Those of you who read my blog regularly will recognize much of this as I’ve shared many of these thoughts and experiences previously here. And I summarized my first 70 years in the 2013 publication, “Seven Decades: A Learning Memoir.”
Starting my 85th year and able to function physically, mentally, emotionally and socially at reasonable levels, I have a sense of enormous gratitude for having come this far. I did not expect to reach any particular age or stage and conscious of the passage of time, I did not take it for granted that I would simply continue along. At some point, each day became a gift and as the days morphed into weeks, months and years, my appreciation for having this time increased along with the time given to me to make the most and best of it.
I recall a moment in time when I recognized and accepted my own mortality. I was leaving my office and while driving out of the parking lot, I was overcome with the realization of how precious life is, now fragile and unpredictable. I had to stop and let that sink in as the epiphany it was. I was 41 years old. I do not know what led up to that experience. I chalked it up to beliefs, choices and practices. Others called it a mid-life crisis. A crisis is a turning point.
The following year, my Dad died of a massive heart attack at age 67. He and I were very close. We had shared life and death matters previously so while I was surprised, I knew at some level that day would come. I did not know how or when but it was a given. My mother said much the same when I walked into her house. She said, “I knew this day might come, I just did not know it would be so soon.” She married again at age 70 for another 25 years before her own death.
What we make of the years given to us depends on our values, our choices, our desires and what we have available to support all of those. My life consists of relationships, work, and leisure time activities plus time given to reading, listening, watching, meditation AND learning, growing and changing. I include those last three things as a kind of mantra that is my guide forward.
The post baccalaureate learning included 3 graduate degrees that led to 4 distinct careers, 4 regional geographical residences in the U.S. and 2 years in London, while living in 29 different houses or apartments since the beginning. Another big change was a 2nd marriage beginning in 1996 that added 4 more children to my 3 and we are now a blended and extended family of 28!
What continues to be important to me are family and friends and taking time to enjoy connecting with them; the ability to travel widely to see interesting and inspiring places in nature and history; self-care of mind, body and spirit; and giving back where and when I can for what has been given to me. We are blessed with sufficient time and resources to continue to be independent, the freedom to choose how and where we spend those and reap the rewards accordingly.
We cannot know for sure what lies ahead. What we can know for certain is where we are right now. We can look back, see where we’ve been, the choices we’ve made and the results. Those experiences can inform our way forward now. It’s all about now and being ready for whatever may or can be next.