I discovered Target’s stretch jeans and now have a pair each of “washed out” (light blue) and normal dark blue, so these are my “go to the supermarket” choice nowadays.  Also, the belt loops are wider than my “dress” trousers, which is a Good Thing because it accommodates my 1911’s holster better.  I never wear T-shirts except around the house — that habit, like wearing denim, disappeared once I left my teens, and I have (too many) short- and long-sleeved cotton and linen shirts.  Even those… sheesh, some of them are close to twenty years old, although they don’t look it because when I find a shirt I really like, I buy three or four of them, in different colors if available, and rotate them so that they don’t wear out.

Sorry, that’s all TMI and getting boring so let me get on with some of the other stuff.

You get smart about people. I can now tell far more easily whom to trust versus who is trying to take advantage of me. These were things I was oblivious to when I was younger, but now I see things a lot clearer.

When I was younger, I pretty much always took people at face value and trusted them to be decent.  This was reflected in my circle of friends, which was vast.  Now?  I’m a lot more suspicious — sometimes incorrectly — of people and their motives, and this is reflected in a much-smaller number of people whom I can truthfully call friends.  I don’t care about that, especially;  I have about a dozen people (scattered all over the globe) whom I consider good friends, but even among them, only half or so are people whom I would allow to show up at my front door without warning and be welcomed into my house.

There’s a certain, almost dangerous, level of personal liberation. Kind of like, “I’m only gonna live for a few more years, so what could anyone possibly do to me?” This liberation in me, at least, has manifested in almost extreme levels of mouthiness. I say what I am feeling and thinking, I am NOT sensitive to anyone’s attempts to hurt my feelings, and I don’t really care if I hurt their feelings, either.

I will admit that this didn’t come to me in my sixties:  it’s been my attitude pretty much my whole life.  I have absolutely no concern about other people’s opinions of me, to the point where I literally don’t care if I offend someone and they never want to talk to me again.  Frankly, the only people whose opinions I care about are those of my family and very close friends.  Interestingly enough, my friends know this about me and indulge my occasionally-thoughtless outbursts.  Strangers, I don’t care about and never have.

Knowing that you are fully formed. You don’t have to take on any more self-improvement projects, even though you surely can if you really want to. But I don’t need to improve my posture, my vocabulary, or my attitude; I can do whatever I want now.

By 60, I felt as if I had my life figured out. It wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I no longer had the feeling that I had missed the ‘life manual’ everyone else seemed to have.

I came to terms with myself at about age thirty:  my character, my flaws, my strengths and so on.  I also made the decision that I could live with my flaws, which is a little dangerous.  I can be very cold-hearted or indifferent at times, for example, and that I do try to temper but without much success.  Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I don’t do well living by myself:  I need what’s been called the “gentling effect” of a woman in my life, and fortunately I have been blessed by having two of them for the past couple of decades.  As a single guy, I tend very close to the psychopathic, but as a married man I’m not too bad a guy.

Anxiety. At least for me, I’ve gotten quite better at managing the anxiety of the unknown and keeping it in its rightful place.

In his wonderful TV series After Life, Ricky Gervais’s character and actions are shaped by the fact that he literally does not care if he lives or dies after the death of his beloved wife.  As I’ve lived my sixties, I’ve become accustomed to that fact — not because of loss of a partner, but because I know that my time on Earth is going to end at some point in the foreseeable future.  I have little fear of that, so should catastrophe come calling — say, in the form of an incurable illness — I know that I’ll always have the option of popping a few tabs to relax me, and climbing into a hot bath with a bottle of gin and a razor blade.  The only thing that gives me any pause is that unlike Gervais’s character, I have kids who would miss me and might even be horribly saddened by my passing.  So I do want to spare them that, but at the same time, if things really got bad and my life truly turned into total shit, I’d hope they understood my situation — especially my absolute resolve never to be a burden on them.  I should point out that New Wife shares my attitude completely.

I’ve had a full, satisfying and very exciting life, and I have few if any regrets about it.  Stuff that other people only dream about doing or experiencing, well, I’ve done most of it myself and other than a few things I’ve missed out on and wouldn’t have minded trying (e.g. skydiving), my life has been pretty complete.  I’ve never been competitive, and always had a lazy streak to where “good enough” has never been the enemy of “perfect”;  I simply lack the drive to be “the best” at anything, and to be honest, I’m not sure that my capabilities would have been sufficient anyway.  And that’s one of the things that came to me much earlier than my sixties:  understanding that “nothing is impossible” is total bullshit.  Often, striving to reach the impossible involves making compromises that to me at any rate are not only unsupportable but insufferable.  As the saying goes:  nobody ever lay on their deathbed thinking:  “If only I’d spent more time at the office.”

I was a competent (occasionally more than) as a businessman, ditto a bassist, ditto a writer and ditto just about anything I’ve ever done.  My goal in life has always been “as long as I don’t make a fool of myself, that’s good enough.”

And that’s enough about me.


  1. Probably the most surprising thing to me about being 68 is that it’s not a whole lot different from being 51.

  2. “I need what’s been called the “gentling effect” of a woman in my life”

    Mrs. ‘Bix certainly does that for me, in the sense of civilizing me.

    Mrs: What did you eat for lunch?
    Me: I ate some dry instant oatmeal straight out of the package. But I used a spoon, then drank some water.
    Mrs: Idiot… (goes to fix me some food)

    And, I’m trying to decide whether to feel self-conscious about the fact that I was probably wearing shorts the last time I saw you.

  3. I can relate to most of this, but with a few differences. Particularly this: “Knowing that you are fully formed. You don’t have to take on any more self-improvement projects, even though you surely can if you really want to.” I didn’t really figure out who I was until my fifties, in the sense of understanding what the fundamental elements of my personality are. Getting a handle on that helped a lot, but I wouldn’t call myself “fully formed.” At age 63, I’m still a work in progress. But life is good, and getting better.

    In recent years, I have found the philosophy of stoicism to be tremendously helpful. The core concept, for me at least, is to learn to recognize the difference between things you control and things you don’t control. And that, in the final analysis, the only thing you really control is yourself. So you stop trying to change the world, or other people, and focus on how you respond and adapt to things that are outside of your control. It’s not easy, but the reward is that you spend a lot less time being angry and frustrated, and more time being content with the life you are able to make for yourself. (This addresses the point about anxiety, too.)

    As for needing less stuff, and finding possessions to be an albatross, I was forced to learn this lesson in a very short time. After becoming empty-nesters, my wife and I split up amicably, which involved selling a three-bedroom house and moving to separate apartments. Said house had a lot of closet space, a garage, and an attic. My new apartment had two closets and no other storage space. So we had a LOT of decluttering to do before the move. We got rid of about 90% of the stuff in that house, most of which was junk that had accumulated over two decades simply because we had the space for it.

    Moving to a one-bedroom apartment with almost no storage space required me to be ruthless about deciding what was actually necessary. But it also required me to permanently change the way I think about acquiring ANYTHING new. Before making any purchase, I have to ask myself: Where will I store this? What would I have to get rid of to make room for this new thing? And in many cases, I decide not to buy it. This saves me quite a bit of money.

    1. There’s a lesson to be learned in that last paragraph and I desperately need to learn it. My office and workshop is a couple of paths through heaps of stuff.

  4. About wearing shorts in public – I don’t unless I’m going swimming. This is the result of growing up in Traverse City, Michigan, which is a beach resort town. Tourists wore shorts, and _men_ didn’t.

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