Can you imagine? I am now three score plus 10! According to measurements used during biblical times, a "score" was 20 years. Three score is 60 years. So three score plus ten, makes me 70. Moses put is this way in Psalms 90: "Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away." Well, I am not quite ready to fly away!
When I was a child, a 70-year-old person was truly ancient; like, really, really old. I imagined they were almost as old as dirt, salt, or the oldest Bible character, Methuselah. In my child's mind, 70 was too old to move fast, think hard, feel deeply, laugh out loud, dance gracefully, exercise intensely, and experience joy. Mostly, 70 year olds were just waiting to die. Right? Of course, they were definitely too advanced in years to think, feel, or act sexually, even though researchers say otherwise.
What is so amazing is that I feel many times better today than I felt at 60, 50, or even 40. 70 really IS the new 50! Based on my appearance many people think I am actually 50 years old. Beyond the cliché about 70 being the new 50, I am so much better at 70 than I was at 50. I am stronger mentally, physically, spiritually, and psychologically. I take my calling to empower the poor and oppressed seriously, but not myself. I find laughter and time with people I love is still my very best medicine — no doctor's prescription required. Daily time with God in prayer and Bible reading has shaped exactly who I am. I am a woman who loves God and the Good News of Jesus as Lord and Savior with every fiber of my being. Yet, no one owns God, or is more loved by God than anyone else in the world. Therefore, my love for people of every race, faith, and background has deepened because the only way God knows that I love Him is by the way I love others ... ALL others! That's not my opinion. That's sacred scripture.
I am mentally tougher today because I do not seek to be the best at whatever I do in order to impress others. Nobody has that much power. Excellence is simply the personal and professional standard I seek for myself because it is the nature of the one who created me. Psalms 8 says it best, "O Lord, our Lord how excellent is your name in all the earth." Though 70 may be the new 50, the body does naturally weaken with age because things do wear out over time — eyes, teeth, hips, knees, bones; well, you get the point. I counter this reality 3 or 4 times a week with 30 minutes of free weights, leg and hip strengthening excises, and Pilates-type stretches coupled with Jane Fonda high impact aerobics. A little self-love through regular massages, pedicures, a 30-year vegetarian life-style, plus regular doses of heavenly organic chocolate, has eased my aging process. Good health is a blessing from God. Self-care is a "Thank you" for the blessing.
As a matter of choice, I enjoy spending time with positive, interesting people, especially young people, including my 11 grandchildren and 7 godchildren. Nothing is more important than supportive, trusting relationships. To exercise my brain, I do 300-500 piece puzzles of beautiful scenery by great artists like Thomas Kinkade. My very full work days end with the experience of moving my little pieces of blue skies, flowering gardens, and scenic forests into a single artistic masterpiece on my puzzle board. Beyond reading, an openness to learning something new everyday keeps my mind stimulated. Watching professional football is my favorite pastime because I am a leader and coach by nature and love anticipating and calling plays.
I avoid cable news shows that try telling me what I should think. Mostly, I watch news online, and analyzing for myself what I see. I avoid violent TV shows before going to bed, preferring to read favorite passages from Wisdom Books of the Bible, like Psalms and Proverbs. They feed my spirit with life-giving thoughts and words that produce sweet, peaceful sleep. Most of all, at 70, I choose to live life looking ahead with joy, and not behind with regret. I am profoundly grateful for every act of kindness, whether from strangers or friends; thankful for every blessing from a loving God, realizing that the past is past, and the present is really a present. It is my gift of life to fully enjoy today and every day, by God's grace!
Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner is co-facilitator of the National African-American Clergy Network and co-founder and president of the Skinner Leadership Institute.