Photo: Ingrid Sofrin

I’ve never had a bucket list, says Elaine Kingett, but I’m 70 next year and that concentrates the mind wonderfully, as Samuel Johnson reputedly said. All those ‘regrets of the dying as told to nurses’ lists that pop-up on Facebook have been creeping into my head. Regrets, I’ve had a few but none I can do very much about these days and my mindfulness training reassures me that the Living In The Now approach is the best recommendation for mental health.

But…

I’m writing this in Cornwall, a place I’ve avoided for seven years after a long-term, live-in relationship with a local dissolved into dust. A place I avoided, despite the fact that I have family and friends here – some going back nearly 60 years. I just could not bring myself to return. Crazily, I held a whole geographical area of the UK responsible for my misery.

But…

Now, as my idols drop around me at a rate of knots, I see that what is most important to me is you. Not me; not how I feel or my fears of the salt spray raking open my old wounds. Children have been born, friends died, there are marriages and professional achievements to celebrate with shared laughter, reminiscences and sometimes, tears. Before it’s too late, I’ve swallowed my pride and come home.

Elaine Kingett runs creative writing holidays in Spain and workshops in London; for more information check out Write It Down.

27 thoughts on “How a big birthday can concentrate the mind

  1. Welldone, Elaine, you are an inspiring woman. I’ve just turned seventy and have been feeling it when I should be embracing life with gratitude.

  2. What a great post. I’m so glad you felt able to go back to Cornwall Elaine. I have been going there since 1970 and it really is my favourite place in the world. I’m sure you will feel enveloped by its magic.
    Standing at Stepper Point with the wind whipping round me last year was the starting point of so many changes in my life. Beautiful places and the elements can really transform us when we are truly in the moment. Btw I hope I look this great when I am 69 – your hair is wow!

    1. I am lucky enough to live on the North coast of cornwall and actually walk around stepper most weekends (when its not blowing a gale) – easy to take it for granted sometimes but I know how lucky I am to live here.

  3. What a great perspective on life. My mom (one of the models on my blog) just turned 80 yesterday, and I think the blog has given her new life…
    XOXO
    Jodie

  4. I love being 70. I am being a lot kinder to myself. Not madly dashing around trying to achieve goals and impress anymore. Taking time to catch up with friends and sort my photos and my memories. It is a precious time in our life to be savoured and enjoyed without pressure.

  5. Good post…although personally I’m not particularly numbers orientated. However retirement last year gave me my wake up call…it’s not about buying things, but is about experiences and challenge. I’m very happily single & currently sunning myself in Gran Canaria, away from that hideous snow. Previous holidays have been visiting daughter in US, but have not walked in the surf for years….will def. do this again, slotted into US trips. . Meanwhile home on Thursday to a new puppy (and snow) experience & challenge!

  6. Your article hit really close to home for me. I turned 60 a few months ago but I truly related to evrything you had to say. Ten years ago, I left a place I had loved for 25 years to move back home to serve as a caregiver for my ailing father. I’m
    literally living in the home where I grew up. It’s been a tumultuous change not because of fathers illness but because it has forced me to face ghosts of the past and meet new ghosts. All the time missing the security of friends and the home I left where I had been so happy. It’s been very painful but it’s also helped me be to make peace with some of those Silly Ghosts that we’re in my past and be more present in the moment, not always planning for the future. I’ve suddenly realized that as you mentioned life is too short. So I’m battling the Silly Army of Ghosts of the Past but winning the war through acceptance and forgiveness. The result is that I’m finally I’m to experience the happiness again. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It gives the rest of us hope for happy life not only in the present but in our future.

  7. What an inspiring article .
    I am 68 and really struggling with finding some inner peace, you have helped.
    I am going to Cornwall in February, for a week of just being.
    It’s a wonderful part of our country .

  8. What a fab insight for a bleak Monday morning. Life is too short to hang on to stuff – and at the end of the day just how important are the grudges, upsets and slights? I was playing ‘I’m only human’ (Rag’n’nBone man) in the car today and that is in fact, all we are – human, fallible and totally imperfect. My daughter and grandchildren moved from London to Cornwall a couple of years’ ago and I now consider it my second home. Will I ever move there? I don’t know. I know very little as I get older and that is just fine! I thought I knew it all with knobs on – hah! I now know that I haven’t a bloody clue. Thanks, Elaine for your gentle, inspirational post – everyone would love to have you as their friend!

