Are you reelin’ in the years
Stowin’ away the time ~ Steely Dan
Recently, Anne Lamott wrote a post on turning 61. She says her “inside self doesn’t have an age.” I don’t think mine does either but I sure have a lot of memories, some are more clear than others. Anyway, I may not be as famous as Anne, but I have learned a few things since I arrived on the planet. I’m doing #6 on her list. Writing. Butt in chair. Tip of the hat, Anne!
On April 3, 2015, I turned 62. I’m a little bit compulsive about self-evaluation. I’m very curious about developmental stages. We all have similarities and differences but there are general trends in human behavior, especially if we look for our similarities.
I wonder, how it is possible to look back so far, yet experience my life as a short amount of time? This rubber band of time seems to expand and contract. In absolute reality, time only exists in relation to other objects and people but that is most certainly another topic.
I decided to take a little trip down memory lane decade by decade. Memory is a funny thing. Mine is a little unreliable and occasionally best aided by Google.
Age 2. We lived in Valley Forge, PA. I became a a big sister. My mother had a nurse come in and help. When the nurse was leaving, I said, “Don’t forget the baby.” Apparently I didn’t understand my sister was there to stay.
I didn’t have any perspective on my life at this age. I suppose I lived in the moment which is easier to do as a toddler than it is now. I was a cute little kid with curly hair.
Age 12. We lived in northern Virginia. My grandmother, bless her generous heart, took my sister and two cousins, Margie and Cathy, to the World’s Fair in NYC. We had such a good time! We stayed in the Waldorf Astoria. The Fair’s theme was “Peace Through Understanding” and the price of admission for adults was $2. It’s a Small World was my favorite exhibit.
My body was beginning to change but I hadn’t started menstruating yet. I had physical and emotional growing pains. No one explained what was happening to me. I remember feeling very awkward and uncomfortable.
Age 22. I was in Charlottesville, attending the University of Virginia but hadn’t yet declared my major. I’d taken 3 semesters off to find myself and then returned, but I really had no clue what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was a cataclysmic year. My first love died suddenly. Even though our relationship was extremely troubled, I was devastated and lost in so many ways.
I was young and pretty, with long blond hair and a wild spirit. Because of Casey’s sudden death, I decided that there was no point in making plans because it was possible to die suddenly. I lived on a precarious edge for years. I believed I was a free spirit, pretty much going where the wind blew me.
Age 32. I had moved to Idaho, gotten married and divorced. I was living alone, a student of martial arts and the director of a program for displaced homemakers. I was tired of working in sandwich shops, so I’d returned to school to get a Masters in Counseling. I discovered a lot about myself and my relationships.
I learned in school that not making a decision was a decision in itself. What a pivotal moment. Adulthood seemed attainable as I began to slowly mature. I was in the best physical shape of my life but didn’t know it then.
Age 42. I was remarried and living in Utah with two small children, and working as a rural mental health therapist when I made another big decision. I stopped working to stay at home with our daughters. I was surprised at the reaction from some of my friends when I said that I quit work. They gave me the “stink eye,” as if I had done something wrong.
It was a difficult adjustment in terms of feeling valued as a contributing member of society. Somehow, mothering seemed like a “less than” choice. The myth of Superwoman was still alive and well. As women we need to support each other, whether or not we have children, whether we work outside the home or not.
I didn’t have a mid-life crisis, but I did experience a spiritual bottom. Outwardly my life seemed wonderful, but inside I was in a lot of pain. I chose the path of sober living and learned how to live life on life’s terms one day at a time.
Opening up spiritually changed my life. It’s been an interesting journey. You can read more about it in Illuminating Spiritual Practice. It’s a free download, if you sign up for my newsletter. I’m not Type A so my newsletters only go out about once a month or so.
Age 52. I was a mother to two teen girls and going through menopause. Holy hormonal hell. It was pretty bumpy. Ten years ago there was no Red Tent movement where we could gloriously celebrate our changing bodies. Nothing prepared me for teenagers but we all survived.
Everyone says becoming a parent changes your life. It changed me on a cellular level. I am not the person I would have been without my children. I’m very grateful that I was able to raise them and then release them into the world as wonderful, caring and smart young adults.
Age 62. Last year, my husband retired and we moved to his hometown in Wyoming. Finally, I feel like I know who I am and what I want to do when I grow up. All the years of self-examination, spiritual growth, family relationships, and evolving friendships have helped me become who I am today. I’m just getting started on my Third Age, looking for ways to continue growing and helping other women to do the same.
I accept myself for who I am. Yes, there are wrinkles and a few physical limitations. It’s part of the privilege of getting older. I want to dive deeper into more important things. I plan on staying engaged with life and people.
Yes, I guess this has been all about me, but I do know that I’m not the center of the universe. I’m just one person doing the best I can on a daily basis. I’m excited to see what happens next.
With any luck, I could be around to write about the next three or four decades. Who knows what I’ll have to say about that! Any guesses?