I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I don't feel any different

Birthday portrait
I'm not a girl any more. In fact, I'm not even officially middle aged any more, but the onset of old age has begun. Yesterday I celebrated my seventieth birthday and wrote about the taking of this picture here. If you look closely, you can see that I'm covered with raindrops, and I am in the middle of a bunch of other women who are also out early on a rainy Saturday to exercise.

I don't feel any different inside than I did when I was a young woman on the threshold of becoming an adult. So much has happened to me in the past seventy years, but nothing I knew then could have prepared me for this time in my life. I got here one day at a time, one decade followed another until I woke up yesterday with a smile on my face, realizing I made it all the way to old age. I am a septuagenarian now!

In a way it's freeing. I read an article not long ago by Dr. Andrew Weil, who turned seventy last June and what it meant to him. A video link to the interview is here. He says we must acknowledge that we are older, but that doesn't mean the opportunity to grow and change has disappeared. It's different now; this decade of life is one of inevitable physical decline, but we have an opportunity to meet it with grace and equanimity if we so choose. Oh, I do, I do!

When I turned sixty, I told few people, since I was working full time and teaching skydiving every weekend to myriad students. I felt a little embarrassed to still be doing what I was at such an advanced age. Since then, I have retired from my job and stopped teaching skydiving, moved from Colorado to Washington state and began a new phase of life. I still spend the summers here jumping out of airplanes for fun, but whereas a decade ago I made hundreds of skydives every year, now I make fewer than fifty. The desire to teach left me long ago, and as I watch new jumpers at the Drop Zone with their instructors, I'm glad that others are still interested in doing what once seemed like a necessary part of my life.

It's a good thing to realize that the old saying about when one door closes, another opens, is real. I've found it to be very true throughout my life. Once upon a time, I could not have imagined my life today being fulfilled without the parts of it that seemed essential back then. I have no living children and no grandchildren. In my twenties as a young mother of two, I could not have imagined being happy today, but I am.

I realize that the world of blogging is essential to my happiness today. Although I have no grandchildren, I have a grandniece I love very much and am close to my siblings and their children. My blogging friends show pictures of their grandchildren and I cherish them, hold many of them close to my heart and and marvel at their precocity. Sometimes I will stare at a picture of Hope, one particularly beautiful and radiant being, and give thanks to the universe that I get to share in her life. Thank you, Dianne (Forks Off the Moment), for being willing to blog through the ravages of Hurricane Sandy and showing me how you and Hope are making it through.

Without the connection of the blogosphere, my life would be diminished. A decade ago I didn't have a clue that it would become so indispensable to me, or even that I could love and cry over people around the world whom I will never meet but who have become as important to me as family. As the world grows more and more connected, we become part of each other's lives in ways never before imagined in the course of history. My family has expanded to encompass the entire globe.

As I sit here in my usual place, rain drumming on the roof and my partner fast asleep next to me, I realize that my septuagenarian years will no doubt hold many wonders I cannot possibly anticipate, along with the inevitable decline of physicality. My spiritual self has no boundaries and I feel my heart swelling with the possibilities! Reminds me of a favorite Emily Dickinson poem:
I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose –
More numerous of Windows –
Superior – for Doors –
Of Chambers as the Cedars –
Impregnable of eye –
And for an everlasting Roof
The Gambrels of the Sky –
Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –
Isn't that just the most beautiful expression, "spreading wide my narrow hands to gather Paradise"? Oh, yes! Until next Sunday morning, I hope you will spend some time with me in that gathering.


Teresa Evangeline said...

Just Beautiful. A wonderful post and the perfect Dickinson poem to fully illustrate all you said. Just perfect. Happy Birthday, every day!

Rubye Jack said...

As Teresa just said this is a beautiful and inspiring post DJan, and I thank you for sharing yourself here.

Happy Birthday!

Linda Myers said...

You have one of the youngest spirits I know. Here's to a wonderful new decade.

Rian said...

Happy Birthday DJan! I love reading your posts...

Rita said...

I can feel the joy and awe--the celebration of life and years! *hugs-hugs-hugs* :):)

Red said...

I think you do yourself a disservice to forecast you physical decline in your seventies. Maybe some ? The way you are active now will keep you going a long time. My friend Howard is 89 and still is a strong skater. He keeps very active.
It is interesting when you do value where you've come from and appreciate it. What you're doing is embracing life. Keep at it.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You are young in spirit..even if your body is older..blogging is wonderful isn't it..I am grateful to have "met" you:)

Anonymous said...

Yes, blogging has introduced me to friends in India. I simply marvel that they liked me enough to fly from their home in Assam to Delhi, a 2 hr 45 min flight, just to say Namaste over dinner. Can't get any better than that! Someday, you and I will meet -- here, there, anywhere! Lol.

Arkansas Patti said...

Happy Birthday and welcome to the club. It is not nearly as exclusive as it once was, thank goodness. You echo my thoughts entirely about blogging. What a wonderful invention. Your zest for life is an inspiration and reading your posts always kicks mine up a notch. Keep enjoying.

Bragger said...

I hope your birthday was a wonderful one. You are an inspiration to me, and I suspect countless others.

Linda Reeder said...

I didn't get to this until this Monday morning, but now I am inspired to go gather more paradise - as soon as I get the house work done! Actually I'll gather as I work. My house is full of beauty, and memory, and my heart is full of gratitude for this life that I live.
Thank you.

Mel said...

You look radiant. I'm so glad I found your voice and look forward to the gathering.

Trish said...

Fantastic post, DJan. You're ageless.

CrazyCris said...

FELIZ CUMPLEAƑOS!!! (a few days late)

Truly beautiful words DJan! I've said it before and I'll say it again: you are an inspiration! I hope your body lets you remain this active for many years to come, and when it's time to slow down you'll surely find other activities to keep your mind entertained. Just keep blogging so you can share your wonderful spirit with us! :o)

Chatty Crone said...

I am turning 60 my next birthday - you are a true inspiration. sandie

CiCi said...

Way cool. You are young thinking, open minded, physically active, interested in a zillion things, and you have a big heart. Age is not a hindrance as your show us, it is and enhancement.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, happy belated birthday and welcome to the seventies! One of the things I've found as I've moved through the years of the seventies is that I need to rest more. To take naps. To truly be good to myself and to listen to my body. I"ve been doing that for the past week or so and so I'm only today getting to your two blogs.

Like you, I've found that blogging is a true gift to myself. I've met so many fine and wonderful and inspiring people--like you--through blogging and made so many friends. And like you, I laugh with them and cry with them and worry with them over the vicissitudes of life. What a gift blogging has been to me as I move through the seventies.

Thank you for sharing Emily's poem. She knew so well the deep longings of the human heart. Peace.