I recently read about the Piraha, a small tribe of hunter gatherers who live on a remote tributary of the Amazon in northwestern Brazil. Their language is one of the simplest known, consisting of 3 vowels and 8 consonant sounds. Their counting system is just as uncomplicated: one, two, many. It is further said they speak and live only in the present tense, this present time. Sounds refreshing, doesn’t it? It made me think of a few of my first grade math students. They must have been cut from the same rainforest water lily pads. When I asked them to count to 100, a very important benchmark on their very important permanent record, a clever few would grin and look up with their sweet, bright eyes and say, “One, two, skip a few, 99, 100!” We all got a big charge out of that. But then I made them count anyway. I was on the payroll, after all….
Alas, I find I live in a world filled with numbers. An infinite number of them, I am told. And I just had a big number change. On June 1st my life odometer rolled over to 70. I love the poetry of saying “I am many years old” but that just doesn’t seem to cut it. Any 6-year-old knows there are an awful lot of numbers between 1 and 70 and it takes a long time to say them. Victor Hugo wrote, “40 is the old age of youth. 50 is the youth of old age.” Looks like I’m certifiably old. Yep — I’m and old lady now and definitely heading for the barn. It has taken me an awful long time to reach this number. It feels and seems like such a serious and solemn number I thought it would be right and proper to mark it with a written testimony of sorts. A “what I’ve learned” kind of list.
So here goes:
1. This world is more wonderful and more terrible than anyone could ever know, imagine, or understand. Love will always win, though. In the meantime, try to nap when you can.
2. As a species we are hard wired to fight back, get even, have the last word, and feel better about ourselves at all costs. Whatever situation you find yourself in, please try to think of something better to do.
3. Sadly, at 70 one’s décolletage resembles foccacia bread sprinked with roasted garlic and too many poppy seeds. It’s not your fault. It’s just what happens when you live this long and have spent too much time working in the sun. But no matter WHAT the salesgirl says about that lowcut cocktail dress you just tried on, keep shopping.
4. Coconut oil is your very best friend. Eat it. Cook with it. Rub it in your hair. Cover your body with it after a hot bath. You will look like a Japanese sumo wrestler but sleep like a baby. Your husband will remark it’s like sleeping with an Almond Joy. There are worse things.
5. It’s said one of the strange things about humans is that we know we are going to die, but we don’t believe it! So true. You will not live forever — at least, not in your present form. So notice and savor each moment and each relationship. Your loved ones and your very best friend won’t live forever either, and as Nora Ephron so succinctly pointed out, these people are irreplaceable. When they leave you, you will never get over it. But with time, you will get used to it.
6. There is “having sex” and there is “making love.” Choose love. And sometimes you can make love with a simple look, a loving touch, folding the laundry, or refilling your darling’s coffee cup without even being asked.
7. When you’re 70 your toes get wonky and crooked from holding onto the earth for so long. Get a pedicure and show them off to the world. Thank them, too. They have served you well!
8. The worst 4 letter word in the world is FEAR. Frisk your thoughts and you’ll always find the horrid ones that keep you up at night or make you feel just awful about yourself always have FEAR at their nasty nougat center. Don’t chew on that stuff. Spit it out.
9. There is ALWAYS something to celebrate. Wearing a party hat can really add to the celebration — even a “celebration of life.”
10. Warm oatmeal topped with heavy cream, real maple syrup, and fresh blueberries is love in a bowl. Serve often. While eating making yummy noises is entirely appropriate.
11. Listen to children. Listen hard. Love them unconditionally.
12. It’s okay to cry at weddings, funerals, the opera, at church, upon reading an especially moving piece of writing, when you eat a particularly wonderful meal, when a loved one leaves, and again when he or she returns. Tears come when you run out of words. With tears you are speaking from your heart and soul — the ultimate eloquence.
13. My mother always told me, “It hurts to be beautiful.” And she was right! Those tweezers, perms, overnight curlers, pointy-toed high heels, cinched waists, girdles, and garter belts were a misery to endure! Life has taught me, however, it hurts more to be beautiful inside. It’s an endless work of the heart. But it will give you true beauty.
14. Everyone would like to get a long, loving letter. Write one.
15. At this age I find I have time to sit still and have a conversation with a flower. Give it a try.
16. You know, someone else can cook the Thanksgiving turkey and that will be just fine.
17. My body was never perfect and I spent far too many years being ashamed of it. Mea culpa! How faithful it has been. It has taken me on so many wonderful adventures. It has given me so much pleasure. My wrinkles, scars, bulges, and spider veins tell such beautiful life stories. I am grateful.
18. Babies really are complete and utter miracles.
19. If you want to know what real love looks like, get a dog.
20. Spiders, snakes, and possums are just trying to make a living. Be kind. Catch and release, if necessary.
21. Difficult, lazy, self centered people are a gift. There are also everywhere. But rejoice! They give us a chance to learn and practice patience, perseverance, and forgiveness. Where would we be without them? They make US better.
22. We come from love and we are going back to love. The world is just illusion with a very loud and disturbing soundtrack. Amid the tumult, listen hard for your own real voice and the silent loving voice of God. You are her special favorite, you know.
23. Jesus told us to love our neighbor as ourselves. One writer pointed out most of us are doing just that — most of us pretty much hate ourselves. Knock that shit off.
24. Love love love! You’ll never go wrong. Start with yourself.
25. Time will INDEED tell.
26. God/Spirit/Love always answers your prayer. It may be YES, NO, or CALL WAITING. Therefore, pray often and all ways. It may not change the outcome or the situation, but it will change you. And THAT will change the world.
27. Some people have a bucket list. My husband Steve jokes he has a Fuck It list. I don’t have any list at all. I just want to finish well, whatever that looks like. I have a feeling it looks like love.
Happy birthday my dears! See you at the barn!