On the Occasion of My 60th Year

My goal is to inspire you to live a life aimed toward fulfillment so that when you let go of that last breath of life, it will be one of deep satisfaction.

From your first cry at birth the clock starts ticking. How many days, how many breaths, how many heartbeats we each get is an unknown. Your life begins, your story unfolds.

As a newborn, you’re a clean slate. Plump, juicy and exploding with life. Your needs are met, courtesy of your parents….. a home, love, food, water, a warm bed. Nature is nurtured and your journey begins.

As a teenager you seek acceptance and belonging, from your peers, teachers and parents. Hormones rage, stirring new feelings both exciting and confusing.

In your 20s you’re indestructible, fearless, overconfident and adventurous.You’ve claimed your own identity, separated from your parents. Self discovery is rich and promising.

In your 30s you’ve learned to support yourself, got a career, maybe had a family, maybe not. You are at a peak of energy and drive.

During your 40s, you start to feel that the body’s warranty has run out. You are mortal. You’re considered middle-aged and watch the younger generation emerge.

In your 50s that darn AARP card comes in the mail. You start to lose people you love, your parents, and friends. You begin to contemplate retirement…. can I? Some of us probably can’t. You start to lose some of your steam, your drive for success.

And on the occasion of turning 60, the shit hits the fan! You officially become a senior citizen. You realize you might have only 15-20 years left.

At this point you might feel fears creeping in, not enough money, failing health, no retirement funds. Maybe you have children who will take care of you, or maybe they won’t. Maybe you never had children.

You have regrets. You didn’t keep up with the piano, or singing, photography or quilting. You feel left behind as far as technology goes. You’re worried about the world. Maybe you feel invisible, or old and in the way.

These are all very real fears, and I believe we all experience some of these as we move from middle age to senior status.

I’m going to offer you an alternate vision, another possibility, a brighter ending to the final chapter of your story. I’m going to give you a simple technique to aim yourself toward fulfillment.

What’s the upside of this stage of life. You’ve gained a lot! You’ve had 6 decades of gaining insight, wisdom, skills, maturity, intuition. All of your experiences, whether they came easy or came hard have accumulated. You have cultivated a wealth of of expertise being yourself. You may not have that youthful fire, but you do have the goods.

So, what are you going to do for the rest of your life? You’re going to take all those fabulous attributes that are stashed inside you, dust them off, polish them up and put them to work.

Doing what?

Here’s the key. Aim yourself toward doing things you love. What are they? Sometimes it’s hard to see what is obvious. For example, it’s obvious that my friend Kathy loves art. She loves to see it, own it, share it, loan it out, give it away, and I know one of her fantasies is to have a gallery space in Santa Cruz devoted to local artists. Another friend, Terry, loves taking pictures of bugs. She doesn’t have to force herself to get out there with her camera. She can’t not do it. These are the things that feel natural. The ones you have true curiosity about. The things you can’t wait to get back to. They are the activities and interests that choose you! It doesn’t matter if they’re simple, sitting quietly in your garden or taking a delicious afternoon nap, or challenging, like playing an instrument, learning a language, traveling to distant shores. Aim yourself on a daily basis toward the activities, people, places and feelings that feed your soul.

For example, I’ll tell you my story and how I’ve attempted to follow this path myself. In my 30s, I noticed that there were a handful of interests that kept cycling through my life.

  1. Food (buying, cooking, baking, studying about, feeding people and enjoying!)
  2. Movement (practicing Tai Chi, going to the gym, walking daily, dancing)
  3. Making art
  4. Healthy living (becoming an acupuncturist, studying nutrition, living a balanced lifestyle)
  5. Family and friends
  6. Studying and teaching about any of the theses subjects.

Each interest cycles around every year and has a life of it’s own. I can’t force them to happen. There are months I can’t stay out of the kitchen, then there are months that I eat apples, almonds, avocados and toast (not really, but you get the point). I’ve learned to roll with these cycles and trust that they will keep coming around again. Allowing this natural flow to happen has enabled my creative interests to overlap and merge. At this point, I feel as if I have a golden thread that is quilting them all together. It’s satisfying and enriching.

The number of breaths and heartbeats we each have is truly a mystery. Our lives are all unique, and each one of us is the center of an amazing universe. Through each decade we are challenged, inspired, and changed. I implore you to aim yourself toward fulfillment. To feel for what ignites you. To notice and nourish what your gifts are and live them with gusto, so that when the time comes for you to release you last breath, to give up that last heart beat, it will be given with ultimate satisfaction.

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