I remember explicitly the day I turned 30. Even though that day has now, itself, been thirty years ago, it seems as though it occurred in the not-so-distant past.
I worked that day and did a business closing for a client who was buying an existing business from a not-so-nice seller. It was a hot, sunny August day and I was left in the office that afternoon tending to the transaction with the noticeably disagreeable person (who was not our client) while the partners in our area of the office played a late-summer round of golf. Those same golfing attorneys were treating me and my husband to dinner at their club that evening to celebrate my birthday. By the time dinnertime arrived I was, myself, in a noticeably disagreeable mood as I had allowed the events and personalities of the office to frustrate my special day. I had to apologize the next day for my surly behavior. Not the best way to celebrate the entrance into a new decade.
I’ve had a little “rhyme” for the decades of my life for quite a while. I have said:
At twenty I had no husband, no career and no children.
At thirty I had a great husband, a great career and no children.
At forty I had a great husband, no career and great children.
At fifty I had a great husband, a new career and great children.
I’ve wondered what sixty would bring. Still have the great husband. Still learning new things as our “new” career – (notice I said “our” because my husband and I have had to forge this new chapter together!) – changes with the way the business and technological world is rapidly changing. I’ve added a couple of sons-in-law and a wonderful little grandson to the previous, wonderful, “only female,” children category.
Life marches on – and except for March and April of this year – which languished for most of the world – life marches on expeditiously!
What have I learned in these intervening, speedily vanishing, thirty years (i.e three decades/almost a third of a century)? More than I would have ever imagined. More than I can even begin to remember. More that I could ever put in writing. More than I ever thought I would (at my “bright”, “self-sufficient,” thirty-year-old self) ever need to know or already didn’t know.
My sixty- year-old self realizes daily that I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did the days, weeks, months and years before. About anything – people, places, politics, problems, passions, personalities, priorities and religion – just to name a few.
Here is a mere taste of the bits of life that I, alas, need to continue to learn. And not just “learn” but barely realize; arrive of the dawn of some semblance of understanding; figure out I will never know or understand’ remain in the dark; or seek to merely grasp or barely comprehend along life’s journey. It is a profound blessing of life that we can each continue to grow and learn and perceive as the days, weeks, years, and yes, decades, fade away in the wake of our speedily dashing lives.
Let’s begin with some of the less heart-wrenching stuff:
♥A few months after we began dating, my husband and I interned during the summer at the same location – our state capitol building. On those early summer mornings I would drive to meet him at his apartment and we would walk a few blocks up the street toward the capitol to begin our workday.
For some reason, (I assume to be flirty) as we were walking hand in hand, he reached over and (lovingly, gently???) pinched me. Of course, I jumped. Now, there we were, dressed in our “professional” attire (how professional could poor college kids’ attire actually be?) and I was jumping like I’d been stung along the lovely promenade to the capitol. Since we were young and in love we thought this little “dance” was hilarious. It continued most every morning throughout the summer.
After we got married we continued to do some really dumb things for fun. Silly, dopey, harmless things – we would laugh at the ridiculousness of whatever we were doing. We played. We laughed. We had fun with our life together.
At some point, years later, after we had children, a house, a career – the things we all strive for – we realized we didn’t laugh or act silly much anymore. We had lost our penchant for spontaneity, silliness and fun and exchanged them for the “serious” strivings of life. In a nutshell, we had lost our joy. We were “successful” and busy and tired and boring.
What would my 60 year-old-self tell my 30 year-old self?
Don’t take yourself and life so seriously! Have fun! Be silly! Sing off key – the way most of us sing anyway. Lay on the grass and fly your kids like a plane. Laugh at yourself. Try to make funny jokes – and laugh even if no one else gets it. Dance – however you can – again, most of us aren’t too graceful and fail to really hear the beat. Wear a crazy hat. Play hide and seek. Swing. Slide. Swim. Hike. Take a walk. Do these things TOGETHER – whether or not there are children around. Sure – you will look and feel silly. But who cares? Let some of the “things that really count” or that “you really need to do” slip through your fingers to garner the time and energy you need to gather the things that bring great joy. Those more pressing things will still be waiting the next morning.
