Funny, I don’t feel any different than yesterday. I’m a decade baby. I was born in 60 and now I’m 60, which is numerically cool. Everyone is acting like this is big deal, but you have to understand that without everyone reminding me that this is a ‘big’ birthday, I wouldn’t have noticed. I normally have to ask my husband how old I am. I just don’t pay much attention to dates, or even the date for that matter.
It’s just not one of those life changers, you know, like getting your driver’s license, or being old enough to drink or vote. At 25 you can rent a car, then it’s pretty much no major milestones until 55 when you can get the senior specials at Coco’s. I was oddly excited about that! I guess the only big milestone left is 100, and so many women in my family live longer than that I suppose I can expect it, though it seems a long time to wait. The very thought makes me feel tired.
For now, I’d still rather run up stairs than walk, I’d rather hike 4 miles than 1, I love contributing to my friends’ happiness and my community’s health, and most of all, I still learn something new everyday.
I learn about love and how to make people laugh. I discover new writers and artists and more about the old ones, I learn history and new science, I teach myself to cook new recipes, (right now it’s charcuterie, I have 24 duck proscutto breasts drying in the back bedroom) I seek out new beauty in this gorgeous land where I have the honor of living, and am always searching for kind hearts, and a way to lift sadness and fear.
It’s a busy life. One of the things I’ve had to work hard at is relaxing. All my life I’ve done and done and done some more, any day I didn’t take a long hike, make an amazing meal, write a chapter of a new book and spend time with my kids was as day I felt I hadn’t done enough. I’m better now at waking up and staying still, listening to the weather serenade me, the steady tattoo of rain’s fingers tapping at my window sill and my heart. Now I can treasure those moments without feeling I should be doing something else. Now I can feel the strum of nature as enough, not as a single instrument, but as the whole orchestra, rising and falling in harmonies and discord, crescendos and quiet conclusions. Sometimes the world around me hums and sometimes it sings. I have learned to listen.
I like being older. The number doesn’t count, but the experience does. What was once so important to me that it was printed in bold type on my every waking moment has now faded to fuzzy charcoal sketches, mere overlays on days that were truly so much more than what I chose to see. I have realized that we limit ourselves to what was expected of us. We struggled to fill the pre-cut shapes that defined us, our families decided our role and shoved and mocked and cajoled until we forced ourselves into their idea of us because they had enough trouble understanding their own lives. Friends with goals influenced us to keep up, or exceed them. Husbands and lovers compared us to others and often found us wanting, we felt less, unseen, untrue to ourselves. The more we tried, the further away from our center we wandered, aimless and lost. Until one day, I found myself wanting everything everyone else thought was great and not having any idea what I really wanted. Honestly, I spent so much of my life pursuing other people’s dreams that I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I found joy in it, art and creativity, I am so grateful for those times, I have no regrets, but it seemed I was always reaching for something I didn’t control and didn’t even know what it would be like when and if I found it. I wanted other, more, different, I wanted an ideal, a fantasy. I got lots of those, more than many, and boy. nothing will open your eyes more abruptly than getting what you think you want.
I no longer want the don’t have. Now I want the have. I want exactly the life I’ve made. I want the same leg thrown over mine in the morning, I want to disregard the envy and criticisms, the ‘you aren’t enoughs’ the ‘you faileds’ I want what I have.
And so…I am happy. And I guess I’m sixty. It’s a nice fat, round number, plump and curvy, the way I like my cats, contented and lazy. You could take the digits in sixty and role them across the living room, or down an easy slope. You could sling that six into the air and it would fly, only to return like a boomerang. You can make a swing out of that zero, on a long silken rope over a beautiful river and swing so high you will launch into the fluffy sky. You can put the two digits together and make them into a comfy sofa, something to loll on while laughing with friends who have earned their place in your life, as you have in theirs.
And how I feel? Sexy, vibrant, full of love and compassion and empathy, some might say too much empathy but that’s only because they cannot bear the weight of caring that I have never been able to shrug away. I had to realize that I never wanted not to care, and that’s okay. Caring doesn’t make me weak, tears do not drain my strength, it is quite the opposite. I am stronger than I have ever been, because I can care, I can hurt and bleed for others, and I will most likely live to see another perfect dawn.
I suppose sixty is a good time to look back and think about what’s ahead, but I prefer to spend today being me, unvarnished, unabashed, and unafraid.
I love this life, and all it’s challenges.
I have been so lucky.
Even in my sorrows.
Happy sixty to me.
to us all.
I think you’re gonna’ love it.
Shari November 18th, 2020