I’m celebrating a birthday soon. A piece of paper from a Texas hospital tells me I was born on August 18, 1949. You do the math. It’s not pretty. I’ve had some thoughts about aging and share them here. Spoiler alert: There is talk of God in this one.
I have officially been an older person for some time. I still remember the shock of seeing the “senior citizen” discount on the Denny’s menu and the ads on TV for AARP, realizing I was eligible for both.
I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience, sadly a body that isn’t the one I had when I was 40, much less 50.
But as I get older I find I have to work extra hard at it with less energy. And wasn’t it just the other day I was a gawky beanpole, going to a Beatles concert or a greenhorn working at my first newspaper job, terrified I would fail at this writing thing? Um. Nope. Happened decades ago.
So here’s the truth of it, kiddos:
Time flies as you grow older. Really. To some of you it may not seem that way, but believe me, I think there’s some kind of Divine accelerator button that gets pushed after each decade. It could also be a quantum physics thing but I’m not sure.
And that’s also part of the aging process. You learn. If you’re open, you do learn. I used to laugh when older folks would say, “If only I knew then what I know now.” Truth.
You learn that life gets messy; people can be loving or cruel; your bank account ebbs and flows; some nights dread and anxiety will drown your soul because you feel you haven’t done a danged thing with your life that amounts to anything; and then life will turn around and gobsmack you with the birth of a child, the perfumed scent of earth after a summer’s rain, an unexpected $5 you dig out of your jeans pocket.
If you’re a spiritual being — and I believe we all are — you learn that God is in everything and everywhere. Even in that politician or dictator or serial killer you despise.
God doesn’t play favorites and loves each person with this kind of cosmic abandon I will never fathom.
It’s such a relief to know that this love is totally accepting, always available and beckoning me, even though I screw up a lot and don’t always tap into it.
And as to that word “God.” We seem to have really created messes over that one.
In whatever ways you term that Divine source of love — and how can you define something so ineffable — that Supreme Being starts to become more visible to you as you age, in all creation, from that speck of a spider to raging waterfalls to that person sitting next to you on the train, sound asleep and snoring.
As to my writing: I always thought I’d write a best-seller by now. I smile at that one because while I believe almost all things are possible, some things happen and some don’t for Divine reasons I’m not privy to. I’ve learned the art and craft of writing over 40-some years and feel I’m pretty danged good.
But sometimes, if I’m honest, I get frustrated when I see others being published and successful, and I’m still struggling. Then I say:
“A word with you, God. Time is getting short here. I’m doing my part and I’m writing my little heart out. What about you? Are you doing your part, God? You may be eternal and have a thousand years, but I don’t.
Do you have any influence with a publisher or agent so my words can get out to a wider audience? Say what? You’ve had me ‘on hold’ for the last few decades and forgot to look at that blinking light? (Old-timers will get that one.) Well, pick up, for God’s sake! Um. For your sake. My sake. Whatever.”
You’ve lost those you love or you look at those you love who are dying and you weep in anticipation of that, knowing it is part of the process and you will grieve and have bad days and then go on again. And you realize your turn is getting closer and you wonder — what will that feel like?
After all, I’ve never had this particular death experience before, and yes, fear creeps in, as well as wonder and awe at approaching another stage of life that is probably pretty amazing.
So two stories to end: A friend of mine lost her mother a few years ago. She was having a bad time of it and woke one morning to find the most unusual, magnificent sunrise streaked across the skies.
Then she heard her mother’s voice: “This is only a small portion of what it’s like here, to be in the presence of God. The face of God is so beautiful I don’t want to miss a single second of it.”
And then there’s Sam, a neighbor who is 95. Lanky and tall, he walks twice a day, if not more, puffing away at his cigar. I asked him once about the secret to a long life.
He told me: “I smoke my cigar, I take a nap, then I take my medicine.” He paused and winked. “And you know what my medicine is, don’t you? A shot of whiskey.”
So here’s to that shot of whiskey, to not missing a single second of the face of God, right here and right now, and to the insanities and joys of the human experience.
As I head into another year of my life, I hold on to one of my favorite quotes by Ram Dass: “We are all just walking each other home.”
Thanks to my companions of the heart, who love me, put up with me, support me and grace me as we walk each other home. I love you all.