Life offers much stress, many serious moments and a wide cache of obligations and assignments. If we are not careful they steal our joy, overtake our fun and make us grim, somber and boring. Don’t let your “maturity” and success cause you to miss out on moments (many potentially embarrassing) of silliness – spontaneous, ridiculous, mirthful, gleeful, memorable twinklings of time that make us a little more fun to be around. You will also find that having a storehouse of joy and fun and seemingly “wasted” hours will enable you to better face the inevitable serious tasks and events of life. Joy gives a perspective that isn’t as easily sapped when life hits us hard. Joy gives us hope, strength and endurance for the missions we encounter along the way. Learn joy – your 60-year-old self will appreciate it!
Again, what would my 60-year-old self say to my 30-year-old self?
Lighten up! Laugh! Rediscover the simple joys of life. Stop being so serious and striving. You will enjoy life all the more and others will better enjoy you in their lives!
♥ Next little tidbit lesson – go ahead and enjoy whatever makes you sparkle! Translated – don’t be bound and confined to the styles, social requirements, and trends of the day!
Set your own course. Wear what makes you feel and look good (in your estimations – not everyone else’s!).
While I guess I’m now known for my red lipstick, when I was younger I wore both blush and lipstick in this one particular coral color. While I was probably in my mid-forties we were back in New Jersey for a visit and I thought I’d try to find this color again at the department store we were in. When the young girl at the make-up counter asked how she could help me and I explained my search for the coral she said – “Oh, we don’t carry that. That is a color that old people usually wear.” Yikes! I simply moved on. I eventually found the coral – I’m sure much to the chagrin of those who thought I was not of the right “era” to wear it.
At some point – (because those of you who know me know how much I love a little sparkle found in both glitter and broken glass on a parking lot in the moonlight) – I decided it made me happy to wear a bit of sparkly eye shadow no matter the time of day. A good friend also joined the fray and together we would wear the sparkly eye treatment, usually reserved for evening and black-tie events, on our neighborhood walks, to ballgames, even to the grocery store. Why not? – it made us happy – regardless of the mix-up in our special occasion make-up cues. As stay-at-home moms we could make any regular day a special occasion – at least as to our eyes. If I waited until a black-tie affair to enjoy this little, seemingly meaningless bit of fun, I might be waiting a long time between events.
Even through this pandemic when I’ve seldom left our neighborhood, I’ve worn red lipstick and usually somewhat large, sometimes sparkly, earrings nearly every day. I’m sure some people have rolled their eyes or thought I looked a little out of place. But it’s what makes me happy – and it doesn’t need to offend, impede or impact anyone else.
Lipstick and eyeshadow are simple little examples. We are sometimes so caught up in our homes, cars, clothes, activities, positions and affiliations that we lose our own sense of style and personality. I’m unique. You are unique. Each one of us is blessed to be created with our own special distinctiveness.
I just skimmed through a book cataloguing the wildflowers, plants, trees and other “growing” things in the Louisville, Kentucky parks designed by Frederick Olmsted. These parks are but a small snapshot of the vast variety of things that grow, bloom, bear fruit, provide shade and beauty and landscape our earth. Created by an immeasurable and unlimited mind of God as He spoke words to earth’s canvas, these are but plantings.
As individual persons, we are uniquely made in His image and we are each the unique work of that word He spoke into each of our beings. Differing and exceptional in each of our own looks, personalities, gifts, abilities, likes and dislikes, we should not try to push our square pegs into everyone else’s round holes.
So what would my 60-year-old self say to my 30-year-old self?
Celebrate and embrace my (YOUR) own style, my distinctive look and personality, abilities and limitations. They are the very essence of me – of who I am. Why would I want to be anyone else? And why would anyone else want to be me?
♥ Ok, those first two were somewhat easy. Now on to a couple of more difficult lessons.
