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  • Writer's pictureDana Webster

It's My Birthday!

Brand new me, 1962

I turned 59 at 1:30 a.m. today, October 2. And I'm already looking ahead to 60. When I was 39, I couldn't wait for 40. It felt like something big was going to happen at 40. A threshold of some kind would be crossed and I really wanted to get there. I did not feel the same way at 49; 50 was just scary. And now, 59 feels so ... neither here nor there.

Not that I want to hurry up and get old(er) but at this age, one starts to dwell on aging and end of life and the meaning of it all. I do realize that, if I'm lucky, I could have another 30 years of life in me. But I imagine it will feel less and less like living the closer I get to the end.

Too morbid? I don't mean for it to be. Simply, I notice, that I am entering another stage of life. The Elder Years. I like the idea of this being a time for taking stock, for letting go of that which no longer serves (or let's face it, interests) me. For instance, no thanks to fitness boot camps but bring on the yoga and the walking. I've also stopped persevering with books or TV shows that don't grab me right up front. It feels like a waste of precious time to spend with something I have to slog through. I've given myself permission to discard at will the boring, the pedantic, the vapid. I'm looking for meaning and deep connection now, more than ever.

The big question is: how do I spend the remaining years? Do I have a bucket list? Not really. Or, if I do, it's a pretty simple one that doesn't ask too much of me. As much time as I can spend with my children, my husband, our cats, Mother Nature and my gardens is about as far as I am willing to go with the list. Oh, and I'll add good health because aging hurts, physically, and I'd like to mitigate the aches and pains as much as possible.

I am hoping that by the time I turn 60, I can confidently enter my Wisdom years. Although, I have to be honest, I feel pretty much there already. I've lived a not particularly charmed life. But I have had the wherewithal, spread over many decades, to heal from the past and move into a brighter future. One thing I have learned is this: we are not ready until we're ready and we cannot see or know what we haven't yet seen or known (okay, I guess that's two things). The trick is to slick it all with compassion. As for wisdom, you need experience first and then you need time and space to learn from it. I feel pretty confident that I have accomplished this while also acknowledging wisdom is a layered state.

Maybe it's because I am now, after years of overcoming a traumatic past, living the life I always wanted. It's important to dream of better things. It's even more important to work toward achieving them. I have everything I ever wanted: four interesting, loving, and funny-as-hell children; a husband who loves all of me, even the, um, challenging parts; a home in the country; a forward-moving writing habit; and an opportunity to help others to live their best lives despite hardships.

I could just sit back on my laurels, I guess, (actually, side note, what the heck are laurels?), but that's not for me. My big dream is to leave the world a better place than I found it. Tall order, sure, but in small ways this can be done. My writing teacher once said, "It's hard to care about the whole world, that's why you have to keep it personal." He was talking about storytelling but I think it applies universally.

I'm hoping that when it comes time to pass into the next big unknown (lame euphemism for death), I will be ready for it. No sudden moves, please. I want to know that I fulfilled all that I was meant to accomplish this time around. Does my family know they are loved? Check. Have I learned to have compassion for myself and others? Check. Did I adopt enough cats? Check, maybe, not sure what the future holds.

The fact that I bawl every time I think of not being here anymore makes me think that I am not done. I am not complete. There is more to do. As I move into my Elder years, I will be open and willing to take on whatever needs doing so that, when I am 90, I can start to say goodbye with peace of mind.

In the mean time, happy birthday to me!

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