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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Seventh Decade Musings


I slipped and slid into my seventh decade today. Kinda has me rubbing me eyes in somewhat of a stupor. Me, Sixty!?! How can that be? I once thought youth was mine forever. Turns out I (along with all who have come before and felt the same) was wrong.

I’ve never been one to celebrate my birthday. Well, OK, birthdays were a big deal for the first decade or so. Kinda came to be old hat after a while. Still, there was something about this day, something about entering what could very well be my final decade (if decrepitude is any indication) that affected me more than I would have predicted. It was a day of reflection and somewhat of a celebration.

* * *

From my very first entry in this blog, I’ve been pondering what it all (as in “Life”) means. I’ve been circling round and round the subject, as in that early post titled “The Three Ages” some six years and 500 posts ago, to this very day. Although the journey has been convoluted, often painful, I’ve edged a bit closer towards understanding.

My sixth decade was a mess (I’m being charitable). It was a decade filled with losses great and small. Lost my cartilage, my youth. Lost quite a few who meant everything to me. Lost my perspective, my hopes. Lost my way and, as a consequence and for a good long while, my will to live.

The thing about losses and pain is that they humble the heart, mind and soul. Say what you will, humility is a good thing. A most necessary condition. To be humbled, brought to one’s knees, is cause to reflect and reassess. Wants and ambitions fade in importance. Fantasies give way to realities. Though I would have greatly preferred to have avoided the losses, the humblings, the sheer abject pain, I concede they’ve served their purpose.

* * *

The blogosphere is replete with references to an ancient Egyptian belief that the answers to two questions determined whether or not one would be allowed to proceed on to the afterlife:

Did you find joy?
Did you bring joy?


Frankly, I don’t think I’ll ever meet Osiris (I could be wrong). No matter. What does matter to me, today, is that I believe these truly are the only two questions worth asking and answering.

Have I found joy?

Yes, I have. Not in the conventional sense that all too many assume to be the paths to Joy: material wealth, professional success, full belly and multiple orgasms (although I’ve had my fair share of all that, too). Those paths may (or may not) lead to satisfaction, pride, laughter or euphoria, but Joy is something quite a bit different.

I can’t wrap my mind around Joy. I’ve tried. I’ve tried to put into words just what it was I felt when I’ve experienced true Joy. Never did have the words or the talent. But Joy is something unmistakable. It’s a feeling utterly profound, often resulting from experiences not visible to any bystander. I wrote, once: “It is true joy to wake to a dream and have the dream be real. It is a blessing to wake to the world…when your entire world is lying there beside you.” Yes, I’ve found Joy in fits and starts. Found it in kind gestures, found it in unexpected places and inexplicable ways at the most unpredictable moments. Joy is simply like that...available to all who spread their arms wide, open their eyes and hearts (if only for a moment).

Oh, yes, I’ve experienced Joy.

Did I bring Joy?

Oy, that’s a question I find difficult to answer. I think I have...to some. But not enough, to souls enough for long enough, I fear. I’ve not earned sufficient laurels to rest upon. But, Osiris, if you’re out there, know that I hope to do better.

* * *

This was a day of greetings and heartfelt conversations. I was rather surprised by the outpouring of good wishes. Yes, quite a few brought me joy this day.

Many exhorted me to celebrate. And celebrate I did. Just not in a way they might have had in mind.

All I wanted to do was mount my bicycle (gracelessly, as has become my norm) and ride. So I did just that. The day was hot and humid. Thunderstorms lurked on the near horizon, sputtering gusts meant to pose a challenge. No matter. I saddled up and rode. I rode for as long as my burning knees allowed and reveled in the fact that I still could. And the sweat that cascaded down my face to sting my eyes? I reveled in that, too. I gave thanks for the heat, for the blood and sweat, the aches and pains.

I was glad to be alive.

Glad for this chance to experience joy.

Praying I’ll still have a chance to bring joy to others.

* * *

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.
From laden boughs, from hands
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.
O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.
There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

Li-Young Lee

* * *

13 Comments:

Blogger secret agent woman said...

Well, a very happy 60th to you!

Not that I'm ready, but it comforts me to know I could answer in the affirmative to both questions if on my deathbed.

Sat Jun 18, 10:10:00 PM  
Blogger Lilith said...

