Life in my 50s: the final frontier

September 26, 2021 | Life in My 50s

Today I begin the first day of my last year in my 50s. Feels significant in some inexplicable way. I guess all the birthdays become significant, or more significant, as we age. I woke up this morning with my usual aches and pains in hips and knees and lower back, with eye issues that have become chronic, and the ability to jump out of bed becoming a distant memory, and yet I thought: I’m breathing. I woke up to see another day, another year, another birthday, and for that I am grateful. At one point this morning I remember thinking: I am now 12 years past my mother’s age when she died. Trust me, that is no small thing. And most people who have lost a parent too young totally get that.

Back when I was in my 40s, I remember waiting for, longing for some magic moment when wisdom would descend upon me as if in a visible way from above. I don’t know if I expected a dove to alight upon my head à la the disciples at Pentecost, but I was definitely expecting something monumental and obvious. Turns out wisdom is a slow burn, and when we’re not looking — if we’re paying attention to our inner life — it is there beneath the surface doing the difficult and critical work of chiseling away at the world’s expectations and demands to reveal the True Self sculpture that may have been locked in marble our entire lives. Like Michelangelo freeing David from the confines of stone, we eventually find ourselves standing there, naked before the world (in a figurative way, of course) and completely at ease with it. No, not just at ease with it. More than that. There is awe and joy, celebration and freedom all wrapped up in the revelation of who we really are once we are ready to be unleashed, untethered.

Although I do feel old thanks to some physical decline that just can’t be helped once you get to a certain age, I fully expect — God willing — that there is an entire new chapter waiting around the bend. I can sense it, taste it, see it just beyond my grasp. It may take me a little bit to get the current me into the the spot I can see up ahead, but it’s there, beckoning me to spread my wings a little wider, take the leap, learn the things, go to the next place I am called to go into to become more fully the person I was meant to be.

As I round out this decade and prepare for the next — if I’m given that opportunity — I hope to become even more Mary than I’ve ever been. You’ve been warned. More writing, more meditation, more yoga, more retreats, more spiritual direction, more speaking truth to power, more travel, more learning, more cooking, more dancing, more singing, more creating, more exploring, more dreaming, more, more, more. To paraphrase Mary Oliver, I have no intention of “breathing just a little and calling it a life.” Full breaths until my full stop.

I found this song today, when I was creating the playlist for the Birthday Gentle yoga class I taught this morning. It spoke to me, so I thought I’d share. If you’d like to listen to my full Spotify playlist, you can find it at Another Trip Around the Sun #59. Onward!


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