Friday, February 26, 2016

How Lucky Can One Girl Be?

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.
~ Roald Dahl

I got some important lessons about birthdays this past birth week, some new and some I needed to be reminded of.

  • Cards matter - say I, who is so remiss about sending cards.  Not that I didn't appreciate the e-mails and kind thoughts on Facebook, but the cards are now pinned to my bulletin board and I smile whenever I pass them.  And am sure to smile at them in the weeks and months ahead.
  • But also, "I celebrate the day you were born" - a sentiment no greeting card can rival, however and wherever it's expressed.
  • Belated wishes are appreciated.  Too often, I have thought that somehow they might be considered an insult, an afterthought, and have felt embarrassed to send them.  But it is being remembered, before or after, that touches one's heart.   At least, this heart.
  • Then, there's gifts.  Over the years I have received some spectacular gifts - fine jewelry and trips to Italy and Hawaii, clothes and items for our home - gifts that as a child I would never have imagined possible.  But the gifts this year, much simpler, have moved me as much or possibly more (could this be a sign that I've gained some wisdom as well as years?) A friend coming up the driveway clutching a bouquet of pink tulips, unexpected gifts from new friends at a gathering of "the girls", a treat to lunch, affectionate messages left on the phone.
  • And the special gifts - a care package from my sister with not one but six small treasures that only someone who knows my tastes, and history - and idiosyncrasies - could select.  A new chair from my husband - who gets a chair for a birthday present? I did, because I asked for it and he always strives to give me what I ask for.  And the two foot tall teddy bear because he wanted this birthday to be memorable in its own way.  "How lucky can one girl be?"
But the lesson that lingers most in the days that have followed was instigated by a single sentence from my brother when I prattled on about the highlights of my birth week.  "You are well loved."  Birthdays - a celebration of the fact that we are loved, that we have enjoyed another year of being loved, and can, hopefully, look forward to the next one.  An acknowledgment of the lives we touch and that touch us. Viewed this way, how could you not look forward to your next birthday?

So, I'd like to enhance Roald Dahl's quote:  "It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like" or how old you are, "so long as somebody loves you."  My deepest gratitude to all who have reminded me that I am one lucky woman.

lovely image 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Still Laughing after All These Years

You don't stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” 

~ George Bernard Shaw

On this first day of my "birth week", a tradition I highly recommend, I declare that....

When I am a very old woman, I shall...

wear sequins and bangles, glitz and bling,
and I shall spend my money on chocolates and macadamia nuts, and glitter for my hair.
I shall sit down on the grass when I'm tired and reek of perfume samples,
and play hopscotch with little girls,
"and make up for the sobriety of my youth."
I shall dance in the rain,
and weave garlands for my hair,
and learn to yodel.
I shall have champagne for breakfast,
and pile shells and wine corks and colored marbles in pretty little boxes.
And, above all, I shall laugh.
But maybe I ought to start today.  So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised when suddenly I am very old and start to wear sequins and bangle, glitz and bling.

- with special thanks..."Warning, When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple" by Jenny Joseph

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Better Late than Never

"...part of the wonder of aging today is that we get the time to discover our second chances."
~ Michael Gurian
The Wonder of Aging

I was so relieved to come across this line in the Wonder of Aging, the best book I've read to date on the subject . The concept of discovering a second chance rather than declaring a  lofty "purpose" ( something I had been struggling with) seemed more reasonable and more attainable.  Some folks seem to arrive at retirement with a clear sense of how they will spend this new stage of their lives.  Whether it be to volunteer, or pursue a hobby or new venture, or enjoy travel and special interests with loved ones, they easily and eagerly set off on a new direction.  Not I.

I knew that I didn't want to age as my parents had, in poor health, dissatisfied with life, their world becoming narrower and narrower with every passing month.  But when retirement arrived, I found that I hadn't developed a clear idea of how I did want to age.

So, I set off on a rather convoluted journey of experimentation.  I tried activities I thought I might be interested in, perhaps even thought I should be interested in, or activities others recommended or seemed to enjoy..  I joined a couple book clubs. I volunteered as a docent for 4th and 5th graders visiting the local Art Museum.  I became active in a couple non-profit organizations, surprising myself as I have never been a joiner.  I attended classes, tried my hand at drawing, even knitting. 

Along the way, I noted in my journals whether I did enjoy the activity, whether I felt I added something by my involvement, whether it was satisfying, engaging, whether I had enough skill or the desire and commitment to acquire the skill if I didn't.  Whether I looked forward to it or not.

Along the way, I discovered - that I want to read so many things and to learn about so many topics that I can't do justice to more than one book club; that I no longer have the patience required to deal with the natural exuberance of 4th and 5th graders; that I am not the social animal I thought I was; that I value time alone to read and draw and enjoy my home and my relationships with a few close friends and family.  That I prefer small intimate groups where I feel I still can make a difference.  That there are specific skills I want to develop before I die, like speaking Italian, drawing, using the computer more effectively, and surprisingly, after all these years, cooking.  

Ultimately, with Gurian's inspiration, I arrived at this conclusion-  that this is my second chance - to pursue every day something that intrigues me, something that inspires me, something that brings me personal satisfaction, something that piques my curiosity.  Not because I think I should or because someone else wants me to, but simply because I want to.  

I realize I am blessed...I  have a loving and supportive husband who needs and wants as much personal time and space as I do, siblings and friends whose company enriches the simplest conversation, adequate funds, a nice home in a safe community, a sound mind in a sound body.  I am always grateful.  But clarifying my second chance, discovering it over time has enveloped it all in a blanket of contentment I didn't realize I was searching for.  I know how I want to age.