Monday, September 19, 2011

What I've learned on my way to becoming 87 years old

Last week I celebrated my 87th birthday with flowers, chocolates, nuts, cards -- lots of them, and especially people. What have I learned to this point? About ten years ago I made a list of my learning to that point. Here are my revisions and additions to that list:

10. I think I could live in a nudist camp. A few years ago I couldn't answer the phone unless I was fully clothed, even buttoned up. It felt absolutely obscene to answer the phone in less than the required minimum The change came when I went to water exercise classes. When I entered the dressing room I didn't know where to focus my eyes amid all the breasts, buttocks, buns, and bellies both freely and modestly displayed in all sizes, shapes, and colors as we women dressed and undressed. Most of my new friends had surgical scars up the front, down the side, across this vast expanse, up that narrow strip, under that flap. With time I could look at them in various stages of undress and calmly carry on a conversation about the best way to make macaroni salad without embarrassment. And now I even answer the phone in the all-together if someone phones just before I plan to jump into the shower.

9. You don't need to forward an email to five addresses even if the sender says the boogeyman will get you if you don't. Believe me, you don't have to read all the stuff sent your way, and if you worry about having deleted that wonderful joke, forget it. It will come back to you again, and again, and again.

8. Under the skin, Mennonites (all stripes), Methodists (all stripes), and Baptists (all stripes) and even Catholics (one stripe) are pretty much alike. I know. I've mixed with all kinds. Also all the other denominations. I haven't found that any of them bite.

7. If after you've read the first chapter of a book and it is boring or doesn't make sense, feel free to drop it. Let someone else plow through it or simply keep it on their bookshelf to add the aura of erudition to their home.

6. Even if I'm on a "Do not call" list, solicitors still call to tell me I have won the lottery or some such big prize if I donate money to their cause. I've learned it's okay to hang up. Machines have no feelings.

5. I've learned it's important to stop and grieve over losses, even something as small as a file misplaced in the boxes around me. I hear again and again about "getting on with one's life" after the loss of a family member or other tragic event. At times it is necessary not to get on with one's life and stop to mourn the loss of a body function-- or a relationship. And then start moving.

4. It is important to face the day running, or stumbling, or with the help of a walker if need be. Face the day and it won't stare you down.

3. An assignment to write an article still gets my creative juices flowing. And my mind active.

2. Once you get into the swing of getting rid of stuff (on shelves, in boxes, in closets), it gets easier and easier. When we finally leave all our stuff and get stuffed into a long narrow box, whatever happens to our stuff won't matter. I've learned to carry one thing out every time I bring something in.

1. Each birthday, especially in the eighth decade of life, forces an admission of human limitations, but also an increasing awareness of God's unfailing grace. This time of life has its glories just like any other. Faith forms faith.

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