My last cartwheel...
It's been making it's way toward me, quiet and all sneaky, poking its head out now and then to remind me of its presence, just around the corner. At 12:01 a.m. this morning I sat up in the bed and thought, 'well, here it is, whether I'm ready for it or not.'
I turned sixty today. S.I.X.T.Y. How on earth?
Oh, there are days when my head says I'm still 12 or 16 or 23 or 34 or a more mature 45 year old. Physical me, the one with achy joints and less energy, rarely feels under 55 and is painfully aware of every single year plus some. After a full day spent with our 'littles' it takes several days of being a complete slug for physical me to recover.
Still it sometimes seems only yesterday I was 10, roller skate key around my neck on a string, throwing rocks down onto chalk-drawn boxes and hopping on one foot, or 12, skipping hand in hand down the streets of my neighborhood with my flat-chested girlfriends, a string of skinny hips sashaying back and forth and singing DayDream Believer off key at the top of our lungs.
Memories of days when I was a young woman, clutching tightly to the back of a boy on his motorcycle, my long brown hair flying in the wind, no cares in the world - they are still so vivid that surely not much time has passed since then?
Only a whisper in time ago I was swollen with unborn children, feeling their crowded kick as they readied for their arrival into this world, then moments of rocking and nursing them in the middle of the night. Having birthday parties for them where we adorned the carport with streamers and balloons, sewing halloween costumes or doll dresses, kissing boo-boos. Reading stories and kissing little heads at the end of the day.
A sliver of time has passed since their father and I were standing at the front aisle of the church, releasing now grown children to take the final step in leaving the nest.
Clearly the wistful heart is not to be trusted.
Ten years ago, on my fiftieth birthday, I spent the day at home alone. I've always been too gangly to be any good at gymnastics, but I decided to see if I could still do a mediocre cartwheel. In my back yard, all by myself, I threw one arm up, one arm down, and flung my body across the grass, survived so I did it again and again. It wasn't a thing of beauty, but by golly I did it.
Today that didn't happen. I didn't even consider it. It would not be a blessing to my family to completely wrench my back and be miserable for days on end, so I was mature and grown up and didn't attempt it. I'm still glad I did it ten years ago, since it was likely my last one.
With getting older I'm starting to realize I'm okay with some things being my last. I'm glad for every one I did, but I don't need to ride a roller coaster ever again. I will NOT go river rafting again, I don't intend to sleep in a tent on the ground. No matter what anyone tells me, I'm too old to get a tattoo or a nose ring, I won't roller skate anymore because it would hurt to fall on that concrete, no matter which part of my body hit first. I am finally okay that I never did learn another language, or to play the piano, will finish out this life terrible at math, and won't frame a degree on the wall of my house.
I am finding none of those things are very important to me any more.
What is vitally important to me is living intentionally. Not counting the days, but making them count. I want them to count for eternity, for something bigger than me, but also count in honoring the gift that life is, that I have been given another day. I don't have a big plan laid out as to what that means for the next 1 or 40 years, but one day at a time I get to live with that in mind.
At sixty I am no longer middle aged because nobody lives to be 120 years old. I'm okay with that because it can't feel very good to be that age. I am okay with being the older generation, because our kids and their kids need someone willing to take the job. We can't all be young forever...
I am becoming very aware that the next ten to twenty years of my life will likely be my last really quality years, and I want to honor that. Every single 24 hour period ticks off yet another day of however many I get. That's a big deal.
So today I spent my birthday baking cupcakes with grandchildren, eating them for lunch and apologizing to their parents for returning them sugared-up, walking our little dog around our neighborhood, talking on the phone and hearing the voices of so many people I love dearly who love me back, having dinner with Cub Sweetheart, then a movie with buttery popcorn afterwards. I was thankful for every single minute of this day, and all the people who reminded me what a gift life is.
Even when I can't do a cartwheel anymore.