Thursday, November 29, 2012

Turning Sixty

The sun pours in over my shoulder as I sit down to write this.

I am sitting here trying to absorb the fact that today I turned 60 years old. It's kind of odd and strange to think about it. I recall a neighbor of mine, an older woman, telling me that no matter how old she got, she still always felt inside like the younger person she remembered being. I know what she means. The calendar spins and we are hard pressed to keep our minds in sync with the numbers. However should we "adjust" to advancing age?

One question I asked myself today is why do I feel that I must say something profound and wise on this birthday? I'm not sure there is anything profound to say about living six decades, except I do know this: my mind can play tricks. It takes the year of my birth, 1952, and it shoots back into history sixty years. 1892. How weird is that! 1892 was six years before the Spanish American War. Nine years before Theodore Roosevelt became President. Sixteen years before the first Model T Ford rolled out of the factory. A whopping thirty years (almost) before women had the right to vote.

When I consider sixty years in those terms, it kind of unnerves me. It makes me feel old or at least, it somehow gives me an appreciation of how much time I've lived. Quite a bit.

Lately, I have been dealing with something of an existential crisis. All the things that gave my life meaning for so long suddenly don't quite add up the way they used to.  The worst part of this situation is that I can't for the life of me figure out why it's hit so hard and so suddenly. I told a colleague the other day that I feel like I walked off the end of a pier some months back and I'm still swimming around madly trying to figure out how to get back on solid ground.

What I've found to be most soothing is meditation and spiritual contemplation.  It helps me to focus on the feeling of the breath, one inhalation at a time. Something about staring into a candle, and just breathing, has brought solace. In the midst of mental chaos the breath is the steady and simple reminder that we are here today, and if we're lucky, maybe tomorrow. But all we can really count on is today, this breath, this rising breath, this falling exhalation.

Today, my birthday, has been a nice day. I was blessed by greetings of many kinds: two separate flower deliveries, a host of cards and happy birthdays on Facebook and by phone and email too.

This afternoon, after a special lunch with my husband, I decided that what I really wanted to do was to meditate. And tonight we are going to a Sufi retreat center nearby for a program of meditation and chanting.

Maybe the only important realization that comes with turning sixty is that renewed reminder that life is so incredibly fleeting and precious. And that we should try the best we can to enjoy each moment of every day, preferably surrounded by people we love. Or in their absence, surrounded by their beautiful greeting cards with such wonderfully inspiring and heartfelt messages.


david seth michaels said...

Happy Birthday,and well said.

david seth michaels said...

A very, very happy birthday to you. May you have 6 decades more!

Anonymous said...

This was great to read at the end of a stressful day to be reminded of what is most important in life. Happy Birthday!

-M. Fitzgerald

Baye said...

You voice many of the feelings that I've had in the past two years since turning 60. You spoke of the usefulness of meditation in a class of yours I took a few years back, and you've written about it online. I've heeded your advice to give it a try. It has been a wonderful way to regain perspective when floundering in the many changes of aging. Thanks!