And now we are 60
Our birthdays are feathers in the broad wing of time.
Jean Paul Richter
I am turning 60 on Friday. Sixty. Six – oh. Six 10s. Four 10s shy of 100. Sixty. Oy. And furthermore, vey.
There’s probably a cool 19,178,082(.19178082) people born on October 2 (7 billion people (more or less) divided by 365 days of the year). Groucho Marx, Sting and Mahatma Gandhi are among those who share or shared my birthday. Of those people, there are millions who are also turning 60, which makes this about as ordinary as plum pudding (which isn’t actually ordinary anymore – have you ever had plum pudding?).
Still, I am singularly known for being bemused by the ordinary. OmiGOD, my children grew up! OmiGOD, I’m getting older! OmiGOD, I remember 1960! OmiGOD OmiGOD OmiGOD, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera (thank you ‘Anna and the King of Siam’ for the etceteras). I’m staggered by sunny days, the sparkle of dew on morning grass and spiderwebs, newborn babies (human or otherwise), the fact that if I study something for a long time, I know a lot about whatever that is. Stuff nobody else is surprised by just blows me away.
So I am turning 60 this Friday, October 2, and I’m utterly flabbergasted by it.
I’m amazed I made it to this age, for one thing. Given the magnitude of my stupid mistakes, it’s astonishing that I didn’t get eaten by the first big predator to come along. For another, I’m blown away that I am not actually a heap of molten slag. When I was a kid, 60 was old. I mean really, really old. Now I look in the mirror and I don’t see young, but I don’t see that heap of molten slag, either. Mind you, the lifetime of athletics has been helpful. I came from an era where kids started moving first thing in the morning and didn’t stop until night fell. Our father was very athletic, as well, so it was a matter of course that we were signed up for at least one activity and in our case, it was the swim team. I sucked. I really did. I was strength, not speed. So I was terrible, but it made me really strong and no matter how many times I’ve had to bring myself back from the brink, my body has easily acquiesced to my demand that it get strong again and pretty quickly. I’m grateful for that.
At the same time, getting old hurts. The aches and pains we giggled over as children watching elders moan and press hands against backs or massage knees are real. We used to mimic old ladies saying “Oh, my bursitis!” I’m here to tell you – bursitis hurts like a bear. There’s a lot I can still do but some things I can’t. My knees will never be the same again – in fact, I believe they have a contract out on me. I await the assassin.
What I like about turning 60 is that, more and more, I’m getting over myself. I’m learning what I’m good at and I’m happy with it. I know where I fail and I know my failures are ordinary. I know what my wisdom is worth (a fair amount, actually), but I also know that my wisdom is fallible, so I am more likely to tell you to follow your heart and gut these days since I’m not at all sure that what I tell you is the best idea for you. I like that I know a lot more about what’s important than I used to – love. Empathy. Creativity. A beauty of the heart and soul. What I consider beautiful has changed, too. It’s all deeper, more profound. It’s woven into the incredible webwork of experiences my life has given me – from monstrous to miraculous. I recall how I understood things when I was young and it seems so shallow in comparison. It was often still quite wise and my advice, when I recall it, was often pretty good. But still…
I also know even more than I did when it first dawned on me at 40 that my remaining time is far too short to waste. I find I want to do what I dream, to give myself what I most desire, to learn, to love, to be present, to be my authentic self whether people like her or not. I figure I have about 20 good years left. After 80, it might well still be good, but it will never be this easy again, so I’d best be getting to following my dreams. Time’s a-wasting.
My biggest task for the next 20 years? To love. To love all those I’ve been given the blessing of having in my life. To love truly, tenderly, honestly and constantly. To forgive – even myself. To learn all I can about all I can. Because in the end, what else do we take with us but that?