After the birthday celebration, it’s time to face reality.
The flowers, cards, dinners, phone calls, and balloons are gone. All were lovely acknowledgments of my birthday. My 70th birthday.
Seventy, I say the number to myself as I try to become familiar with it. As I put it on as the new number which I now must identify as my age. The number that I will at times be easily categorized by, right or wrong. No way around it. I am 70.
We celebrate transitions. Birthdays, marriages, births, retirements. We have gatherings for transitions from life. Funerals, memorials, wakes.
The parties and celebrations bring us together. We acknowledge each other and our personal anniversaries.
And then the parties stop. The flowers wilt. The cards get put away. The balloons begin their descent from the heights.
Everyone leaves the gathering and goes home.
We are alone once more. To face whatever the new circumstances are.
I face 70. I face being an elder and the changes that this brings. I face all the changes that I already see, already feel.
And for a while, I think that I will feel a bit adrift and lost. Lost as I navigate this new terrain. Adrift as I feel a lack of direction and purpose as I used to define it in my younger days.
I recently had carpal tunnel surgery and am still recovering from that. I have had to modify some of my activities as I slowly continue to heal. Having been instructed to be careful not to lift too much weight, I have been somewhat less active than usual. I know that this adds to my sense of things being different right now.
I have been a bit quieter as of late, staying indoors, even more intentionally alone than usual. Being more still. More pensive. A bit depressed as well, perhaps. All part of the journey, I think.
Feeling the reality of this new number that I now have to claim as my age. Wondering if that also will involve claiming a different sense of self. A different perspective. A new reality.
I am still the same self that I was, and yet I must also acknowledge the passing of time and the things that this brings. Things that sometimes feel like a curse, other times like a precious gift. Same coin, different sides. The bittersweetness of aging, of life.
I feel lost, adrift, alone, anxious, sad, and overwhelmed at times. So many feelings. So many.
I will keep moving through this. One day at a time. One breath at a time.
Today I will go to the gym. To begin working out again, as my hand allows. And to be around a group of people that have become one of my chosen families. I need to feel their presence around me. I need to feel part of them again. And I need to physically move my body more. To fully inhabit this physical body and nourish and take care of it, as it has done for me for all of these years.
I will start deciding what my next painting will be. This is one way that I will continue to express that part of me. Painting parts of myself onto the canvas. Acknowledging that creative piece of me that I now have more time to express.
I will continue writing, to be part of this group of writers, also a chosen family that I am grateful to have. Writing about my experience of this life, naming it, giving it words. This helps me navigate it more.
I will continue to sort through all the things in my house that it is time to let go of. Declutter my house. Lighten the load. Consciously letting go of things is a new part of this whole time in life. A time of letting go. Traveling lighter. Paring down to what feels most precious and important. Until it is time to let go of that as well.
I will go to my volunteer shift at our local zoo. Continuing to grieve the dear elephant that was recently euthanized, and being there with those elephants that remain, who are also grieving, I know. And being with the staff there who is also still deep in grief. We comfort each other, together.
I will attend the annual zoo volunteer appreciation dinner this weekend. To be with this other chosen family. Grateful for them and for all of my chosen families.
I was recently contacted by a long lost cousin. What a delightful surprise to be able to talk with her and my uncle (a cousin, actually, but we always called him Uncle Joe). It’s a part of my life that has needed some sense of continuity. And here it came. What a lovely gift from the Universe. As if to add some healing to this part of my past as well.
This process of healing parts of my past feel even more important as I age. I am grateful for people who remember parts of my past, who hold a piece of my personal history. I have been missing that.
Life goes on. Gatherings, celebrations and parties continue.
Do I feel like celebrating and partying right now? No.
Do I need to be around and connect with these others in my life? Yes.
And so I go on. Living. Participating.
Quietly nodding to the passage of time and all of the changes. While I do the best that I can, still being alive. Still able to write, paint, move, laugh, and love. Grateful for it all.