Today, to my delight and hysterics I learned that I am one year younger. “Wow, you mean I am only 57, not 58,” I said to my cousin Anthea. I so believed that I was in 58 that whilst at the doctor’s office recently I actually corrected their form and crossed out the 57 and made it 58. You would think that I would have caught myself there — but no.
Now, I generally regard myself as good with numbers but this number, of all numbers, I got totally wrong. Best part — it was one year in my favor. It is not every day that you get that bonus, like extra miles added to your travel account for spending more during the month than you should have. In any case, I got to thinking about all the bonus things I would get to enjoy in this extra year of my life. I am feeling giddy, like I cheated the grim reaper out of something. OK, that might be a bit morbid.
Bottom line, I clearly don’t obsess about my age. I look in the mirror and see changes. I buy new, bigger clothes because I know I am never, ever going to fit into a size 8 again. I pay more attention to things that can increase my longevity, and that’s not necessarily my good looks. To live healthier for longer but never to mourn the loss of youth, that would be abandoning the gifts that age and maturity bestow upon me.
I actually feel more grounded most of the time, except for the occasional call out to the universe: “What’s my purpose, what’s my calling — please show me the way.” I tap into the wisdom I have gathered, and I feel being a good mother includes sharing this with my daughter. She might not take it in at the time but, like many things, I think it will seep into her and at the right time, it will emerge out of her as a clue or intuition that will help her in her life. At least this is how it is with me and my mother. She is as knowing and wise as they come and the older I get the more I reach out to her. She has lived through so much: five kids, a marriage, losing my dad early, the loss of a granddaughter and a son, her own illness. It’s been a rich and all-encompassing life that has touched her in many ways. These experiences shaped her and continue to do so. They inform her attitude and, yes, even at 89 years of age, how she parents. It never stops, thank God.
I pay more attention to my mistakes and actions, the things I regret having done or said, my stuck and rigid patterns and emotions that keep me from moving forward. They are still there but I think I have more of the tools needed to accept myself, process them and make a change. In middle age I am trying to be bigger, go deeper and evolve. It’s so important to being satisfied with the life you’re living. I try and live more and more in the present, it is all we have — everyone knows it — but it’s a conscious choice and, like most, I can fall off the wagon sometimes. I climb back up when I am ready and look around and take stock of my life and blessings. I think that I got it, this time I won’t fall off the wagon again, but I will.
Middle age is a rich time of life, though. If you are really in it, you believe it is imperative that you move in the direction of your soul’s wholeness. Hearing and responding to the inner voice that says there is something more that you must do, do the work, stay open and God will guide you, that you don’t have to worry about the details. When we are flowing down the river toward our destiny all the boulders and obstacles will be removed. I tell myself, “Don’t worry about the details, not everything is in your control, you need only move toward that voice because it’s coming from deep inside — that place of your soul’s knowing and from God.” At least I believe this to be true.
To be honest, I haven’t always felt like this — I had my years of angst. There were the years of longing for my true love, and then I found him.
The longing for a child, until I had my daughter Anna.
There were the years of wanting to amass more stuff, until I had more than enough and started ridding myself of it all because it just clogged my life and weighed me down.
Like most middle-aged women, I started to hear this voice inside myself say, “What is it that I long for now, what are my passions, how can I contribute to the world and how big or small can I help to lessen the suffering of another person, the animals, Mother Earth?”
It is an awakening that sometimes involves heartache in order for growth to happen. Most often the hard times in life are the ones that help us grow and change. These times require us to get real, go deeper and ask the questions and pray for the answers. Those who ignore the signs and voice usually pay a price later on. It could come out as anger, depression, feeling lost of purposeless or, worse, getting sick. Change is not pretty or easy. In my own journey I have endured a separation from my husband for close to two years until we grew back together and cemented the fracture in our foundation and built a mountain for a home. When my brother Tom died, I wailed like an animal in pain over the loss of the sibling who I could never quite reach. Perhaps he was some sacred Buddha logged deep in the cave? I guess I will never know now but no matter where he is, he is still my brother and we are eternally connected. Death is not the end, and in the end it is only love that matters. I had friendships end. They just reached their conclusion because there was no more to gain. The work was done, the experiences shared, some growth occurred and that was all. In the end we said all we needed to say, and on an energetic level we moved away and on with our journeys. Another death.
