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

Is Age Just A Number?

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The impervious feeling of youth is a delicious drunk of newness and firsts: first apartment, first true love, first heartbreak; the delight of garage sales and thrift shops, that furnish the backdrop upon which one begins to build a life, blissfully unaware of the baggage of childhood that follows them into independence and self-sufficiency. In my twenties, I surfed in the mornings with Bernie, napped in the afternoons and then waited cocktails at night to pay for a life style that was both joyous and fraught with uncertainty as well as longing and idealism. All that created its own kind of pain and regret. No one escapes the wrong turns, but instead we seem to spend our lifetime burrowing into the core of what ails us before we find the gifts within the inevitable ruin.

At twenty something, I swung my long, gangly legs over the precipice of the 1970’s, watching Viet Nam unwind. The grainy television images of so much human destruction were soon to be replaced by Nixon and the exposure of con and corruption that would define the word “sensational” for decades to come. And as twenty marched ahead into thirty, I realized one day how difficult it was to pay the rent, and repair the car and I had new empathy and understanding for my mother, who worked at a time when the cartoon character of a wolf chasing a nubile secretary around the desk wasn’t that far off the mark.

While the twenties, for many of us underscored a time of adventure and ideals, the thirties was of time of finding a comfortable position within the grip of unrelenting responsibility. Overtime at my work place became a way of life, a badge of proof that I was committed and in the game for the long haul. I bought my first “new” couch and read T.S. Eliot, Yeats and May Sarton for leisure. I wrote in dozens of spiral bound notebooks– an attempt to discover who I was and who I was becoming, and whether or not I had just put on the costume of adulthood without really checking out what I was wearing. Thirty gnawed the bones of idealism and free-spiritedness, replacing the hunger for those things with “want.” Want is a thorn in the foot of human condition, a lusting and longing for those things or people just out of our reach; a strange coming to grips with a shadow of greed, that if we are honest, dogs us until we wrestle it to the ground and learn to balance it with a generous heart.

When I turned 40, I had a realization that life was just a series of stories and somehow we were all connected by those stories. By then I was married, with a choice to remain childless, but with a passion for creating business and a raw and reckless spirit, still wild from my surfing days that allowed me to take the risks necessary to be an entrepreneur. And having a partner with which to play that out remains one of the great satisfactions of my journey. The time of work and creation was marked by this decade and the joke of “over the hill” was really more about the pinnacle of the hill and the overview provided from the vantage point of focus and determination.

Fifty saw the departure of my mother and though I felt beyond independent and accomplished when she left, her absence was piercing in a way I could not have anticipated. She lingers still, her hands seeming like they are mine, veined with age. I catch glimpses of her in the mirror, a face layered over my own as I brush my hair. Life is shorter than you think.

So in my sixties now, the question of age as a number and whether that means anything or not? It means everything. Age is a marker, the signs that dot the highway that tell you how far you have come. Age is a container for the experiences that push us forward and challenge us to unfold. Age is a reminder that physical strength lessens with the years and beauty fades. Whether or not we like it or want it, age is what pulls us to our knees while it knights us with the sword of humility and hard-won wisdom. What lies beyond? In my twenties, I could not sit still in the morning hours, knowing that the surf was up. Forty years later finds me on my deck, holding a cup of tea and easing into the day as I marvel at how the apples on the tree in my yard have gone from green to red and are becoming larger in the summer sun. The cycle of beginnings and endings are everywhere around me in nature. In my heart I let go of memories that are stitched with pain and discomfort. They drop like apples from the tree. I like to recall instead the touchstones of surfing and careers and a life education that was beyond divine. I revel in the partnership of a marriage, now tender and softened with grey.

I embrace the years, each decade a lamp unto the soul, lighting the way into becoming human. The striving for some sense of self-honesty and awareness, for a sensuous breeze in which to throw back my head and close my eyes as life takes me; this has made the journey purposeful. To paraphrase Mr. Yeats: “I am an old woman with a dry mouth, waiting for the rain.”

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

Young At Heart

iStock_000015399063XSmallThe days and weeks bleed into each other, speed nourished by long “to do” lists. Meditation practice is sporadic during these times, writing almost non-existent. Instead, life is a packing box, punctuated by the purge of things that will not make the journey to our new home.

Today “The Daily Writing Prompt” arrived in the email. Like a siren of the sea, I was seduced to put down the packing tape and pick up the lap top. Scaling a blank screen, my energies having been elsewhere is scary. The theme for today’s prompt “How do you stay young at heart?”

Here’s the thing, you get to be to a certain age and you realize that the life you have already lived is longer than what is in front of you. While that may seem bleak, it does provide an immediate opportunity. If you know that you are only going to be alive for another 20 years or so, the question becomes, “how then, shall I live my life?” For me, living with the consciousness that everything eventually ends, is what has made my life more alive. The luxury of believing that there are years in front of you is gone.  But to live consciously, savoring the days,  becomes immediate.

A young heart is really a heart that is awake to the world. I walk every day with my dog and my husband. Being out doors is a great love for us. Feasting our eyes on the sky and watching the season’s change as we trompe through snow, mud, rain and more mud until we get to the hard ground of warm summer days. Keep moving. That keeps you young. I have left behind a life of running and tennis, skiing and weight training–none of which serves me these days, but walking…I feel that I can walk forever– that there are trails and paths yet to be discovered, waiting for my feet to cross them.

Then there is the contemplative part of life so necessary when one is standing at the threshold of old age. I call this decade of my life “reclamation.” It means that I reclaim those things that have angered me, wounded me, betrayed and stung. And I strip from them the pain, seeing where they emptied me and softend my edges. The acid speech is then removed from my tongue and any regret is tempered with a compassion for the frailty of all human beings as they create their story.

Story, that’s a big one too. If you are going to be old and young at the same time, you must know your own story. You need to know it with all its glory and all of it jagged, ragged edges. I embrace my story. I don’t turn away from the dark or the mistakes that were made. Instead I string together the events and processes that formed this person over decades of living. It’s so nice to no longer feel that I need to be fixed. Over time I have slowly learned and still slowly learn to love every step that I took upon the journey to becoming fully human.

Isn’t that what we want when we grown old–to become fully human? To love with a heart that has been broken and yet is open wide, receiving life with enthusiasm?“I grow old, I grow old…I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Do I dare eat a peach? I have hear the mermaids singing each to each…” I didn’t look up the poem, it is in me now and I have probably bastardized it somewhat with my memory. Apologies to T.S. Eliot.  But I love the affirmation of “I grow old and I shall wear the bottoms of my tourers rolled.”  It reminds me of the slower walking that escorts us to the inevitable edge.

I walk and I read and I write. I so need to get back to writing every day and I hope that after this move is done, I will sit at my desk each morning and record the world that I see; the realizations that grace me; the humor that keeps each of us going in the tougher times. But for now, as I pack up and end this piece about what it takes to be young at heart, I conclude and repeat that I read. I walk and I write. And each day I find a way to breath deeply the cool air around me and say thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/prompt-young/