In about a month I will be celebrating a birthday, and, even though it’s a milestone birthday that I’m kind of avoiding thinking about, I’m confident that each year to come will in many ways be better than the year before. So, I guess I will just come right out and say (or write) it – I’ll be turning 60 on December 10. There is just something about saying and seeing that number that doesn’t feel right to me. In many ways I’ve never felt better in my life and feel so much younger than that number. I’ve been thinking today about how life is different now than it was at say, 40, or 25. There are many differences, but I’m going to concentrate on the ones that make life better.
I’m more secure in who I am. My late twenties, thirties, and early forties were spent having and raising children, working, and doing volunteer work. The years were too busy to think much about anything beyond the task at hand, and that was o.k. I thoroughly enjoyed most of those years once I found a balance that I could live with. The past ten years or so were a little more difficult – having children leave home and losing parents is something most people go through, and it is part of life, but it’s a time of big changes and the beginnings of some active soul-searching. How do I feel about the choices in my life, what are my core beliefs about life, what do I want to do with the rest of my life, how do I handle regret, how do I deal with the changes that come? I hit the wall with questions like this about ten years ago after my step-father passed away, and I knew I couldn’t go around that wall – I had to go through. I had to sit with those questions for a while (I didn’t know at the time that it would take years) and learn to listen to my inner voice that really had all the answers I needed. At times I felt like I would always be in the dark. I really didn’t know anyone who said they had experienced anything like I was going through. It was scary at the time, but looking back, it was also a wonderful time because it was the beginning of great growth and the stretching of faith. Maybe growth doesn’t come without some darkness and pain. I now feel comfortable with who I am, but I still see myself learning, growing, and changing to be more of who I am meant to be – not the ego self which is a necessary part of living in this material realm but which can give us so much trouble until we learn to put it in its proper place, but the real me, the spiritual self that doesn’t have to compete, compare, prove itself, or live in fear. The self that knows, really knows, that love never fails, and isn’t afraid to put love first above all other considerations. Maybe people can discover these truths at a younger age than I did, but it is truly liberating to discover them at any age and find real joy.
I’m less concerned with material things, but I enjoy them more. There are some things that I would like to have yet in my lifetime, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about them. I like nice things, but shopping and accumulating has lost most of its appeal. I have found that I appreciate and really enjoy things like good quality food, beautifully crafted dishes and furniture, soft cotton blankets and towels, nice clothing, herbs and flowers, and a good book. I am much more grateful for what I have.
I am able to see and appreciate people in a new way. Envy, frustration, comparison, annoyance – all those things that can come up in our relationships with other people – are not there nearly as often as they used to be. Even if they start to come up, they don’t last long. With most people I am now able to see beyond the surface self they present and see the beauty underneath. Every person has something to offer and has value, and I try to approach all my relationships with this in mind.
I don’t worry.
I don’t have to impress anyone.
I see the difficult and painful parts of my life in a new light, and I can be thankful that they have brought me to where I am today.
I’m not afraid of being alone, darkness (literal or metaphorical), the future, or death.
I still struggle with a few things, but I have to say that this time of my life is, in most ways, very good. I have a terrific husband, wonderful children, and beautiful grandchildren. I have curiosity, the time and the desire to try new things, and good health. I hope to be the kind of role model that can show people younger than me that all stages of life can be very good and are not to be dreaded or feared. I think I will plan something very special just for me for my birthday because you only turn 60 once!