Firstly, I’ve come to realize I need to know what I believe. While I need to think, promote and do, I also need to know why and on what basis I do so. Be it religious, political, social, interpersonal, hobby or work-related, I need to know the reasoning and the purpose. The point and the ramifications. I don’t need to jump on every bandwagon and promote every thought and fad just because it “sounds” or “feels” right or because everyone else is doing it, saying it, believing it, arguing it or promoting it. The “it” can be just about anything we want it to be.
When we were first married we began attending a church because it seemed like the right place to be. The pastor was young and friendly and we needed a place to call our church home. Within a few short months, this nice man made a statement about what he believed about the Bible that just sounded a bit “off” to us. We really didn’t know enough to define what the “off” was – but decided it would be best to not settle there. Now, many years later, I have read and studied and learned what the “off” actually was. I’m glad we had that intuition based on the little knowledge we had at the time to challenge our “settling.” We didn’t cause a stir or say anything – we didn’t cause any harm – we just moved on. That intuition has now become sound reasoning. But not without facts, study, wisdom and experience – not a mere “feeling.”
When I became a stay-at-home mom I still wanted to continue to learn, to contribute to the world as I then knew it. It was a new world to work, play and live within the boundaries of our home. So, I decided I would expound on my love of gardening. I also wanted to attract butterflies to our yard. So I read. I went to the local library and checked out dozens of books over the years – and since I had young children at the time – I mostly looked at the pictures and read as I could on the subject. Again, I’ve probably forgotten most of what I read or learned – but I didn’t just attempt to grow my knowledge on the subject by osmosis or complete trial and error. I formed a basis for my successes and failures in the garden.
Since I have dilly-dallied in writing this blog, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg has recently passed away. As a strong advocate for women, equal justice under the law and as a person who overcame much adversity in her life to arrive at her acclaimed status, she is to be honored and commended. She is to be admired for her contributions to our country, our jurisprudence, and our advancements as women in areas of our society historically dominated primarily by men.
Soon after her death was announced, I saw a Facebook post by someone who claimed to be “heartbroken” because of her death. Yet, the post actually called Justice Ginsberg by entirely the wrong last name. How heartbroken could this person have really been? She claimed via her post that her life would be forever changed. How would that be so? Had she ever read an opinion, decent or concurrence penned by this justice? Maybe – – – but I doubt it.
The point isn’t really about any person or place or position – the point is – do I really know why I believe what I do? Know the basis of the positions I take? Try to educate myself on what I want to try to do, try to achieve or choose to follow and advocate.
I have my own mind, my own opinion, my own thought processes – and those can get cluttered and confused enough on their own.
So what would my 60 year-old-self tell my 30 year-old-self?
Think for myself! Form my own beliefs and opinions based on what I actually know and discover and learn. Don’t jump to conclusions and on bandwagons just for the sake of fitting in with the crowd, the popular position of the time or my own “feelings.” I am independent and smart and strong! I can stand on my own; defend and advocate based on facts and truth as I learn and discover them; and I can do so without bending and waving with each change of the societal, political, religious or educational wind of the day.
♥Here are but a few additional quick thoughts – – – oh, these 30 year+++ lessons. My 60 year-old-self would say to my 30-year-old self:
◊ All of the bemoaning, belittling, bullying, brow-beating and belly-aching I have ever maneuvered and extolled have never changed the first heart or mind or made anyone see “my” opinion and position over theirs.
◊ My bad mood does nothing but throw a wet blanket over the entire family, function or fun (remember my 30th birthday dinner?). And at the end of the day I probably can’t even remember why I was in such a bad mood – but the day has passed and no one has enjoyed it. That is the memory. And now my memory of that day 30+ years later is that I had to apologize for my bad mood to people who were only trying to lovingly and generously help me celebrate my special day.
◊ There is this amazing verse in the book of Isaiah – Isaiah 58:12 – “Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (NIV) Wow – that is how I want someone to describe me – as a rebuilder, repairer, restorer – not one who tears down, or tears apart or tears away. I can sometimes do the latter with hardly a thought – just a quick word, look or deed.