All of this was part of the plan. I don’t question that, but it doesn’t mean that they weren’t deaths. It was a time in my life that caused me to turn inward and even now causes me to retreat inward often. I cocooned like a caterpillar, but I feel like I am emerging as the butterfly, my own transformation. We all can and should go through this several times during our life. How else can we evolve and change? It’s an essential aspect of being human and living “holy.” When I allowed myself that time to grieve and let go, I was then able to open up to the new garden that awaited me and still does. Imagine that butterfly emerging from the cocoon. All that incubation and transformation while being still and confined was essential to it emerging to a wondrous new life and garden.
I probably wasn’t unique when I held on to the bare essentials of my life and let go of the rest and let God, the universe, Jesus, Allah or whatever you want to call it, take over a bit. It was a benevolent force that was compassionate toward me and who loved me. But also, it was love for myself that helped me to be who I was and that was a great gift to myself. Slowly and steadily I was guided. We all can be if you just go with the flow and stop fighting it, stop struggling.
I have experienced my own life in chapters and it is good to think of it like this. Chapters are long, move the plot forward and help the story evolve. I also believe with all my heart that change is not only inevitable, but it is essential to our growth as spiritual souls having this human experience. If we are afraid of change, we risk shutting off the “what ifs” of life. I don’t want to do that, in fact, I spend a lot of my time thinking about avoiding that and I bet you do, too.
I am also certain that when we are either brave and take a risk to change or when life throws us a curveball and we are forced to change, that the result after all the pain, anxiety, tears and hurt is always a personal growth spurt. It is having faith during that time that is the hard part. I know I struggle with it and constantly remind myself to have faith, to know that I am on some sort of journey and that I am not alone. I check in with God a lot more during those times. Usually it’s several times a day, a quick prayer asking for help and guidance and always, always counting my blessings from the simple sound of the birds singing early in the morning, to the sight of fresh beautiful food on our dinner table, to the sound of music, to all the love I have from my family and good friends. These are the things that make me feel blessed, everything else is an extra benefit so to speak. The new place which hard times get you to could never have been gotten to without that life lesson or experience. It is the rainbow after the storm and as hard as it is, I try to practice having faith that it’s part of my journey and to go with the flow. It is the faith that, however slight, I will emerge a little better as a human being, mother, wife, daughter, sibling, friend, activist and citizen of the world. It makes it worthwhile I would say.
With the countless hours, energy, time and money spent to try and stop the inevitable aging process I say, “To hell with it,” or actually, “Freak it.” If we let go of the impossible and really embrace what is here and now, and which is the only thing that is real, we would be happier. As we all know, what we dread will someday, no matter what, happen. We will all move out of this plain and I have total faith that our light and energy will remain eternal. I try all the time to let go of what can’t be, and really seek out what is. The older I get, the more I understand what wiser people have been saying: Life is right now, this moment is sacred and real. Everything right now is all we should hold on to. For this moment is a golden beam of energy and it flows through you to enjoy it.
The next time someone asks you how old you are, I hope you make a mistake as I did. I hope that you say you are a year younger or older then you really are. I hope that you crack up when you think you’ve have lived so many years that you can’t keep track anymore. Most of all, I hope that whatever the number, you don’t think of yourself as that age, that you feel so full of life experiences and wisdom, full of compassion and love, interested and engaged with people and things around you that you realize that these are gifts that have been bestowed upon you and which you have earned! That these are the things that are important. That you are beautiful, imperfections and all. That you are evolving and getting better at life all the time when you just open up and stay there as much as possible.
There will never be another person like you, ever. Be your wondrous self always.
Kathryn Simos is a Shoreham resident and an event coordinator.