Birthdays can be tough.
When I turned 50, I had a hard time. If I recall correctly, it was because I was worried about the future and what my life would look like now that I was single. I would move to Boulder the following year and the unknowns felt enormous. To top it off, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this aging thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure I was in denial about that.
Once I moved, those worries fell away as my new life fell into place. I made friends and the opportunity to hike in the foothills daily or explore on my bike brought me to my knees in gratitude every single day. Colorado nurtured me and I began to bloom again.
The weeks leading up to my 60th birthday were wobbly, but about a month before the big day, I declared to Rob, “Oh hell no. I’m not going to spend the rest of my life wishing for the past. I’m here now and no one decides how I get older but me!”
On my 60th birthday, I launched Our Stories Today, on my 61st birthday I launched RES Photography and on my 62nd, the Wise Women and Magnificent Men projects. I began swimming regularly. To celebrate my 63rd birthday, I am learning the butterfly stroke and will complete the Wise Women Book and find a place to exhibit these portraits of extraordinary human beings.
The opportunity to change the narrative on aging here in my community and beyond is a blessing. Defeating ageism won’t likely happen in my lifetime, but maybe this work will be a start of something that will grow.
I’m learning the butterfly because I didn’t think I could. I thought that maybe it was wiser to just find out. Karina, my swim coach, is probably the most supportive and positive teacher I’ve personally encountered. She makes me feel like anything is possible and is an expert at breaking strokes down. She is also a butterfly masters champion in her age group, so I’m in good hands.
Besides, what do I have to lose?
It’s not the easiest of strokes, but after three days of drills, I am addicted. The dolphin kick reminds me of when I swam as a little girl and pretended I was a mermaid. I love it. Am I good? Not yet. But I’ll get there. Remember back in August 2021 when my goal was to swim 400 yards without feeling like I was dying? Well today I swam 32 laps in 30 minutes. I’m still alive.
These goals and new endeavors have had moments of uncertainty, fear, and indecision, but I’m blessed to have dear friends and a husband who believe in me. Their love is infectious.
Sometimes I wonder why I’m driven to try new things. Curiosity pushes me, but I think wondering about possibility is the more powerful of the two. I spent far too much of my younger years boxing myself in with self-imposed boundaries. I try not to that anymore.
These days I’m much less worried about failure. I don’t expect to be perfect.
You know what’s most important to me? Helping others, especially women, spot their own magic. Holding the hands of my friends. Talking to my husband in the morning before we get out of bed. It’s important to me to shine a light where I can and to be kind. Saying “I love you.” If I can make a difference in someone’s day, then sign me up. I want to not be afraid to cry when I’m sad and to understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
63 feels like a gift. An opportunity to make a difference in my own small way and time to explore new adventures in the coming year. I know there will be new adventures because there always are. Change is the only thing that is certain in a life. In the year leading up this birthday:
- My first snowshoe bunny appeared on a recent hike! He blended in pretty well with the snow aside from the tips of his ears. Did you know that these creatures have a winter coat (white), and a warm weather coat (gray)?
- I began to swim after almost fifteen years, and at first could barely swim four laps. This week I swam 32 laps in 30 minutes and now I switch between freestyle, backstroke, and breast stroke. My dolphin kick is a recent addition.
- I threw a garden party and had over 60 guests in our backyard, many of whom went on to form new friendships. Witnessing your friends make new connections is beautiful.
- My sister in law, Lori and I went to Costa Rica on a yoga retreat. I had never been to Costa Rica or on a yoga retreat with other women. It was magical.
- Rob and I spent Thanksgiving in Mexico in an open air casita just above the ocean. (In case you were wondering, we didn’t miss being home at all.)
- We put a down payment on a camper in January which will be here….well, one of these days. Both of us are eager to explore our favorite haunts and some new ones in relative comfort. No more tent camping.
- I bought a new, more sophisticated, camera and taught myself how to use it.
- Louisville, Colorado experienced the Marshall Fire and it was devastating, still is frankly, but I cannot ignore the incredible, to-be-treasured resilience of the human spirit. Entire neighborhoods are gone but today there is the noise of preparing to rebuild. We think we can’t handle something, but somehow we do.
- Loss of life was heavy this past year as well. It’s hard to watch those you love suffer. It’s hard to know that one day you will too. Time is priceless and the only true currency we have.
- My nose works now because I took the leap and had septoplasty surgery. My life has changed in countless ways; athletic activities, sleep and comfort, all because I now breathe through both nostrils.
- I’ve made new friends this year. Beautiful new friends.
Nothing has remained the same. With each passing year, I know and like myself more.
The coming year will include losses along with new adventures. Impermanence will continue to be a challenge, but I have learned that each day is a gift.
Life is a gift. I’m going to celebrate.