Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Musings on Living Fully

iStock_000015408259XSmallI’ve read that if there is a question when you die, it’s probably this: Did you live fully and love well? In my sixties, I am more taken than ever by what really should be for me, a daily inquiry. There is an arc to life that I feel I have crested, but not yet completed. Is the trajectory down hill as potentially invigorating and vitalizing as the strong trajectory up? Today, I would have to answer yes, but it is a different yes than the one I might have given twenty-five years ago.

Twenty-five years ago, tennis was my game. I loved the feeling of getting up early and hitting for an hour before work. I loved the cute little tennis outfits. It was a vibrant game and it made me feel vital. But as nature sometimes compels, that particular sport was finite in my life. A scoliotic back and disc degeneration saw to it. Those two physical messengers had their way with me. Eventually I would stop playing tennis, downhill skiing, or any type of aerobics where my feet hit the ground and my back took a pounding. So, what was left? Walking.

Walking is an activity that nurtures aliveness. I have learned to walk all year-long and in all conditions. I walk in the spring and marvel at the wild flowers that fill the meadows and mountainsides. I walk in the summer and stop to take sips of cool water and breath in the offerings of the panorama. In the fall, I delight in the changing of leaves. And of course, the great winter snow hike has become one of my favorites, because in my way of seeing, there is nothing quite as joyful as watching my dog romp through snow, and nothing quite as exquisite as the lone grey heron standing on the ice, keeping watch over the frozen water.

Being in my sixties has given me a perspective of the grace contained within the conflict and challenges of life. Cocky thirties made me think I could do life without such things, but I realize now that I would not have wanted to. There is a comfort in knowing that your marriage is so solid and committed that in spite of disagreements, snarls and frustrations, there was never an instance where you didn’t eventually sit down and work it out, thereby strengthening the union.

As for failure, you can put up all the posters of “Failure is Not an Option” that you want, and good luck with that! I have failed many times. Sometimes I have beat myself up for those moments, wrapping the failure around me like a scarlet letter. Failures though, have propelled me forward in business, friendships and making peace with the limited, finite human being that I am, albeit with an infinite and loving soul. Failure has taught me that God loves me in every moment. Failure is, as Billie Jean King once said, “only research.”

There was a time in my fifties that I mourned the loss of youth and its beauty. I don’t know a woman (if they’re honest) who hasn’t stood in front of a mirror and gently pulled the skin of her face back to remind her of a time that her face was not headed south…and then entertained for a moment some magic surgery that would restore it all, if only for a while longer.   In the blink of an eye, the world seems as though it is no longer yours, but belongs to women who still wear high-heels and know their way around an i-phone. But the grief of that passing, was kind and swift and I have started to grow comfortable with the sags of my face. The important things are that I stand tall and straight and that I walk. I am learning that the geese that fly overhead sing their songs for me. I have begun to understand that the fox that trots across the open field and stops to look at me with curiosity can fill me with wonder. In short, I have slowed down enough to take in the sights and sounds of the natural world, letting it fill my heart and speak to me, and that makes me feel as though I am living fully. I know that I can and will walk until the end. When Dylan Thomas wrote “Do not go gentle into that good night,” I believe that he was talking about living until you squeeze out the last drop from it.

I still stress too easily. I give in to the sorrows. But even those things, when observed with clear eyes and distance show me that they have added texture to a journey that keeps edging me toward the meaning and purpose of being human. Stress is just a wake up call to stop and breath deeply, go read People Magazine and take a hot bath. Stop and realize that nothing is so important that it should disturb your health or your peace of mind. That’s the tough one—we all make things too important and over identify with that importance. It’s a killer. As for sorrows, a little sorrow in life can break open the heart to the suffering of a world that needs you to reach out. Too much sorrow is like indulging a seductress that will take you somewhere you don’t really want to go.

Cycles of the season, cycles of age, all of it meant to be. The sixties are not so bad. In a way, I feel like I am doing my best work. I finally have some perspective on life and am now looking forward to what my seventies might bring. I love to write my thoughts and then go walk in the early hours of the day.  And as Irenaeus said; “The Glory of God is man fully alive.” Did you live fully? Did you love well? Is it ever to late to take those questions to heart and count the blessings and the joys of waking up and doing the day one more time–fully alive?

Author:

Novelist, essayist, blogger, wife, dog-mommy, dancer, dreamer, grateful.

14 thoughts on “Musings on Living Fully

  1. One of the things you learn as you breeze through the decades is that you as a person are timeless. My son sees me as old whereas I am still his age but he doesn’t believe me. I am age i have ever been. My body doesn’t capture this very well and Dorian Gray fared better in that respect though not in others. What I have noticed is that our timelessness comes out in our writing. I cannot tell from someones writing whether they are 25 or 65 until they drop clues about their preoccupations. I love that about blogs; any bias is entirely self inflicted! And that, probably applies to much of life 🙂

  2. This is a beautiful piece of writing. I am on the other end of the arc and find myself worrying about taking steps right now in order to be comfortable with the life I have lived. I want to be able to look back and be proud, the way you express your views in this post. Geneticfractals said he feels that he is his son’s age… That’s an interesting piece too. Hope you have a wonderful Friday and thanks for the food for thought.

    1. Isn’t interesting how our lives and hearts weave to find that we are all so much closer that we imagine, striving, struggling and celebrating this business of life? Happy Friday to you as well.

    1. in some cultures older people were looked with reverence. in soap operas and sitcoms older people are imitating and behaving like teenagers. the whole commercial dimension of life took on unprecedented depth in our psyche. but what is aging anyway?… if not dissolving in the pure light of ever-present life, beyond concepts of time and space. this is what we call “here and now” – because this is the only reality there is, the rest is just a three dimensional play provided by consciousness for its own sake – a divine entertainment :-).

  3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.I used to love to play tennis and racquetball. I recently started a daily routine of walking and surprisingly, I am growing to love it. It’s funny, but when I was younger, I viewed walking as boring. Now, I find it very invigorating, and enjoyable. Who knew? 😃

  4. life has left me in physical and mental pain but this is so honest that it gives hope that at least today i won’t give up – thank you

  5. I still get a bump in the pit of my stomach when I realize that I’ll be reaching 70 sooner than later. I appreciate all your reminders that time is only a measure and it’s how we fill this measuring cup that matters.

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