SIXTY-SIX THINGS I’VE LEARNED HERE AT SIXTY SIX

Patricia Eagle aging, birthdays, life lessons Leave a Comment

Today’s my birthday. Bill has planned two of my favorites: his homemade chili rellenos, and he ordered a lemon meringue pie from the Amish bakery. Our close friend and former neighbor from Denver, Kathy Jones, is here. Tonight we’ll toast as we cast our gazes across the San Luis Valley and watch the first stars pop out, and I’ll make a wish similar to #66 on the list below.

Last night, Carolyn, a close friend of 51 years, was here, and I asked her and Bill if I could read this random list. Sixty-six things? They both moaned. Indulge me, I begged. When I finished, our conversation felt thoughtful and rich with all that our lives have offered us. May you feel the same. Feel free to share with me something you’ve learned.

  1. Places where it is silent enough to hear a soft breeze are sacred.
  2. Having a spot where I can gaze 60-100 miles in three directions helps me put things in perspective
  3. Four 14,000 foot peaks at my back are fortifying.
  4. Birds listen and tilt their heads when I talk to them, just like my dogs.
  5. I poisoned a red-ant bed once and have regretted it ever since.
  6. Of course I can still improve skills I am weak at.
  7. Communicating with then listening to anyone I have felt hurt by, rather than staying quiet, sad or mad, helps me grow stronger.
  8. Being open to those I have hurt, and carefully listening to them, allows me to live more fully.
  9. Savor hellos and goodbyes. It could be the last time.
  10. I didn’t know about therapy as a child, but I learned how much loving a dog helped.
  11. Lists can be helpful and so is letting them go. What else might happen?
  12. When I want to write, quit thinking about it and do it.
  13. When I don’t take them to stretch, eventually I will hurt.
  14. Sometimes scanning the news is just fine­––skipping it even better.
  15. Taking time to be away from my phone and computer is better than not. A world without any phone sounds is pristine.
  16. Scheduling writing time works, and ignoring my phone during those times is essential.
  17. Close my eyes. Follow my breath. Listen as much as possible.
  18. Look and listen for birds everywhere.
  19. Search for babies’ and children’s eyes wherever I am and offer a smile.
  20. Notice clouds and connect them to wind and weather.
  21. Make time and space to see starry nights and the Milky Way because I can, and what if I couldn’t?
  22. Every friend is a blessing. Let each one know over and over.
  23. Expressing gratitude is a religion I can follow.
  24. Mourning a dog’s death can be as important as grieving a human’s death.
  25. Death is one of our biggest opportunities in life.
  26. Suppressing grief is like suppressing laughter. Why would we ever say, “Don’t cry,” or apologize for our tears? Would we do that for joy?
  27. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned the value of joy and how vital it is. (I wasn’t sure how to get it when younger: religion, friends, love, education, work, looks, sex, sports, drugs, alcohol, marriage, money?)
  28. Learning to trust and be truthful with others and myself creates space for openness and joy in my life.
  29. Telling my story and letting go of shame have offered me more freedom and joy than anything else I have done.
  30. My mental, emotional and creative health are as important as my physical and spiritual health.
  31. I have been receptive to having remarkable teachers and guides. My dedication to looking for these people allows me to continue finding them.
  32. There are incredible men. I am lucky to have encountered three at just the right times: Bill, Gene, and Cal.
  33. Two of my greatest teachers, Gene and Sister Antoinette, modeled and model Christianity without ever uttering a bible verse or a call to Jesus.
  34. Mystical pathways of all religions can be beautiful––poetry, Psalms, stories, legends, myths––and offer humbling, life-enhancing, spiritual truths.
  35. Making lists is like clearing a shelf in my brain or a drawer in a dresser.
  36. I’m 66 and look like it. The life I have lived has drawn itself across my face. Why is there so much shaming about age and so much energy spent in covering up what we have lived?
  37. Patience is worth it for just about everything. There is always something else to notice, something else to consider.
  38. Grief should be allowed to hold the floor more often, but celebrating can also have a time and place at death.
  39. Having places where I can go spend time alone, especially in nature, molds my perspective and spirit.
  40. It’s meaningful to me to keep friends and nourish friendships. These are priorities worth maintaining.
  41. Listening skills are worth the practice. Getting sloppy changes the opportunity to learn something.
  42. Empowered women empower women. High time to wear that on a T-shirt.
  43. I am so tiny under a big, starry night.
  44. Sex can be a good practice. Stop and be bare. Shed it all and be totally present.
  45. Nesting and homing are vital self-support. Notice the energy of rooms, and the play, pleasure, and stories of all a room contains.
  46. Recognizing what I’ve learned at 66 feeds me much more than remembering all the mistakes I’ve made.
  47. Asking works much better than assuming I know what someone else thinks or feels.
  48. Cleaning my home and growing food and flowers are ways of serving myself, and my relationship with Bill and others––like sacred preparations.
  49. Bill’s shopping, cooking, and cleaning up the kitchen nurture our guests and me hugely.
  50. Sips of wine or tequila at dusk add to evening views across the valley floor.
  51. Walking the circle of my flower garden allows time enough for prayer.
  52. My time at Lama––the dome, the singing, meditation in the kiva, the women, the views––is salve for my heart, soul, and spirit.
  53. Singing, anywhere, nearly always helps.
  54. A good night’s rest is not overrated.
  55. Having favorite sounds and smells and sights are good things to remember, like hearing Bill say “rai-road,” the trill of a towhee in the top of a pinion, smelling coffee, or seeing a close friend walk through the front door.
  56. Dogs and anti-depressants are in the same category.
  57. Thinking of others (like saying, “I’ll be thinking of you!”) requires focus, practice, and an open heart.
  58. Planning carefully and thoughtfully is a good habit, and so is letting go of plans when instinct nudges me to do so.
  59. Honoring my pack of dogs who have died­––Dabb, Bandi, Dancer, Bebe, Pookie, Zorro, and Amber for all they gave me, and Gavroche and Mercy who are still giving––are noble gestures to all creatures.
  60. Being cautious with my dogs, others, and myself is more freeing than fearful.
  61. Keeping a few items of clothing for decades and wearing them out is fun, like watching prayer flags disintegrate.
  62. Looking into someone’s eyes quietly for one minute (two if possible) is slightly uncomfortable and deeply moving.
  63. High altitude makes flavors pop in food and drink.
  64. Honoring in my heart the women and men I have loved enriches my life.
  65. Good people are everywhere.
  66. Spirit speaks to me in shadows and full sun, through whatever and whoever crosses my path, if I am able to hold myself open to awareness and learning.

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