My birthday was a couple of weeks ago. I am now 58 years old. I find this quite amazing, being a child of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the home fallout shelter craze, and weekly “duck-and-cover” drills in the hallway of my elementary school. I live in a perpetual state of surprise that any of us are still alive on this planet.
I am also confused about what demographic I now belong to. I can’t consider 58 to be middle-aged. There’s not too many 116 year-olds wandering around my part of the world. So I guess that I am a young “old-person”. Not that it really matters. Music doesn’t care how old you are. Neither do dogs, or gardens. And now that I’ve met and know so many incredible, wonderful women in this new club that I find myself a member of, “old” looks to be a pretty interesting place. There’s way more fun to be had than I ever considered from the vantage point of a “young” person. The territory may be a bit more hazardous than I’m used to, or perhaps it’s just hazardous in a different way.
Fifty-eight is one of those awkward middle decade birthdays. No big sense of accomplishment comes with it. It’s nothing like turning 50. On my 50th birthday, I felt a sense, however delusional, that I had arrived at some milestone of age and wisdom that would make subsequent years seem quite tranquil in comparison to the preceding 50. HAH! Was I ever wrong! For one thing, at 50 I’d not started the harp – that would be another two years away – and all the changes the harp would create were not yet imagined. But even without harp stuff, the last eight years have repeatedly demonstrated that while yes, the tidal floods that overwash my life are somewhat less intense, and I swim much better now, the moon still exerts her same pull on the water, which rises and falls with the same pre-50 regularity.
And from these repeated swims (or near drownings, depending on the changing perspective that time and distance allow) the last eight years have taught me truths that I could not have considered or believed at 50. Here is what I know today: Don’t wait for joy. Say “yes” to as much as I can, unless I know in my heart and in my bones to say “no”. Don’t hold back speaking my truth. Ask for what I want and what I need, and then go out there, or go inside myself, and find it. Be as kind as I possibly can, as much of the time as I can. Tell people that I love them. Tell people that I appreciate them making my life richer and fuller. Go after adventures – and everything is one. Kiss all the dogs I meet. Being scared won’t kill me, but being afraid to live will. Cry whenever my heart is touched (like I could stop it?) and be grateful that my heart is tender enough and open enough to be touched. Whoever or whatever God is, she/he/it wants us to notice and appreciate and love and be grateful and give thanks for and enjoy all this, her/his/its creations. There are people to enjoy and laugh with and connect to everywhere in this world. A cup of tea in a village pub on a rainy Irish afternoon cures loneliness. Something of people I’ve loved survives their bodily death, at least for a while. Dreams do come true, given a clear vision and doing the footwork. You can start over and do something totally new and different as many times as you want. There’s no rulebook, but kindness and gratitude can guide me through anything. I can always change my mind. If I am joyful, I am listening to my heart. Lots of perseverance and consistent work combined with little natural ability gets one a lot farther along than does little perseverance and work combined with little natural ability. Showing up is the right first step for most things. I don’t have to know where I’m going – I just have to pay attention to the scenery and enjoy the ride. Both sides of the Atlantic Ocean are beautiful. Losing my dog breaks my heart, and inviting a new dog into my life fills my heart up again. I’m not too old to fall in love. Farmers and musicians are some of the best people I know. It’s non-negotiable in this lifetime – I have to write, whether or not anybody ever reads anything. Music is what I’m supposed to be doing. Gabriel’s Oboe is good medicine for grief and a broken heart. Everything is a miracle and a wonder. I rarely know what I’m capable of, so don’t assume that I can’t and don’t count out any possibility. Say yes, say yes, say yes.