◊ I want to daily see the generous and undeserved grace and mercies in my life that God so richly sheds down on me. Sometimes I miss them because they are hidden by the clouds of my own selfishness, self-righteousness, self-indulgence and self-reliance. I’m still learning.
◊ I shouldn’t be so easily hurt or insulted. I need to grow a thicker skin. As my daughters would say – – – “I shouldn’t get so butt-hurt about things! 🙂
◊ I want (I need) to forgive more readily and more completely. I needn’t say anything more.
I will spare you readers the hundreds of additional lessons I have learned, continue to learn, and am too “whatever” to maybe never learn.
♥ I will, however, leave you with this final lesson – it is one I’m still learning – because it is quite possibly the hardest lesson of all.
It is why I really remember that exact day I turned 30 so vividly.
I did not hear from my dad on that day. He did not call or write or attempt any communication at all. Because he was mad at me.
There are many, many layers of lessons in this. But it all began earlier that summer when I went home for a visit.
I was reading a borrowed, paper-back version of the lengthy book, Lonesome Dove. It was sitting on the end table in our family room. My dad sat a glass on the book and it began to condensate onto the book’s paper cover.
Instead of simply moving the glass, or moving the book, or a million other options that could have occurred, I simply had to say something about it. I had to lament that the glass had leaked a bit on the borrowed book. I had to call it to everyone’s attention. I had to make everyone understand my dad had done something “really” unacceptable.
Remember – this was before I was even 30. I thought I needed to say exactly what I thought, call out actions that I though needed to be corrected and make readily known things were not as they should be. I allowed this $5 book that I could have easily replaced, if necessary, with no problem whatsoever, to become my bully pulpit.
And my dad – – – stubborn, old-schooled and principled in his own way, took offense. Of course he did! Why wouldn’t he? And that quiet, silent offense lasted for months. Even after my thirtieth birthday.
My dad passed away about 20 years after this all took place. Gratefully and graciously all of the “offense” was in the past. But the lesson(s) continued to be learned.
So what would my 60-year-old self say to my 30-year-old self?
So much more in life matters than speaking aloud my thoughts, opinions, beliefs, positions and understandings. Even if I may be right and free to do so. Even if I feel a completely correct compulsion to do so.
I can do more damage and create more chasms by forcing my words (sometimes thoughtless, often even thoughtful) on others – known and unknown.
While I think I may understand things and situations in the moment because I believe I have correctly perceived the condition of the other party and have perfectly analyzed the circumstances – – – I am vastly limited in my knowledge and understanding into the lives of others.
I’ve learned (a tiny bit) to wait until I am asked to issue my self-ascribed spectacular opinion on something.
I know the more I know, the more I need to understand. And the more I understand, the more I need to know.
I’ve learned others listen to a word “fitly spoken” (Proverbs 25:11) more than my yammerings and clammerings about what I think, what is correct, what everyone else should think and do.
And yet, this hardest of lessons, continues to be one I have to learn and relearn with each passing day – much less decade. This lesson that has caused much hurt and heartache still needs to be refined every time I think I need to tell my side of the story or explain my thoughts, words or actions.
I’m hoping if and when I get to add a verse to my “age” rhyme at 70, I can add a line stating at 70 she understands there are still so many more lessons to learn. I hope I can have an open mind and heart to absorb the valuable lessons that continue to await me as I navigate the days ahead.
I’ll still hope to wear red lipstick and something that sparkles. I’ll try to be silly and fun. I’ll hope to be able to read and learn and discern.
I will daily seek to see the gracious hand of my sovereign God in my life.
I’ll continue to pray for wisdom and grace, joy and peace, love and forgiveness. I’ll seek to repair and restore and rebuild as necessary. I’ll strive to control my tongue and opinions – knowing that is only possible through the self-control fruited by the Holy Spirit.
One thing I have learned most of all – – – I should never say “I’ve learned,” or “I’ve arrived,” or “I’m always right.” I probably would have been apt to say those things at the ripe old know-it-all age of 30! At 60 I understand they are but the musings of youth and ignorance.
So what would my 60-year-old self say to my 30-year-old self?
Just simply, and silently, move the glass.