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, March 3, 2013

Living a long life

Early March winter scene
I remember once learning that a human life span is three score and ten. The meaning of a "score" of years is twenty, so that means a normal life would last seventy years. Here's the quote from the King James version of the Bible (Psalm 90):
The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Only ten years separate me from eighty, but the progression from my youth has been gradual, so gradual that I mark the days and years with amazement. It's definitely true that as I look backwards through my life, it seems impossible that the twenty-year-old mother I was then is the same Me of today.

Before I had reached my first score of years, I had married and given birth to my first son, and I felt that I was an adult who knew everything. I looked at old people like they were from another planet. I would NEVER be that old, I thought. It seemed that the person I had become was the person I would be from then on. Change comes on little cat feet, like fog.

Remember that Carl Sandburg poem? (The fog comes on little cat feet. It sits looking over harbor and city on silent haunches and then moves on.) That's the way the imperceptible change that brought me from young mother to old woman has been. Silent and invisible, touching my life and moving on. And now here I sit, pondering my Sunday morning post, and thinking about all those years and how I got here, where I am today.

I'm happy with my life, glad that I still have the ability to play on the earth, although there are many modifications I've had to make as the years go by. I can no longer run, since my knees won't take the pounding any more, but I did run for more than thirty years. I have learned to be more careful with my aging body, although I stretch myself to the limit, in order to find what that limit is in the present moment. Tomorrow it might be different, I know. But I don't live in tomorrow; I am alive and breathing right now. I'm not ready to fly away quite yet.

When I was a young woman, I was afraid of dying. Once I realized that life is fragile and there are no guarantees of any kind, I spent many nights thinking of the inevitable end of life, not knowing whether I would ever get the chance to grow old, or even if I would live through the night. And as I lost loved ones through illness and accident, I stopped concentrating on my own mortality. That fear  that came on little cat feet, looking at life on its silent haunches, moved on.

If you are still young, you may not yet realize how the passage of years can mellow a person. Although I am not looking forward to the end of my life, the fact that I've been blessed with so many good years, even decades, of a full life, has given me a breadth of understanding that I could not have even imagined at twenty. There is something about the simple fact of living that has changed my outlook and given me a sense of peace about the way things are.

I hear birds singing, and the dawn is coming earlier and earlier now. Spring is only a few weeks away, and the crocus and daffodils are making their way through the earth. The long winter is releasing its grip, and we begin the journey into summer. Observing the march of the seasons is one of my favorite pursuits, and it helps me to remember that although nothing stays the same forever, today and this moment is enough. In fact, it is really the only thing we have, this everlasting instant in time.


Anonymous said...

It's nice being 67 (my age), but it's even better being 70 (your age). I always find myself bemoaning the past, but these days I try to think of tomorrow. Look forward, don't look back. Of course, the trick is to anticipate something that will make you happy. I enjoy making plans and seeing them to fruition. You are on the right track, DJan. Blessings!

MissDazey said...

This is a wonderful article. Actually, just exactly what needed to read and reflect on today.

Linda, age 70 and a half... And counting!

Meryl Baer said...

Thoughtful, great post. I find looking forward to things - whether a dinner I am looking forward to preparing, a visit with the grandkids or old friends, or even an exercise class - makes life memorable, enjoyable and full.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, this is a truly lovely post, filled with great wisdom and an embrace of life and all it has to offer us as we age. Thank you for reminding me of just how good my life is because I have this moment in which to be grateful. Peace.

#1Nana said...

The sense of contentment comes through in this post. I, too, am much different, yet oddly the same as I was as a young person. Everyday a new awareness reveals itself to me ...perhaps I was too busy with life when I was younger to take the time to recognize all the wisdom that is there. Once again you've written a thought provoking post.

Friko said...

Positively Zen-like, your observations today.

It comes to all of us, this pondering and remembering and thinking back to good days and bad days.

The thing is to realise we can never do more than our best and that has to be good enough. I find I also need to learn to forgive myself and to be as kind to myself as I would be to others.

Wisdom comes with age, but only to those who are wise enough to recognise it. You are one who does.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I'm eight days from turning 70, and it's on my mind a lot. I'm glad to be alive and healthy, and I know a few things I need to do to amp up my energy after the broken leg and nasty flu wore me down. I'm taking two cues from you: being more active and structuring my day more than I have been. Thanks for being such a great role model!

Teresa Evangeline said...

The march of time...what a beautiful post, DJan. I'm so glad to be sharing this time on earth with you... you are such an inspiration to me...

Arkansas Patti said...

I really like how you continue to "stretch myself to the limit, in order to find what that limit is" Too often age intimidates us to impose untested limits that are well short of what we are capable. Thanks for reminding me to stretch.

Red said...

Your post rings a lot of bells with me. Physically we look much different. Our experience has given us much with which to make decisions. I often say I like to do my teaching over again with all the experience and knowledge I had when I finished.
We have to get comfortable in our own skin. I didn't find that until somewhere in my forties. We also have to come to accept our own end.

Sally Wessely said...

I guess we all think these same thoughts as we approach the age of 70. I am two years away. Like you, the changes came slowly in many ways. I love how you compared these changes to the poem by Frost.

I've aged considerably in the past two or three years. I am working hard at reversing that. Forward, always forward, becomes my mantra these days.

The Broad said...

In a little over two years I too shall reach the age of 70 (the good Lord willin' and the 'crick' don't rise!). I share so many of your thoughts through the decades and so appreciate you ability to express many of the thoughts running through my head these days. The astonishing thing about life is that we spend so much of it thinking we have all the time in the world -- and then 'boom' we are seventy and we feel hemmed in by not having enough of it...

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am getting farther on the Far Side of Fifty every year..one never knows when the last day will come..heck I thought I would croak before I was 50..and I am still here..for some reason. I have not been able to run since 1979..except in my dreams..then I can run like the wind:)

Buz said...

I like the way the NIV says it…

Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

O-town Ramblings said...

What a beautiful post. I'm two score and change into my life and really enjoy your perspective on aging and the progression of life. I know I've said this before, but you're an inspiration and a model to me, and the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

How you describe your youth and the way you are now is pretty much my path too except I had my first loss of family at age 10. And I see myself with my aslt and pepper hair and smile. I'm now where those oldies were years ago when I felt them to be ancient but I respected them.
My fear of death and leaving is not like yours. I have none. I see my death as a natural transition for I am a part of the nature that I adore.
However I feel bad having to leave sorrow as I pass. I wish we could just stop that grief in those who must wait their turn.
I wonder if we were to try a different approach to teaching and accepting death for what it is , could we spare some of the grief?

Lorna said...

This is so beautifully written. You write of something that I think of every day, now that I am 69. I'll be back to read more.