Ok, so it is less than a month until I turn 60. 60, 60, 60, 60, 60, 60, 60. No matter how many times I type that it still is totally unreal. How do I wrap myself around this number that has always meant so many, mostly negative, things to me? What is it about being sixty that really bothers me? Is it that many of my readers won’t even bother with this one because it seems so boring or irrelevant or whiny? Is it that truly I believe that one becomes almost invisible to the world as one ages, rather than people being more interested in listening up because I might FINALLY have something to say that could be worth listening to? Is it because I can’t accept the fact that I am no longer young according to anyone’s estimation, even the eighty year olds??
NO, just kidding. This whole aging thing is not for the faint of heart. Even when you are healthy, as I am, and still able to do everything you want to do, which I am. For which I am very very grateful. It is what is going on in my mind that is daunting. All the ideas about what I maybe can’t do, what I should let go, what is unseemly for someone MY AGE-all that stuff about wearing purple aside, everyone knows our culture casts aside those who are older in favor of the young, the new, the hot off the press-and no matter how much I try to find a place where that doesn’t bother me, it does.
So all whining aside, let’s look at this. We all live in the constraints of time, and we all feel its passage acutely at one time or another. Like for instance, yesterday, driving home from being in Denver all weekend, I noticed that our fields which had been deep summery green are suddenly, pretty much overnight, turning gold and fading fast. That creates the most exquisite poignant feeling in my heart. Once again, without warning, the perfect, too brief summer is coming to an end and another winter is waking up and lifting its hoary head to look around, voraciously hungry and mind-bogglingly cold. It will be awhile, granted, and there are many beautiful days between now and then, but still-it’s on its way.
That is exactly what turning sixty feels like. So much good remains, so many beautiful and perfect days, but winter is looming up ahead, and it’s kinda scary. I can see it from here. It isn’t spring anymore. It isn’t early summer, it isn’t even mid-summer. My life is probably, if I am lucky, two-thirds gone. It could be much more gone than that. That sobers me and fills me with some dread. When I am eighty, my oldest grandchild will only be 22. No! I want to be around for so much more of her life than that! And who knows about my youngest.
I know, I know, morbid, depressing, not a happy upbeat Monday morning post. But I want to look this in the eye and experience it to the full, just as I have wanted to do with the rest of my life. In many ways, knowing my time is limited is a good thing. It makes me treasure each day more fully, appreciate my assets of good health, a sound mind, a sense of humor and a deepening perspective in a way that I never have. To not want a day to rush by so I can get to a tomorrow. To just be, to take time, to relish the small things. To not be too busy to notice.
Surely this is the best way to live. I realize in a way that I never have that my small interactions with the people around me are what I really give to the world, my ultimate investment in the planet. This is what gets paid forward, this is the butterfly effect I have on the world. And it is what will still live on when I am gone-not a park with my name on it, not a fund somewhere in some bank, not land or houses or money I leave to my kids-but the memories that they have of what I said, how I lived, what I stood for. These things will change who they are, and I hope and pray it will be for the better.
So many things are falling by the wayside-ambition, fear, jealousy, anger, unforgiveness-how unimportant they all seem. Love, love, love is what matters, it is what I will always be able to do, and to get better at, until my last breath. Not grasping for attention, but paying attention. Not being made much of, but making much of others. Not being encouraged but always being encouraging. Not being center stage, but helping others get to their place there. Not even necessarily having hope, but nurturing hope in others.
Jesus had a lot of very important things to say about this kind of love. He made it really clear that we will find our joy, our hope, our contentment, our peace, and an ultimate sense of our worthiness when we give to others, when we invest in others, when we put others before ourselves. For whatever reason, that has gotten easier for me as I have gotten older. And I expect it will get easier still.
“PIPPIN: I didn’t think it would end this way.
GANDALF: End? No, the journey doesn’t end here. Death is just another path, one that we all must take. The grey rain-curtain of this world rolls back, and all turns to silver glass, and then you see it.
PIPPIN: What? Gandalf? See what?
GANDALF: White shores, and beyond, a far green country under a swift sunrise.
PIPPIN: Well, that isn’t so bad.
GANDALF: No. No, it isn’t.”