What a beautiful poem and happy birthday Jonas. And many more.

Sat Jun 18, 10:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you!

Consider yourself both blessed and worthy, Ms. Covert Operative.

Yes, Lilith, I consider this to be a most beautiful poem, one that I've relished for decades and have shared with many. I've had occasion to experience the jubilance of a peach and, as a consequence, find great truth in the words.

For the record, I'll take as many years as are mine to take. I still gots me joys to experience...and give.

Sat Jun 18, 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger June Calender said...

May you have a wonderful decade, Jonas, I wish you less angst and more joy -- and maybe knee replacements. The body can't be made new again but living with less pain is a positive. This was a beautiful reflection; I believe we can never know how much joy we have spread in the world. My feeling is neither Osiris nor St. Peter has a complete computer file on your balance of giving and getting. Not important anyway compared to the living of it.

Sun Jun 19, 07:06:00 AM  
Blogger PattiKen said...

Happy birthday, you kid. Methinks you entirely underestimate yourself, but perhaps that is part and parcel of the humbling thing.

My birthday wish for you is that you continue to find joy and to give joy (for I have not a doubt in the world that you have given more than you imagine). I wish for you to... well, I was going to say "step out of your own way," but I realized that if you step toward others, that will happen automatically. So I wish for you to step toward others. They will welcome you, I know.

Happy birthday, Jonas. The decade you enter is a good one. You are old enough to choose your path toward joy, and you are young enough to enjoy it.

Sun Jun 19, 11:21:00 AM  
Blogger Wine and Words said...

This is so damn beautiful:

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold

Joy in fits and spurts. Our personalities...yours and mine...make joy a curious thing. Not trivial by any means. Gigantic really, for the fact of it's elusive nature. I have to search it out, cultivate it, know it's names so I can genuinely recognize their salutations.

I bought a bike Jonas. I am so excited. To be pedaling around under my own power...all that speed and no speed limit. To burn my legs, even with my lacking knees. The wind....oh the glorious wind of my own making. I am having fun. Me, my bike, my camera, a notebook. 'Tis joy. Wishing it for you as well.

Happy Birthday Jonas!
XO
Annie

Mon Jun 20, 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you, June. I'm not sure I want to endure knee replacements, but a hip replacement is definitely on my dance card. And, of course, you're right...we never truly know how much Joy we may have brought to others. I hope my personal estimate proves to be low.

Thank you, Patti, both for the greeting and the good advice. I find myself "stepping towards others" far more now than I have in years. I hope I'll have time and opportunity enough to step quite a long ways forward.

Yes, Annie, we're birds of a feather.

I'm delighted you've taken to cycling! At this point in time, cycling is my favoritest pursuit (used to be long-distance running). Just be careful out there, m'kay!?!

Mon Jun 20, 09:03:00 PM  
Blogger anna said...

Happy birthday, dear Jonas. Thank you for continuing to touch people in the ways that you do.

The part about humility is what resonated with me most in this post.

I wish you many more opportunities to give joy. To give it is also to receive it... non?

Fri Jun 24, 01:05:00 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Happy happy joy joy baby boy... at least you still have your hair! Welcome to the 7th decade!

Fri Jun 24, 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Selma said...

Happy birthday Jonas. Sorry I'm late. You are one of the most young at heart people I know. I enjoy, relate to and am inspired by your musings. The poem is gorgeous!

Sun Jun 26, 07:13:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Thank you, Anna! I will always believe that I come nowhere close to your praise but, heck, make my head swell why dontcha?

"Baby Boy"!!! Yeah, I gotta say, only one woman ever called me "baby." I kinda liked that. And thank you, yes, I still have my hair (and I LOVE the way it flies when I cycle).

Awwww, Selma! Thank you! Am I "young at heart"? I really can't say. My heart feels pretty damn old to me...but it's still beating...

Wed Jun 29, 07:33:00 PM  
Blogger erin said...

jonas, happy belated. all my very best.

this post is about exactly what i needed right now, a gentle reminder. two questions to live by. thanks.

xo
erin

Fri Jul 08, 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I'm glad the post served a purpose, Erin, though I do believe that all thanks should go to Osiris.

Funny, I've been thinking about those two question for weeks now.

Thu Jul 14, 12:57:00 PM  

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