The Best Is Yet to Come: Celebrating My 60th Birthday
By Judy Freedman
There's no more countdown. It's here, it's now. This week I'm celebrating my 60th birthday!
Looking Back on My 50s
As I get ready to tackle my next decade, I can't help but think of all I've accomplished during the past 10 years. When I started blogging my year to 50, I was a newbie. I never dreamed that my 49th year would be one of the most extraordinary years of my life. Losing my spouse at the end of 2007 turned my world upside down. The grief and loneliness I felt during that period was overwhelming. But thanks to the support and love from family and friends, I came through it, and I'm here to say it's now lovely on the other side.
Many of you, my dear readers, have shared my life after 50 transformation journey with me. From losing my spouse, to selling my house, to emptying my nest, it's been a wild ride. From buying my condo on the corner at the Jersey Shore, to mastering online dating and meeting my boyfriend L, to leaving my full-time job and saying good-bye to my mom, I've weathered ups and downs along the way.
Oh yes, yes, yes. How could I forget creating an award-winning blog and becoming a yoga instructor? It's been nice to be able to pursue my passions instead of a paycheck since retiring from my full-time corporate career.
Looking Ahead to My 60s
Pondering my 60s, I wonder what life has in store for me during the next 10 years. Sometimes I wish I could look into a crystal ball and ask. Other times I want to be surprised.
When Oprah Winfrey turned 60 a few years ago, she said, "We go through life discovering the truth about who we are and determining who has earned the right to share the personal space within our heart."
These words ring especially true for me. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to celebrate my 60th birthday with several of my close girlfriends. Many of them were at my 50th celebration. I feel blessed to have such incredible long-term friendships with such talented, caring women. These women share a personal space within my heart. So do my long-distance girlfriends who could not be there, my daughter A and son D, my boyfriend L, my sister N, and other family members. My late husband M is always tucked inside my heart as well.
From Grief to Gratitude
Stealing another phrase from Queen Oprah, "One thing I know for sure" is that I am so grateful for all that I have and all that I am able do at this point in my life.
Ten years ago, my grief was piercing after losing my husband. It was scary navigating so much change. People ask me, how did you do it? How did you make all those changes?
It wasn't easy. Sometimes it was day by day. Other times, it was hour by hour or even minute by minute. I learned to ask for help. My mindfulness and yoga practices taught me how to live more in the present. Those practices continue to guide me today.
With time, my loneliness turned to loveliness and grief to gratitude. Catherine Price, author of Gratitude: A Journal, says, "People who actively try to become more grateful in their everyday lives are happier—not to mention healthier—than those who don't." Catherine recommends journaling and says: "Learning to refocus your mind toward happiness is a long process and can have its frustrations as well as its joys." She says not to feel guilty or beat yourself up if you have down days.
I also encourage you to read The New York Times journalist John Leland's interviews with six people 85 and older, which he says is "one of the fastest-growing age groups in the country." In his essay, "When Old News Is Good News," he says about his interviewees, "The six became models for challenges in my own life, living examples of resilience, gratitude and the wisdom that comes from living through ups and downs in history. Even amid the very real hardships of old age, all found reasons or opportunities to be happy."
Facing New Challenges
The final few months of 2017 brought new challenges for me and proved that the only thing in life that is constant is change:
My son D went through tough times and ended his engagement. He wasn't ready to get married. He was bold and brave and made the right decision to break up with his fiancée. He and our families are healing now.
- My daughter A accepted a promotion with a move to Minneapolis the end of this month. I'm going to miss her being close by but am excited for her adventure. I am so proud of both of them.
- On December 29th, after surgery to remove a tumor from my bladder, I learned I had bladder cancer. Not something I had planned for going into my 60th year. The good news is the cancer was noninvasive. The bad news is it can come back. My life is forever changed. As my BFF L said in her card, "Cancer messed with the wrong chick." More to share on this topic, but I'm not ready to let it be the lead story; not right now and hoping not ever. For now, it's an interruption that I have to deal with and will. However, I could not hide this from you, because I know you have been there for me before and will be there for me again as I face new battles.
- And finally, my sister N lost her husband after a long illness. She and her son N have much grief to process in the coming months and years. I'm glad I can be a support to her and let her know that there are happier days to come.
"Right now, are you happy?"
In his essay, John Leland says he posted these words by his nightstand: "Happiness Is a Choice You Make." And he quotes one of his interviewees, Fred Jones, who says, "If you're not happy at the present time, then you're not happy. Some people say, if I get that new fur coat for the winter, or get myself a new automobile, I'll be happy then. But you don't know what's going to happen by that time. Right now, are you happy?"
How would you answer that question?
Despite the setbacks at the end of 2017, I have to say that yes, right now I am happy. What about you?
Thanks for your readership and friendship. I look forward to sharing the next 10 years with you on my blog.
The best is yet to come!
This post originally appeared on aboomerslifeafter50.com.