The question caught me off guard.
What can I say?
Fifty was supposed to be the “big one”. I had somehow passed that pivotal date unscathed, well hidden from any potential jokers who were ready to embarrass the hell out of me, like those obnoxious sophomores who were standing ready, eggs in hand, to initiate this terrified freshman as I got off the bus.
But thankfully, no black crepe paper was strewn over my porch; no flashing signs announcing my impending decline. I breathed a sigh of relief – I had dodged another milestone.
So has turning 60 been a big deal?
The decade between 50 and 60 saw many joys, and sorrows. Children leaving home, getting married, starting their own homes. There were births, deaths and more births; a sudden chronic fatigue developed that added 60 pounds in a matter of months and stripped me of my energy; a brush with mortality which led to emergency surgery; anger that my body seemed to be betraying me regardless of my best efforts. Menopause brought the end to the monthly blood-letting, causing whiskers and grey hairs to sprout but freeing my gender-fluid soul to be fully Self.
Through all of this something else happened – a shift – in my perceptions about life and the world around me. I noticed it happening a few years ago. Perhaps it began with my increased walks in the forest or along the river. Or maybe it was the trip to the ocean where I breathed the same air as a humpback, or when I ascended Mount Washington and saw God’s handiwork in every direction. A desire to record this beauty in word and image welled up in me. I began to hear whispers – from a leaf, a frog, a flower – beckoning me to take a moment and be a part of their world in a depth I had never experienced before. A she-bear awoke in me and said,
“You are more than”….
You are more than wife, mother, grandmother, chef, nurse, companion, employee, do-gooder, counselor, monk, peacemaker.
A wildness crept back into me.
Like the Selkie woman of legend, half seal, half human, who, caught by a man and tricked into remaining human for many years until one day, one trip, one word, she remembers who she is, fully. The desire to return to her wildness consumes her like a flame. She must find a way to return to her origins, or die.
Each woman has her own her-story. For some, it is returning to a state of health and increased fitness: for others, a devoted practice of contemplation and prayer. Many leave their old careers and start new ones. And even though our bodies and our minds may not be as agile as they once were, we embrace our new world view with great vigor. Sixty is a time of celebration, a rebirth, the shadow and the light intermingling in the autumn of our days.
But be forewarned: We play by different rules now…
Grey hairs dot my chin
I dare not cut them for fear of losing
the wildness that is emerging
Call me a hag if you wish
Or crone, it matters not
All the years struggling to stay tame
have left me dissociated from my soul
I can no more stop this process
than one can stop the sea from returning to its source.