At Your Service: Sept. 23, 2009

This week I put three score years behind me. The most startling thing about reaching these landmark ages is how many clichés it evokes. “I don’t feel that old.” “We used to…” “The time just flew by.” “I remember when…”
Even more typically, it leads me to reflect upon lessons learned and shifting priorities. Comfort has replaced sex appeal in determining my choice of shoes. The five pounds I gained during the holidays some years ago have taken up permanent residence and I no longer think of them as being “extra.” Now that I understand that other people don’t really think about me that often, I am not consumed by worry about what they think of me (at least not all the time.)
It seems now that life is more like the hurdles than a sprint. I have cleared a whole slew of them, but there always seem to be more ahead. What has changed perhaps the most is my perception of how to move toward and over each hurdle. I no longer need to move at record speed; it is okay to walk right up to some of them, knock them over and then keep moving forward. Others seem to have simply shrunk with time and no longer have the height to impede my progress.
Progress itself has moved to a different place on the list of important things as results and consequences transform the view of what matters and has meaning. Sometimes, it is enough not to fall too far behind the forward motion of others. It enables me to appreciate the contributions of others. It especially makes it easy to enjoy the fun and ignore the silly saving full-tilt energy for that which has the real weight of import.
Around this time last year, my mother moved here following a stroke. It was the first time we celebrated my birthday together since childhood. The months until her death brought me back to that little girl and enabled us to discover our shifting womanhood. The value of unconditional love moved to a new place in my heart.
In my first birthday as an orphan, I know that I am not alone. Not only are the spirits of all those who went before with me, my brother and sister have moved in closer to everyday life, despite their physical distance. Friends of old have risen from the past to take up residence in the present. Even my exes have reemerged in the spirit of mutual forgiveness.
While I once believed that at a certain age one might as well be dead, it seems now that with each year I grow more alive. I have a real experience of the time passing and give thanks for each new morning. People are no longer bit players on my stage, every one has a critical role of their own and I have gained respect for the very different lives lived from their points of view.
Still, time has brought to life my grandfather’s wise advice to pick my battles. There just doesn’t seem to be as much to fight for or over as there used to be. My heart doesn’t have to race for me to know that I am alive; it is enough that it holds a steady beat. I now revel in the ultimate cliché, it’s great to be alive.