Monday, November 3, 2014

Today I am 60 years old...

I was 23 years old when my mother was 60. I think my grandmother, Minnie Mama, was always 60, as I remember her as forever being an old woman…and maybe I loved her more because she was the oldest person I knew.

Minnie Mama around 63 years old
So, what does being 60 years old today mean to me? Am I now very wise? Am I suddenly decrepitated and infirmed? Am I the new 4o? Am I better than ever? Am I reaching the last decades of my life, or do I have still have a few more ahead of me?

I’m not sure what it means to be 60 years old. Is being 60 any different than being 59? Probably not. What I do know is I am very content with being 60. I don’t wish I were 40 again, nor do I want to be 50, and I definitely am done with my 20’s and 30’s.

So here I am. Now what do I make of this milestone? 

My life hasn’t been a perfect storybook life. I can’t imagine the “Once upon a time there was a beautiful, talented, smart little girl who lived a privileged life...” story describing my life. Nor can I imagine the “Once upon a time there was a poor, pitiful little girl, born of lowly means” describing my childhood. 

In reality, I grew up in a lovely home with a mother, father, and two older sisters. We had our fair share of family struggles, and I hope I learned to thrive and endure because of the difficulties I experienced growing up in a family that was far from perfect. There were times my childhood was tough, but, don’t we all live through times that enable us to become more sensitive, more vulnerable, more compassionate because we have endured?

I was fortunate that my parents were able to pay for me to attend college. Those years were broadening, fun and they enriched my life. I am thankful for such an incredible college experience and will always cherish the friends and relationships I made during those years.

I married very young, at 20 years old. My children were born by the time I was  25 years old. Life in Midland, Texas was easy, fun and full of rich experiences and I developed lifelong friendships that I still enjoy. Brent and Brooke were the biggest and best part of my marriage of 18 years. When my marriage ended I was 38 years old, I thought life was over. I thought I would never experience anything more devastating than the agony of divorce.

It amazes me to think back on myself at 38 and imagine I was so sage, such an expert in life’s experiences. Oh, I was so young, my own children today are close to the age I was when I thought life was over. Little did I know, a new and wonderful life was just around the corner.

Steve asked me to marry him on my 40th birthday, the best birthday ever! Suddenly, it was as if I were starting life anew. While, not perfect, it was close to perfect and I found I had new things to learn, not only about life, but also about myself.

My Best Birthday Gift!

A 40th Birthday Roast
Steve and I went through some interesting years raising two active, well liked and very normal, exasperating teen-age children. Steve proved to be the perfect balance for each of us. He was fair, even tempered and loved us with all his heart. Life was good and I could breath and enjoy all that it had to offer.

My fifties arrived. Our children were now all adults. They began to marry and have children of their own. Steve had retired early and we traveled frequently, adventure awaited us. Life was full and promising, we were on a roll and enjoying all that it had to offer.

I celebrated my 54th birthday at a dinner party given by good friends. I will never forget driving to that birthday celebration with a pit in my stomach. Steve, was not himself. There was something terribly wrong and I can remember thinking, “I’m not ready to face whatever it is that lies before us.”

Steve and I had returned from a wonderful trip to Austria and Croatia mid October and I knew we were in trouble. Steve’s first symptoms of a brain tumor were his inability to read. For the first time, he had difficulty navigating through Europe. He was suddenly unable to stay interested in books, finding them difficult to hold his attention.  Arriving home, word finding became increasingly more difficult and my fears grew like dark clouds in a brewing storm. I remember sitting at my 54th birthday party, surrounded by our dearest friends and trying so hard to cover for the blips and misspoken words in Steve’s conversation. I hoped none of our good friends would notice that our storm was about to turn into a hurricane of gigantic proportions.
You all know the rest of the story.  A love story that will forever be the greatest. I was so incredibly wrong when I thought at 38 that I had experienced the worst life could hand me by living through a divorce. Divorce, is terrible, but the death of someone you love with all your heart and soul...there is no comparison.

I feel I have ripened through all of my life’s experiences. Richard Rohr writes that "Ripening, at its best, is a slow, patient learning, and sometimes even a happy letting-go—a seeming emptying out to create readiness for a new kind of fullness—which we are never totally sure about."  I hope I have learned to let go of what needs to be put aside, and make room for a new kind of fullness to come.

If asked today how I would describe my 60 years of life? I would say I have had a wonderful life. I am blessed daily by my family, who will always be the most integral part of my life. I am so fortunate to still have incredible friends from each decade of my life. These lifelong friends and I continue to share our journeys together. These friendships bring depth and meaning to my life and keep me grounded when I feel disconnected. My life would not be full, rich and incredible without these relationships that I so cherish. I will take the sadness my life has encountered, and, when balanced with with the excellence life has given me, my scale weighs heavy on the side of good.

I hope I have learned through my difficulties. I pray I have been able to pay it forward and help others who have lived, or are living through similar circumstances that I have endured. I desire to be a kinder, wiser, more patient person.

At 60, I know that I have much more to learn, I have much more ripening to do, much more life to experience and I welcome the challenges ahead of me. I like where I am in my life. If God wills, I think I am ready to face whatever the next decades have to bring me. 

I may not like my neck, I may not be thrilled that my body does not run as smoothly as it once did, I may find myself in a wave of pitifulness from time to time, but that's all part of ripening, right? 

Today, I am thankful and blessed that again, I will be celebrating another birthday in the company of wonderful friends. You see, there is always good in life!

For what it’s worth,

Ecclesiastes 7:14 When life is good, enjoy it. But when life is hard, remember: God gives good times and hard times, and no one knows what tomorrow will bring.”

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