The fog enshrouded woods outside my window brings a melancholy reminder of my own mortality. I respond by drawing the drapes and sitting in front of the fire, mug in hand, staring out past the empty porch swing where I spent most summer evenings. The wintery day calls for reflection.
People my age complain that life has passed too quickly, but I don’t agree. That’s what I’m thinking about today—how full the years have been. No speeding flight, it’s taken me a lifetime to arrive. I recall past decades by their main accomplishments—the twenties, mothering years of little sleep, trying to fit the responsibilities of Mate, Mother and Material Girl into Career and Spiritual Life—in that order, I confess.
The thirties were more of the same, except that Mother took precedence over Mate. My husband was a periphery object I fitted in when our schedules and inclinations allowed. “Living single” is a phrase that comes to mind. I read a lot of romance novels and wondered where mine had gone.
In my forties I began a preoccupation with health and body issues. My weight started to climb. Mammograms and root canals entered my vernacular. For the first time I felt my life had reached a plateau—mid-life—and the rest would be down hill. I doubled my efforts. In came the gym, hair color, daily walks, self-awareness groups, massage sessions.
The fifties surprised me—a renaissance of physical and emotional energy driven by pheromones and testosterone bloom that created in me a fearless and productive period of writing. I wrote two memoirs, including Ordinary Aphrodite, my boomer woman’s journey of small steps. I will be forever grateful for the surge of energy that produced this work.
My sixties are a surprise, too. At forty I thought the party would be over by now. I’m grateful that it’s not. My husband still looks at me “that way.” We tackle projects that would probably kill off younger people—including this past year, three months of tearing out and burning blackberries, taking down old fences and restringing new ones along half of our ten acres. We cleaned up a can and bottle dump in a ravine and filled it with dirt.
We travel and explore and hike to the end of the road and back.
But there was a moment last year. One of our Dexter calves, a 250-pounder, broke into the garden and managed to impale its horn nubs in a deer basket from one of the roses. We penned it and roped it, and soon it was whipping us around the pasture, spewing snot and foaming with thirst. We managed to free it without harm to calf or human, but it was a moment if reckoning. Time to rethink my priorities.
So here I am, contemplating my life. So much left to do, so little time. This morning I signed a publishing contract for a historical western novel I penned over the last three years. I will serve as President Elect of Women Writing the West next year. I bought my Christmas gifts in local shops this year, cut a Christmas tree from our woodlot. I sport a really bad haircut from a new stylist who didn’t notice the shape of my Norwegian blockhead and I hardly even care. It will grow out and we’ll try again in a few months. No worries. (Wish I could have said that in my forties.)
So the fire crackles (actually, it pings. It’s a pellet stove.) The mug grows tepid. I find myself grateful for everything—the past and what is yet to come. And this surprises me because at thirty, I would have expected to be sad. Instead, I’m sort of sad about my thirties.
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