I am 60. I am 60. I hear that over and over in my head. I envision a circle of people, acknowledging they have a problem, and then I realize my only problem is that I have a problem being 60, not that I am 60.
I’m healthy, so any issues I have about turning 60 are emotional, and really, given our current situation, I need to get over it. But I never just “get over” anything. I need to make sense of it.
I’ve been reconciling advancing in age with every birthday since about the age of 50. For the last ten years I am more anxious about the things I haven’t yet accomplished. Write a book, start a non profit for people who suddenly find themselves single who don’t have family to hold them up, host a fundraising dance party where I get to choose all the music. Hike in France, dine in Italy, where my daughter couldn’t find the words to describe its freshness, and where Phil from “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having” describes local food culture that inspires me to work hard so one day my ship will come in, and deliver me to the gelato shop he featured.
Age is not just a number, any more than money is just a number. I avoided the topic of “60” as long as I could. Now, it’s not just about “running out of time,” but the wrinkles in my hands, neck, and face remind me, no, yell at me, that the truth of my age will no longer be ignored. April 16th approached. And now the COVID virus has joined me in my emotional journey.
One minute I’m grateful for the silver linings that this experience affords us, and the next minute I feel like Christmas is tomorrow and I haven’t purchased one gift, and all the stores are closed. From “Embrace and relax.” to “Get yoself out of bed and get to it. You’ve got a gelato shop in Italy to visit!”
I understand Paul, the epitome of flesh and spirit, a living example of the struggles within.
Like a cold that doesn’t leave me bedridden, yet has me constantly reaching for the tissue, I am working on this issue. Monday was my “birthday week,” which meant it was time to get serious about this project: my turning 60 emotions.
Monday started with a bike ride. It was a cool spring morning with a bright blue sky behind bursting buds of pink and white. I pedaled up a familiar path, out of the “saddle” (feeling like an imposter using cyclist language). My route wasn’t pre-planned, but I’d vowed to ride twelve miles. I titled my ride: BYE BYE CREAM STUFFED PASTRY AND CREAM PIE, in honor of the two Easter meals provided to me by my friend.
I’ve lived in this part of town for twenty years, so I’m comfortable navigating my way around. I take in the spring colors popping up in manicured lawns and the smell of fresh bark dust. So, my ride will be familiar. I can relax and focus on the traffic and my path, watching for obstacles that could disrupt a very good experience.
I begin my conversation with God. In this moment I want to talk to him about being 60. I begin by acknowledging what is good in my life. My bike that continues to operate, has yet to fail me, and that I am 60 and riding it (even up off the saddle) is reason to thank him.
Gratitude overcomes me, and the route transforms from slightly mundane to glorious. I am capable, I am able, I am healthy. I am grateful for this body, this bike, this community, and for the plain good fortune of experiencing “this,” when so many are suffering and so much is at stake.
After gratitude come my pleas to God. Pleas for my children, pleas for friends, for my Valentine’s Day relationship, pleas for our president, my church staff, and our world, pleas for overcoming the learning curve in my business, and pleas for success in my business. In the midst of praying for one dear friend, I look to my right to see the word VICTORY. It’s among other Nike shrine like buildings that are emerging on Nike Land. A weird sense of warmth towards Nike envelops me, and I thank God, and Nike for this encouragement.
Gratitude is a popular (and necessary) strategy for overcoming emotions that can send us down an ugly rabbit hole. We are instructed to use it faithfully.
But for me, before gratitude, is God. He opens my eyes and expands my heart. He’s a light that exposes what we already know to be true, but forget when the clouds dim our view.
John 1: 5 says, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Referring to Jesus.
In my efforts to reconcile what I am losing, I forget what I have. What I have gets lost, and what I don’t have emerges and somehow gets preferential treatment. But my communion with God exposes what is true. Sometimes that is my own greed or vanity. And in that truth, I can see more clearly what is right before me, on this day, in this moment, and discover the beautiful perspective that empowers me for another day, another person, another purpose.
God + Gratitude = Beautiful Perspective.
Here’s to “Getting Over It.”