  9. Thank you, Elaine, for reminding us how liberating it is when we can let go of our ghosts from the past to move on. I love your writings.

  10. Yes! Same age, regrets sap energy, but confess to having a few…mostly, not being kinder and taking “things” for granted. Cannot change the past, but, can make amends, going forward, with what ever time is left.

  11. Love this! Yes, 70, just another number! I’ve published my first book at 69 3/4! Learning the guitar and will be teaching Senior Yoga this fall…..nothing is going to stop me…..have had a few relationships, 3 marriages, (on my last one) and I have to say, Elaine, you have so much ahead of you…..go for what ever it is that makes you smile. My very best to you and all the women out there, we are special, we are worthy, and we all have a lot of life left in us…..use it well….embrace each day, and enjoy!

  12. Like Georgia, I’m a carer for my disabled, and now dementia-afflicted husband, (a lovely, funny, loving man in his heyday) so my horizons are limited and dreaming is dangerous. It is easy to fall into envy of those who can spontaneously make changes as Elaine is doing – good on yer, Elaine! – but that way lies misery. Instead, I have ‘learned to bloom where I’m planted’ and have made a sanctuary of home instead of a prison. I love clothes and style, and as I write this I’m all dolled up in smart trousers, cashmere sweater, silk scarf and a swoosh of Jo Malone. I can’t get out much, but I entertain – gah! how pretentious! – I have friends round for a bottle of wine and something simmering in the oven. Of course I get tired, tetchy, resentful and low from time to time but am determined that the rest of the world doesn’t see it. My diary bears the brunt! I read, write, play the piano, sew, and present a smiling face to the world – and it smiles back. I was enormously touched last night when my husband’s two carers popped back after their own arduous duties were finished at 9.30 pm, for a glass of wine and a ‘bit of a laugh’ as they put it.

    1. Bless you Anna – your post has made me stop this morning and go and hug my dear husband. We’ve had a hectic few years, but are in a good place now, yet I occasionally find myself mooching and wondering ‘what if’ and ‘if only’. I need to stop navel gazing and be bl00dy grateful! Very best wishes to you and your husband and thank you. x

  13. It’s true, 70 is just another number. But, to me, it seems so much more important than any other previous number. I’m surprised that I even think about it, but I do. More reflection than usual is not necessarily a bad thing, or so I keep telling myself. Onward and upward.
    Thanks as always for this great post and lovely comments.

  14. Some heartfelt comments here. Good luck to all who write here. I was especially moved by what Anna K wrote. The phrase “learning to bloom where I’m planted” as a good one to remember. It sums up having a positive approach in a difficult situation.
    My husband will turn 70 in a few weeks and I see the struggle entailed of trying to keep working, fit and dynamic as this significant age approaches. My turn in a few years time. For us it’s the age before which both our fathers died of cancer. Can we outlive them in good health. We are doing our utmost. But fear of failing health and a terror of getting dementia which I witnessed for years in my mother is hard to put out of ones mind. I practice a form of mindfulness and expressions of gratitude and living in the now and enjoying what that has to offer does help considerably. Good luck to everyone who has shared their thoughts with frankness here.

  15. Thank you for all for taking the time to read my post and to comment with such warmth and understanding. It is a great pleasure for me to write for That’s Not My Age and I appreciate Alyson’s generosity in sharing my thoughts and experiences. As BQ, writes, ‘We’re in this together.’

  16. So very true. I was 69 last summer & was seriously not looking forward to my 70th birthday. Then life changed. My beloved great granddaughter died just 6 weeks after being diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy; she was only 8 months old. That puts life into perspective. My values have shifted, the most important things in my life are the love of family and friends, and staying as healthy as I can be. We should celebrate age and value the life we’ve been given. I am so grateful for the short time we had with our beautiful girl and I’m going to express this in my 70th year through 70 special ‘acts’. I began on 1st January & so far I’ve started a blog, made small donations to charities, made a quilt for Linus UK and a knitted blanket for Sands. Oh – and I’ve bought a pedometer & started walking! Life’s precious x

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