Monday, December 14, 2009

A Day (almost) like Any Other

Last night I went outside with my dog. The light under the deck was shining on me in a way that cast a shadow against a tree on the slope of our hill. It made me look twelve-feet tall.

Two days ago I turned sixty. I tried to make it a day like any other, a typical Saturday beginning with a Pilates class. There is a core of women I've grown fond of at the gym. We do Pilates together. We talk about our grown children (and grandchildren). Today, though, we talked about what it means to be sixty. Don't go gray, said one of them. It sucks the color from your face. What are you doing to celebrate? asked another. No party, I said. Some close friends and family would gather at my home. We would make a meal together, drink some wine.

I thought I was clever in marking other decades, with big parties at twenty-nine, thirty-nine, forty-nine. When fifty-nine rolled around, I could not muster the 'dance-the-night-away spirit.' The years pass quickly enough; sixty would be here in the wink of an eye. Try as I might to talk myself into not making too much of it, there is something about turning sixty (without trying to color it as the new forty) that begs honoring, if not out-and-out celebration.

A week before the big day I was riding a wave of buoyancy. Years of doing yoga have given me a particular frame of reference for understanding that everything comes, in its time. I am nothing if not a warrior, but even warriors know that effort needs to give way to grace. There is lightness (do I daresay light?) in some of my poses. If this is what it means to be sixty, I'll take it. Another wave sends me crashing down, into the grip of an unsettling deflation: the dentist finds a red spot on my gum (nothing suspicious but let's have a look in a week); the dermatologist says not to worry about the keratosis (but we'll have to treat it); the gynecologist does her best to reassure me that Vagifem is safe (but for how long?).

In one of Jon Kabat-Zinn's meditation tapes, he uses the lake as symbol for a deep resource of clarity. There may be turbulence on the surface, but with mindfulness and attention, it is possible to access the clarity beneath. In my own moments of clarity, I can see those swings of buoyancy and deflation as nothing more than part of a whole. Some days are simply better than others. Some years, markers that they are of past and future, loss and gain, are as bitter as they are sweet.

by Jane Hirschfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs – all this resinous, unretractable earth.