I Am Sixty

I am now sixty years old. I’m grateful for three things:  That I’m alive, am in reasonably good health, and I know God.  There have been changes over time – some for better and some for worse.  It’s nice to be wiser. Not so nice to not be able to find the right word I want to use, right when I want to use it.  It’s nice to know what/who is worth expending my time and energy on.  Not so nice to not be able to move/trust my body in the same way I once did. It’s nice some people show me deference.  Not so nice when it’s only because I move slower or can’t read the tiny print to figure out which button to push. 

My time on this earth is running down.  I figure I have about 25 years left (based on the fact most of my relatives have died in their 80’s).  That may seem like a long time at first, but not when you consider 25 years ago was only 1996.  Gulp.  The older you get the faster time flies. Back in my younger days there seemed to be much more wiggle room and lots of time to make mistakes and then to fix them, to make choices and then to change them. Even with wrong choices that couldn’t be fixed I still had time to sort through and deal with them (a.k.a. therapy and prayer). But now, sometimes I feel like the choices I make heading into my own “end of days” may not even have time to play out.  There’s much more of a feeling that they might be final and irrevocable. This can make me a bit nervous.        

A friend recently asked me that old chestnut of a question, “What advice would you give your younger self?”  If I could go back in time, would I talk myself into finishing school?  Would I tell her to take the other job? Would I remind her to get married and have kids? Would I try to change things?  No, I wouldn’t.  Things are as they are and everything that happened made me who I am today, and I’m okay with me (except the aforementioned being 60 years old now).  But I think I would give my younger self a big hug and whisper, “Pammy Girl, you’re alive, you’re in reasonably good health, and  in every single instance it was always worth it to follow God.  Every. Single. Instance.” I think that would help me get through everything.

Today, as I was reflecting on all of this, I suddenly thought, “What do you think eighty-year old Pam would come back and say to you today? What would you WANT her to say?”  Would I want a warning to avoid something or someone? Would I want to be cautioned about one of my choices that might go wrong or not play out? Actually, no. I think I would just like that same deep hug and same encouragement that I am still alive, still reasonably healthy, and it’s still worth following God in Every. Single. Instance. I think that could help me get through anything — even being sixty.     

It’s Okay

You’re feeling great, moving confidently in your purpose, passion burning, goals met, connections made. Everything is in motion. Then it all comes to an abrupt halt.

You’re feeling great, moving confidently in your purpose, passion burning, meeting goals, making connections.  Everything is in motion.  Then it all comes to an abrupt halt.  Something unexpected happens and no matter how you try to press on or press through you simply cannot. It’s impossible to move forward.

The block could come from financial struggles, health crisis (yours or a loved one’s), failure in a relationship, or even an unexpected global pandemic. Don’t panic.  It’s all going to be okay.

If your finances collapse and you need to take a job unrelated to your dream in order to stay on your feet– it’s okay.   

If you become physically or mentally unwell, and you need to take time to overcome it— it’s okay.

If someone you love is in crisis and you need to give them your time for a while—  it’s okay. 

If the world comes to a standstill and you don’t have it in you to figure out how to carry on with remote technology or without one-on-one connection or you feel stressed, overwhelmed– it’s okay.     

As someone who has faced each of these issues in the past few years, there were times when I thought if I wasn’t pushing towards my goals every moment then everything I had built so far was completely lost. But I discovered that when you are pursuing your true purpose, you do not have to blast your way through to it and struggle over every little move or lack of movement. Your true purpose will still be there when you are ready to get back into the swing of things. Don’t misunderstand me, building your life towards your purpose is hard work, there are times you have to fight your way towards your purpose, but you’ll never have to fight something into being your purpose. It’s a natural extension of yourself. It’s always been a part of you, will always been there waiting for you to discover/rediscover it. It will always be there for you. You’ll equip yourself for it again and pursue it. It may take a little extra time and effort to get it back to the shape where you left off, and it may not be going in exactly the same direction it once was, but it’s okay.

After the struggle, after the crisis, after the failure, after the pandemic, when you look up from the bottom and, if for some reason your purpose is NOT there, then it really wasn’t your purpose at all. And if it was not – it’s okay. Don’t get discouraged, just take time to regroup, rethink, restructure. And start again. It’s okay.

Your purpose does not depend upon any monetary condition, any state of health, the presence or absence of any person, or the condition of the world at large. Your purpose fits you no matter the shape of your life, no matter the shape of the world. It will be there when you get back. Don’t worry. It’s okay.

There’s Something About Passion

Born in 1868, Florence Foster Jenkins, above anything else, loved to sing opera. When she was 17 years old, her wealthy father refused to let her go abroad to study music, so she eloped. In 1909 her father died and she used her inheritance to kick start her career, taking lessons and becoming active in Philadelphia and New York City musical social circles. Florence made several recordings and began giving public performances in 1912. There was great demand for tickets to the recitals, but ticketing was typically limited to a few favored associates and friends. Then in 1944, at the age of 76, she gave in and gave a public performance at Carnegie Hall – the event sold out weeks in advance. One month after that success, she passed away.

And so here is the secret about Florence Foster Jenkins: the girl could not sing.

Not a note. She was known for her lack of pitch, tone, and rhythm. She couldn’t even pronounce the words in her foreign language songs. She was popular for the amusement she provided. And while she was aware of her critics (and the laughter her performances evoked from audiences), she really didn’t care. She was doing what she loved. “People may say I can’t sing,” she said, “but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

On the surface it seems like just a precursor to contemporary famous-for-being-famous non-talented reality TV stardom (shudder). But Florence’s story stirred something up inside me.  There’s something about her saying, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” There’s something about passion.risk anything

When I look back on my life it’s the things I did not do or try that I regret the most. I have more, “I wish I would have…” than “I wish I wouldn’t have…”  Thinking back, the reason I didn’t do things was because I was afraid of failure and what people would think of that failure. The funny thing is that in the opportunities I did take, and did fail at, and people did deride me for – I don’t really regret them. In a funny way I have gained strength from them, a sense of increased self-knowledge, a sense of survival and ability to endure and persist through the next challenge.

The library and the bookstore are full of books. You may have received 20 rejection letters from publishers. Does that mean you shouldn’t write? There are millions of corporations and companies around the world. You may have failed all your business courses. Does that mean you shouldn’t start your own business? There are thousands of bands and singers in the world. You may be refused by “American Idol.” Does that mean you shouldn’t sing? Florence Foster Jenkins didn’t think so — and I don’t think she had any regrets.

Who said it was all about success anyway? There’s something about passion.

Fill in the blanks for yourself:

People may say I can’t _______________,

but no one can ever say I didn’t ___________.”