Sunday, April 6, 2014

What You Learn in Your 60s...

So many 50th anniversaries of Baby Boomer milestones to celebrate these days, from the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show fifty years ago to President Kennedy's assassination. And expect a lot more, since the Baby Boomer generation spans 18 years of history (1946-1964). Moreover, in 2014 all boomers, even the youngest ones born in 1964, are passing the 50 mark and most boomers are now facing the transition to the second act in their lives.




I'm Happy Just to Dance with You

Time to figure out what the sixties decade means!
Warning: what I’m going to say here is based on my own experience (!). When I left behind a lifetime career at the United Nations, I thought I was going to enter into a wonderful period of R & R (rest and recuperation). Hey, I deserved it! But no, it didn’t pan out. Too much to do. There was my writing, I wanted to revive my childhood dream of becoming an artist. But I hadn’t stopped being a wife, a mother (two grown-up children) and…a daughter. My Mom, 100 years old and still thriving (she reads one novel a week on her Kindle but I'm the one manipulating the ereader to buy them).

So here goes. 
  • The biggest transition is realizing that you're the "sandwiched generation". In spite of all the hype about how rebellious Baby Boomers have changed History, the truth is very different. Most of us are not into politics or big events. We find we are responsible for both our old parents and our children. The parents may not be in their dotage quite yet, but they need care. Our children in some cases may still be toddlers (a result of the fashion for late marriages), but for most of us, they are grown-up. With the on-going recession, chances are they’re home, struggling to find a job. As parents, we are happy to have them around, but it's impossible not to worry about their future.
  • You've finally know the distance between the real world and the ideal one. The distance is big and no one can pull a fast one on you.
  • There may be no "soul mates", you've known there weren't since you were in your 40s, but you can distinguish between your real friends who will help you and those who won't. This is perhaps the most surprising thing: it's still possible to make new friends in your 60s.
  • You learn more about yourself, more than you ever thought possible. The last time you learned so much was back when you were in your late teens and early twenties. That's exhilarating. And frightening. For us writers, that transition to greater self-knowledge is a fantastic fount of inspiration to write novels (indeed, that's what inspired Louis Begley with his About Schmidt series, Deborah Moggach with The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  or my own Crimson Clouds, a romance featuring a man who’s just retired).
  • On a lighter note: You see the good side of things more easily than before. You've learned to appreciate the simple things in life and honest friendship - because now you trust your judgment and you know you're not going to live forever. Carpe Diem! Catch the joy in each day and spread it around.
  • On a yet lighter note: Now you can buy those tight jeans, you've learned to control your weight (about time too!)
In short, the end of the day is perhaps the best moment, full of colors, more awe-inspiring than any other moment in the day except for dawn. 

The end is like the beginning, full of promise!

Oil painting by Claude - Sunset over Rome (2010)

 About Claude Nougat
She is a writer, economist, painter and poet. A Columbia U. graduate, Claude has held a wide variety of jobs before starting a 25 year career at the United Nations, ending as  FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) Director for Europe and Central Asia.
 
Claude is the author of many books, including two in Italian that won several awards in Italy, and six books in English, all fiction except one essay on development aid; she is considered a prime exponent of Boomer literature. Her latest book, Crimson Clouds, is a romance, tracing the passionate search for self by a man who has just retired from a brilliant career and the desperate efforts of his wife to save their 20-year marriage. Her poetry has been included in "Freeze Frame", a poetry anthology curated by British poet Oscar Sparrow and published in 2012 by Gallo-Romano Media.


Claude is married and lives in Italy.
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3 comments:

Holly Bush said...

I know exactly what you're talking about! Your book sounds very interesting. I loved the movie 'Hope Springs' and your books sounds like it is in the same themes.

Claude Nougat said...

Something like that, Holly, thanks for commenting. This is Boomer Lit, a new genre that is only beginning to take off...

Catherine Lee said...

HAH! I hit my 50s recently and I WISH I could learn how to control my weight. LOL.