Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people to know why I look this way. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved. - Will Rogers

6 Continents in 60 Years! 

I was privileged to attend one of the most entertaining and delectable  birthday parties a few weeks ago. The birthday boy turned 60 and decided to throw a bash for a few hundred of his closest friends and family. It was an exceptionally generous gesture on his part and a real shin-dig (old person’s term for quite an event).  The theme of the party, was to share his wanderlust experiences with friends and family-   6 continents in his 60 years.  He's indulged in the majority of his exploration  in the last decade and a half, right around that mid-life mark.  A time, when many of us in that demographic begin to hear Peggy Lee warble in our heads, “Is that all there is?  Is that all there is?  If that’s all there is my friends... then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”  My friend didn’t break out the booze; he broke out his National Geographic caliber photography AND cuisine, native to each of the continents he visited, sharing his phenomenal experiences with all of us.  Around the perimeter of the party room were six stations, each one showing off beautiful photographs of his trips as well as tables laden with the food of the continent.  Of course the European table with its spectacular, art gallery quality shots of the Alps and beyond, was my personal favorite- --the table was laden with exotic imported meats and cheeses. Cheeses of all colors and textures! Heaven! South America wasn't my personal favorite, but food is my friend, and I sampled it too.   Now, China, India, and Africa were excellent, but, Antarctica revealed the most delicious crab cakes with Dijon dill sauce.  Believe it or not, even I would visit there despite the below, below, freezing temperatures.  I hate the cold.  But the privilege of partaking in the most breathtaking natural views on the planet, would more than make up for shivering myself silly.  The older I get, the less I discount any door that opens,  viewing most of life as just a series of wonderful opportunities.  I do think this is one of the bigger blessings of aging  and I embrace and surrender to the unknown, most every day.  Aren’t we supposed to get more set in our ways as we age?  I think not.  

I have been pondering this aging gig recently as I approach the BIG 60 too!  Glimpses of Mother Time flit through the brain every time I put my make-up on in the morning, or am only able to be a freestanding "tree” in my Yoga practice by gently touching my finger tips to something  for balance.  Best yet, when I am referred to as a person “with much experience,” I can read between those lines, and sense I am being viewed as a geriatric.  Ouch. My baby girl is turning 40 and my oldest granddaughter will be a teenager in two months. I clearly remember my mom looking into my unlined face, way, way back... when she was dying at the ripe old age of 51, and saying, “I look in the mirror and see myself as a young woman.”  I know what she meant by that - --no matter how old, we still dream of adventure, need love, and hope to be accepted for who we are.  What I don’t think is particularly healthy, is wanting to be the same person, looking and thinking the same as I did in my 20’s, 30’s, or 40’s.... For one thing, it’s far too much work! I have a whole lot more free time these days to do the things I love rather than maintaining the illusions of my youth.  My head-turner days are over, and that is a breath of fresh air. I call the shots now rather than placing myself at the disposal of the whims and opinions of others. I am much more interested in turning, and softening hearts.   

In my 20’s it was all about how I looked, and how I used, this youthful, sexual energy and power of a quick mind, firm body, and face that women, in their younger years possess.   Back then I believed it was the best thing in my toolbox as it allowed me to attract what I thought I wanted in my life.  I imagined I was in control of my world because of it, and the thought of ever losing it was incomprehensible.   I could and did attract whatever I wanted; handsome men, great jobs, success... the good life. 

 In my 30’s, and 40’s I was in heaven:  I had arrived and still had plenty of that ammo in my much bigger tool box, along with some smarts by now as well.  It was those things that I actually thought defined me back then.  My ability to attract and achieve.  But, it was exhausting to maintain.... investing all of that energy, constantly worrying about how you looked, how others looked at you;  striving to be better, do and have more because this was the benchmark for a successful life.  Virtually placing your destiny in the hands of the perceptions of other people, and so many elusive toys, is never a very good idea.  Time marches on and you best be moving forward, marching or dancing along with it.  The days of physical and mental “hot-mama-dom”  have evolved into a desire for something more noteworthy-- a legacy--- One which revolves around, unselfishness, kindness, honesty, authenticity and integrity. 

I have discovered there is a lot of freedom in pushing 60, leaving 50 behind.   First, I could be pushing up daisies. So many precious lives I’ve been touched by, are.  Second, my desire to be kinder to this vessel lined with wrinkles, and plumped up with belly fat, includes acceptance of what is, as it is. Yay!   Gone is the belief I have to loose 20 pounds, get botox, achieve notoriety,  or have lots of bucks in my  bank to be happy. I’ve quit saying things like, “I’m too old, not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, because I just don’t buy into the advertising anymore!  I look at the decade of my 50’s as having been a time of earning an advanced degree in what’s important, what’s not, and why we are here, on this earth.   A note from my (younger) very accomplished brother, really put where I am at in perspective for me.  He said, “I especially liked this quote from your email:  If you can learn to be happy without all those things the ego defines us by… jobs, other people's opinions, a significant other,  accomplishments, you can probably live through anything, in acceptance and grace.  Wow. What wise person wrote that?  Why, it was me! He went on to say, I haven't had much time for introspection, especially lately, so I'm envious of the self-awareness you have, and the personal growth you've achieved.  In that respect, I learn vicariously through your reflections and discoveries. There are those who are lamps, and those who just reflect light.  It's never 100% one way or the other, of course, but I think you're more the former, and I'm more the latter.”  

(Thank you baby brother)... A tear trickled down my lined little face.   I am happy today, to be the lamp, rather than merely a reflection - because no matter how bright the light,  it's easily extinguishable in the world's ever-changing and fickle limelight.  There is an unselfishness, easy comfort, and continuity about the lamp. 
So, back to the party....What DO you buy a man who can afford to travel to six continents?  My gift to him.... a tiny kangaroo toting an even teenier Joey who held up a sign.  The sign read:   Australia or Bust!   I’m hoping he makes it 7 continents before he’s 70.  Something tells me he’s already booked the trip!    I think I’ve also learned, by his example, when you turn 60.... you just go dancing... you break out the food (or luggage), and have a ball!