It is January.
The first month of the year….2019.
This year I will be 70 years old.
I am in great company….so many of my friends and family will celebrate this milestone year with me. Darel and Diane….and even my famous cousin, Steve Perry, turned 70 today. Jan was 70 just a few days ago. Katrine, DeDe, Marsha, Penny, Pam, Sheila, Patty, JoAnn and so many other of us baby boomers will mark this seventh decade of life over the next twelve months.
I admit, I am relieved to not be alone.
I was texting my friend, Adriana, five years younger, that this one feels like a fairly profound birthday…..
“I’ll be curious to see if you have the same reaction when you ‘catch up’ to me.”
I went on to say….
“My 60’s have been fabulous! That is….aside from the basic, but for some odd reason unanticipated side effects of aging….the deepening lines on my face, newly acquired aches that interrupt my sleep, skin growths and lumps and bumps I can’t quite accurately describe that appear out of nowhere, knees that no longer want to bend, and eyes that squint at the computer screen
….and then there is the unexpected and deliriously welcomed evolution of self-assuredness, the discovery of comfort in my own skin, the blissful clarity about what’s important and what can be let go of….and the immense gratitude and gratefulness for life itself…. the humble thankfulness that I have been given, so far, almost seventy years to exist on this planet.
At this age and stage of life, I am conscious of remaining present….being in the moment. I catch myself when I stray…..either reminiscing on a regret or forging ahead with a worry.”
I am going to be seventy this year, there is no time for bullshit!
So with adoring eyes, I note the beauty and wonder of nature, finding awe in a moon that rises from the ocean near our home like a colossal, muted-white disc of Swiss cheese….or a sun that sets with orange/yellow brilliance painting its retreating path in purples, corals, striking pinks and subtle grays.
The mating call of a cardinal, the delicate color of the dragon fly that lights on my forearm, the distant haunting cry of a loon….all delight me….in ways they never have before.
Friendships with women, always cherished, have now become essential and imperative. I hold tremendous gratitude for their amazing authenticity and ability to be “raggedy” released with age from the need or desire for perfection or status. We laugh in unison at the changes we continually discover in our bodies….the new found wrinkle in our neck, at our struggle to remember even the simplest fact…. and the hearty laughter that now has the effect of wetting our panties!
The decades develop in us a sage wisdom that expands and deepens as we mark each birthday. We make friends with the truth and are unafraid to speak our mind. Noticing an undeveloped aspect of ourselves, we may be moved to make improvement or perhaps just not give a shit….we tend to be more open and less judgmental, to truly not sweat the small stuff and embrace relationships that feed us….. and perhaps even make the difficult decision to let those go that do not.
And even in light of the gifts, so many glorious gifts, seventy, at least from this vantage point, feels, when I allow the thought, a little ominous.
I am struck with the brevity of life and the potential shorter road ahead with a steady increase in physical decline, the ultimate loss of persons I love, and the awareness of my own mortality. As my friend Leslie and I have said….we don’t want to go out first (and miss the rest of the party)…. or last (and miss all of our friends)…. so we are hoping to bow out somewhere in the middle.
I am, however, open to being pleasantly surprised….hoping that I will embrace this next decade much as I have all those in the past.
I hear from almost every one of my friends born in 1949….we have been blessed! We are the generation that asserted itself for equal rights….that spoke up and spoke out on issues of importance….that basked in the best of rock’n’roll….that experienced freedoms for women that our Moms could only dream of. But as that date in November looms ahead on the horizon, I do find myself more contemplative about the mystery of life itself….and the ending none of us can escape.
When I prevail with ‘staying present’, these thoughts are fleeting and move through me quickly.
I focus instead on life.
Dennis and I will stop working this year and spend even more time with friends and family…traveling, relaxing, exploring sides of ourselves that have waited for the freedom to be found…Jeremy and Danielle have a wedding planned….we love where we live and we love how we live.
So….I may not have much say about when….but dying, at least for now, will have to wait.
I have a birthday to celebrate!