Yesterday I woke up like any other morning. I opened my eyes and saw the bedroom walls that need painting — a project that’s somehow dropped to the bottom of our to-do list.
As I swung my legs over the side of the bed, my sciatica felt no better or no worse than it did the day before. Martha, who also suffers from arthritis, slowly walked toward the door so I’d let her out. Smitty waited for my nod so he could jump on the bed and snooze a little longer with Rick.
I went downstairs and put on water for tea, then swallowed my blood pressure pill and the calcium plus vitamin D. Everything I did was exactly like the day before. Only one thing was different. It was my birthday.
Last week I watched an interview with Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot whose book, “The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk, and Adventure in the 25 years After 50” divides our lives in 25-year chapters. According Sara, I should have abandoned my routine and sought out my passion when I turned 50, at the beginning of my third chapter.
Actually, I came close. In May 2001, just after my 51st birthday, I left my home and most of my belongings in Grants Pass and moved into a furnished studio with the best ocean view in Brookings to begin an empty-nester way of life and a new career here on the coast.
Now it’s been eight years of following my passion (living near the ocean), taking a risk (the new job) and seeking adventure (moving in with Rick), but I’m not sure what it all means. As Joni Mitchell said, “It’s life’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know life at all.” That song is 40 years old but makes sense to me. Ironically Joni was in her 20s — only in her first chapter — when she wrote it. Wise woman or hopeless romantic?
Here is my attempt at wisdom, gathered along many roads in several cities and states with different people by my side. Sometimes the winds were at my back, sometimes in my face, but over the course of my 59 years, these are the things I know to be true:
3) We need friends, and friends must be cultivated. You have to work at being and keeping a good friend. I have friends I’ve stayed close to since grade school and high school. Others, like Rick, came along when I was almost in my third chapter, yet I can’t imagine life without him. The common thread among my friends is that when I reach out they are there. And if I don’t reach out, they are still there. I am strong and independent, but I could never have made it through the trials without my friends.
2) My children are my greatest accomplishment and my most precious asset. There is no joy in my life that compares to the fulfillment of having raised three remarkable sons who love me and love each other. They arrived during chapter two and at times made me wonder if I would make it to chapter three, but the struggle was worth it! I love my boys unconditionally and they love me back in ways that make me smile. With my first grandchild on the way I’m discovering more wells of love just waiting to overflow.
1) My mother was right about everything. I can’t even begin to list all the things she was right about: money management, the importance of an education, owning one good pair of shoes rather than three pairs of cheap ones, cotton being softer on your skin than polyester, etc. You name it, she was right. And that’s something that’s taken me 59 years to admit.