True to a personal mission in writing, today I have tried to continue being honest and gracious in reporting truth from the perspective of a now, MORE than Middle-Aged Mom. I’m adopting a suggested perspective that “60 is the new 40” to resume hashing out the details, after passing through bends in a river with white-water rapids threatening to capsize boats over the past few months. I am sixty today, but NOT counting.
Some things I will leave to bean-counters, who continue to come up with faulty playbooks and reasons why 60 isn’t old enough to retire or stop paying into a labor economy unable to deliver minimum wage jobs that sustain people at a basic level. And although I am technically a “health care worker” now, I will leave it to other medical professionals to come up with new diagnosis warranting the development of a kaleidoscope of pharmaceuticals purported to make life more manageable and fulfilling. (Here I need to express appreciation for advancements in the treatment of life-threatening diseases, on behalf of those who are genuinely ill and would choose to live a few more years for family or other reasons none would be wise to judge. A close friend’s recent diagnosis with such a condition has served as a reminder that having options to “fight the good fight” is always preferable to having none.)
Crossing the linear timeline at sixty with a bill of good health, aside from ongoing struggles of conscience tampering with thwarted and redirected dreams, I count myself blessed. “Teach us to number our days (and understand the brevity of life), that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12), seems like an eternally pragmatic prayer, as another mile marker is passed.
Yesterday, I was poised to shake the sand off my feet and tires, and spin wheels towards minimizing and consolidating personal property in two states, held “in limbo” for too long, several hundred miles apart. An undivided heart with a new focus and direction has been the one thing I’d hoped to have gained at this point in life. I had packed to go with my trusted dogs on a north-western trajectory, not knowing our exact destination, because I was tired of feeling stalled. My concept of “Home” had been upended over the past few years, and I was admitting to myself “being rooted and ground in love” spiritually, isn’t always enough on a practical level. I’d had enough of a one-season-fits-all climate, accompanied by the feeling of being grounded in a region of the country where I had no interest in establishing deep roots. My time and presence in flat swamp lands surrounded by an ocean on one side and a gulf on the other, had served a purpose; but whispers of a call back to the consolation of mountains, hills, and four seasons had been prompting me to lighten my load, yet again. “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) has never been my strong suite, but I had tried and a sensation of rising waters and forward momentum, in preparation for new dreams to realize wasn’t letting me “sit tight”. Until there is a reason to reside and abide, a need to move beyond what has become stale and too familiar, not bound by preconceived notions and cumbersome “concerns” others impose, has become a bottom-line impetus.
Tilley, my “shadow” and unofficial therapy dog, woke me from a deep sleep this morning, gently positioning her nose close to mine, while staring intently at me until my eyes reluctantly opened to acknowledge her wagging tail. A decal my daughter had left on the back of her old bedroom door where I ‘d spent the night, challenged me to greet the day and “Dwell in Possibilities”, as an Emily Dickenson sentiment resonated beyond her mortal presence. Without a clock on the wall or a phone alarm set to make me feel lazy, I considered how the day might have been if I’d awakened next to the comfort of a lover, or could have looked forward to a birthday dinner with a companion later in the evening. Although my latest and greatest plans had been deterred by a car, unable to tow a loaded trailer the previous day, I had to face the physical reality of neglected maintenance putting a dent in my exit plan. I understood more clearly how “letting go” of things that hold us back or slow us down, including thoughts that can debilitate us quickly (a suggestion more than my sister had posed), is sometimes the most difficult process to press through. We brought nothing into this world, and we will leave with very little by our side, unless we were a wealthy Egyptian King or a modern-day pioneer of cryonics (deep freezing the human body in hopes of one day thawing and reviving life at a later date), also wealthy enough to squirrel away resources for their future revival.
It was not in my plan to be walking dogs under an overcast sky, biding time while car issues were resolved to assure a safer and travel-worthy vehicle. It was a spontaneous stop at a bagel and coffee shop for breakfast that settled me a little, as I remembered a friend with whom I’d started the day, on occasion, talking over a cup of coffee. Small kindnesses were shown by the owner, who took time to bring water out for dogs of patrons seated at small patio tables providing some shelter from the oppressive summer humidity, while generous slathers of cream cheese slid off fresh bagels wrapped in white paper. Conversations among dog owners and admirers made for pleasantries among strangers, before the patron traffic cleared, and a woman sitting nearby alone, launched into her own story of moral failings, rejection by church friends, and the far-reaching consequences that had made her life difficult and full of paralyzing regrets. I saw how I too, could easily descend into a similar self-pity, if I didn’t choose each moment to arrest and redirect thought processes, still working through lingering issues from my own imperfect choices. After a simple prayer for her, I excused myself and led my two dogs back to where my car could be seen parked behind the shop where its service had been completed.
After being told three belts needed attention at another location to remedy whirring noises, I loaded my panting four-legged children into the revived A/C of the car, and continued in the direction of second chances. It was a saving grace to be invited into a waiting area with a cool floor for the dogs who needed relief from the oppressive thickness hanging in the air at mid-day. Three belt replacements to prevent what could have been a show-stopping breakdown in triple digit temperatures, with a complimentary tire rotation for having bought tires there a year earlier, left me in a better frame of mind, despite the dent in birthday gift funds. Somehow, I felt spared by an invisible hand that prompted me to err on the side of caution, rather than proceed with an ill- timed departure into stormy weather and excessive heat indices, considering a hasty launch in a brooding state of mind, intent on escape.
Later in the evening, I would enjoy calls from my young adult children, a home cooked meal prepared by my Mom, and the comfort of a cool room where my belongings resumed their stacked-in-storage-bins posture, waiting for another window for departure. A fresh vase of purple and yellow asters for my birthday sat on the table, and an invisible arm of peace enveloped me as I conversed with a distant friend by phone, before turning out the light to sleep.
I am not counting another year passed without visualizing myself one step closer to defining what matters most in life. At 60, I realize I have less patience for things and people who are not authentic, less tolerance for agendas that are more restrictive than helpful, and more determined to find better ways of responsibly living with a conscience at least partially in tact. Some say I am a gypsy or wanderlust, and at worst a “dreamer”, and maybe they’re observations seem valid. But they do not see my desire to redefine and be a part of creating what a living, breathing “Home” means from a vantage point of 60 & NOT counting years. Choosing daily to see the wonder of simple beauty or appreciate small gestures that encourage and restore something or someone to a better today……that is what counts. And if it can be found and sustained in one primary, geographical location, let it be. Otherwise, I won’t hold my breath for others to stop judging what they don’t yet know or understand.
I’m thankful clothes that fit me four years ago still fit, although I’d like to lose 15-20 pounds of body weight to experience the exhilaration of hiker-fitness again, believing it can be achieved without having to punish myself to get there or endure another shoe size increase. I would love to see fewer wrinkles on my face, intensified by living under a Floridian sun, without costly interventions others seem to afford effortlessly. (Being sure my dogs and horse are well cared for has taken precedence over the years, since children have grown and gone. The reported requirement of repeat treatments, once cosmetic corrections have started, leaves me feeling like resources would be misappropriated if I allowed myself to indulge in super-glue, inserts, or space fillers.)
At Sixty and NOT counting, I am not ashamed to admit afternoon naps rejuvenate waking hours to follow. (My grandmother took “Power Naps” and lived 102 years on this earth.) I am only counting the days before the next opportunity to go on an adventure shows itself, and I won’t hesitate to leap forward, instead of circling around an old track in a holding pattern until I run out of gas and crash. Ask me in another 40 years if I regret my posture at “60 and not counting.” I am not watching the clock “tick-tock”.