Can I take it all in?

My 60th birthday has been quite a season.

I thought a lot about what it would mean. To be 60! Kicking off the fourth quarter. It’s felt momentous. Of course that quarter could last a day or 20 years, or go into overtime, but there’s something different about being toward the end, rather than smack in the middle, or at the start.

It’s not that I’m eager to become “old,” whatever that means, but I’ve felt compelled to take stock. Look around. Try to accept the changes in body and mind that let me know I’m no longer 40, or 20, or 10. I feel different. I have to be a bit more careful; 3 stitches proved that I can no longer saunter down stairs in my socks, with my hands full and my mind on something else. Hold the railing, people, being in the ER for falling down is embarrassing! And brain fog can bring on flashes of terror that I’ll follow dad into dementia, but of course many of us at this age can’t call to mind the name for that widget thingie that you… Oh never mind, just trust me. I’ll remember late tonight, and let you know.

But time is powerful medicine too. Heals all wounds, etc etc. There is power in forgetting too.

Here’s my favorite passage from a book this year, from Ann Patchett’s Tom Lake:

There is no explaining this simple truth about life: you will forget much of it. The painful things you were certain you’d never be able to let go? Now you’re not entirely sure when they happened, while the thrilling parts, the heart-stopping joys, splintered and scattered and became something else. Memories are then replaced by different joys and larger sorrows, and unbelievably, those things get knocked aside as well, until one morning you’re picking cherries with your three grown daughters and your husband goes by on the Gator and you are positive that this is all you’ve ever wanted in the world.

Ann Patchett

The gift of not caring that much about all my humiliating mistakes, omissions, bad judgment calls, or best victories.

But what is still there, still fully present after many years, is the love.

This has come back to me as I’ve spent time with friends during my 60 season. At my darkest moments, I can fear that nothing I’ve done has made a difference. But being with people I’ve known for years, and that seems ridiculous. We’ve all made such a difference to each other. The difference.

People tend to toast you when you’re 60, if you let them. I wasn’t sure I would, but I let them. And tried to let it all in. So many laughs. So much appreciation and wonder. Telling my kids about my younger self (one of them was quite impressed that i “used to have fun.”) All the connections and collaborations and struggles that make up a life.

All that happened? Yes, it did. And the love from it is as strong and present as ever, for those who are gone, for those still here. Almost too much, but I do my best to face it and embrace it, because I’m so grateful to still be here, and have the people in my life that I have, past and present. What a ride.

Stay tuned, Quarter 4 might have some big thrills!