Saturday, September 20, 2014

If not now, when?

I turned 60 on September 8th and I've been celebrating since the 20th of August. Some of you followed this journey with me on my Facebook page and know that it began with a gift offered to me ~ a solo ocean retreat in a lovely, private condo on Longboat Key, Florida. This was a long-standing, open invitation I'd been given from a dear friend that, for many reasons, I'd never been able to give myself permission to accept. I love birthdays and I'd never had issues with any of my other "decade" birthdays but this one was different. I felt the weight of it hit me hard at the start of the new year - "omg, I'm turning 60 this year" and I had been lost in deep reflection from that moment on. As it came closer and I felt into the urgency of the passage of time, regrets and uncertainties that was consuming me as well as the depths of my exhaustion, I couldn't stop thinking about my friend's offer. It seems the universe was listening and guiding. Without my prompting she reached out to let me know some dates were open in August or October. I felt the usual overwhelm of traveling and guilt take over and yet I also knew I had to pay attention. 

"If not now, when?"

Indeed that was the million dollar question underneath all the angst and heaviness with this life review on the threshold of 60 years. 

"What have I done with my life so far? What is left to do? Will I do it? Am I doing it? What the hell is mine to do? What am I waiting for?"

I had no answers except this: "Just be you. Have more fun. Laugh more. Love more. Love yourself more. Live in the here and now. Just be you."  

Ok. Clique and easier said than done but this heaviness about turning 60 is all about facing my mortality and not wasting precious moments dwelling on the past or the future but being fully present right now, so... 

If not now, when, right?

That meant I had to let go of all logic, all guilt, and cast my fate to the wind. I silenced my judging, fearful, ego-mind just long enough to reach out to my girlfriend to discuss the dates she offered. Not surprisingly, everything started to just fall into place. With her encouragement and my husband's, I said yes, and I booked my flight. 

The ever increasing anxiety, doubts and negative self-talk I felt and heard inside as the time came closer and closer for me to leave felt a lot like how it often feels when I've said yes to surrendering to a shamanic breathwork or a healing intensive that my ego knows will be a game changer for personal transformation. The mind is a terrible master and the ego does not want me to change because it knows it will lose its place in its hierarchy of power when I do. I couldn't have imagined what magic and healing was waiting for me on the other side of that ocean retreat; my first "real" vacation in so many years I've lost count and the first one ever ALONE. No work, no training, no family, no responsibilities to anyone or anything; just the ocean, nature and me. No wonder my ego was worried! It would prove to be a turning point for me to deepen and embrace a change of perspective that I've understood intellectually for a long time and touched into in my heart a time or two but one that lingers and lurks hidden in the dark shadows of a harsh inner judge and sneaks up on me when I least expect it. Once I was all alone and quiet, with nature reflecting me back to me all around me, I finally found the inner peace to answer some of the questions I was asking of myself. The mere fact that I could be alone with myself like this and be completely content was evidence enough for me to see myself in a new way, appreciate who I am, where I've come from, what I've done, what I've not done, and relax into the "not-knowing where I'm going" place that can so often send me into fear and hopelessness. The threshold I crossed was the fear of being alone, the illusion of feeling separate, and the angst that "it's too late" and I relaxed into the deeper heart-mind space of love and truth that "I'm right on time".

I could be completely alone with me. I could just be me. It was enough.

I was enraptured and in complete awe of the beauty and power of the ocean and the interconnectedness of nature and the elements. I blogged each day with photos and short stories or blurbs on my Facebook page. I was filled up. It was almost too much beauty and magic for me to contain and I believe we're here to inspire and remind each other of the magic and the beauty that surrounds us every day yet is so easily taken for granted. Doing so also helped me integrate the experiences each day which were very deeply personal, symbolic, shamanic, and healing for me. So I took a little time in the morning or at the end of each day to write and share. I hope to eventually gather all my photos and writings and put them into a scrapbook form, in one place, so I can appreciate the bigger picture of it, but for now it's still weaving together in bits and pieces, moments and memories, re-telling its story, and you're meeting me right here, right now, slightly on the other side of 60. 

I'm really missing the ocean today but I know it's deeply embedded in my cells now and I find I can just close my eyes and I'm there. It feels fitting (and it was unintentional) that I'm finally posting this blog today, exactly one month from when this all began. Yes, it's a long blog - it's really two blogs in one - and it's taken me a week to come to grips with that and not hold back. It's hard to contain a month of magic around a milestone passage in life into just a few short paragraphs. Well, at least it is for me! I've been obsessing over it but today it's clear, it's time to just release it and let it go.

What follows below is a copy of my writing from earlier this week with my thoughts and a few pics of this month-long celebration of crossing this magical threshold of age, hopefully having done so with some grace and a little wisdom on the side ...
Kundalini Sunshine on the Ocean Green & Blue

9/16/14 ~ "Just slightly on the other side of 60"

My 77, soon-to-be 78 year old, spunky Mama Gayle hit the road headed back to ND this morning and with her departure I feel the energy around my 60th birthday settling down now. It’s been almost a month of celebration for this milestone birthday and even though I believe every day is meant to be a celebration, birthdays are that one special, personal holi-day that belongs to each individual soul. This has been the best and longest birthday celebration I’ve ever had!

So here I am at 60! Nothing fake or fixed except my hair color! I’m not ready to go white yet even though it’s been there in waiting for a really long time now! I’m proud of every wrinkle I have and grateful for every one that I don’t! I feel old and new, the same and different, all at once. 

A 10 day private/solo Florida Keys retreat/vacation with breathtaking sunsets, rainbows, storms, walks on the ocean beach, treasures of fighting conch shells rescued and returned to the sea, stones, blue heron, pelican and tern feathers, and shells to keep, dolphins swimming; magical sacred messengers from the land, sea and air, all set the stage for the best birthday ever. 

On day 7 my dear girlfriend arrived. After espresso's on the deck as we saloned in the morning with the sound of the ocean and dolphins feeding and swimming as our backdrop, and after I had my daily walk on the beach, she took me out in a fast and fancy sports car and wined and dined me in the best restaurants in the area. We had a spa day and we shared lots of heart to heart girl talk while also giving ourselves our own time and space to just be. I felt the bridge between worlds and the "both/and" expanding and deepening within me even more. I can be fully with me while in the company of others when I am at deep peace and content in being in relationship with myself. Here's a pic she took of me and captioned by her as we watched an exquisite sunset after a storm while waiting to dine in regal style at the infamous Beach Bistro.

Something changed deep within me during that time that I have no words for except to say that it was a “coming home” for me like I’ve never felt before. A photo collage using three of my photos from my ocean retreat, created and gifted to me by one of my best friends and photographer/artist with this caption captures the essence of it all beautifully:

"Dolphin watching, beach treasures and breathless sunsets. 
A mighty fine way to celebrate 60 trips around the sun". 

Three days after getting home from my ocean retreat my mom arrived. How blessed am I that my mom could be with me to celebrate such a milestone birthday. On my birthday I was showered with an abundance of beautiful, forever-blooming, fragrant flowers from family and friends (most are still in bloom a week later), a fabulously fun party, cards that roasted & toasted me, my baby books & scrapbooks passed on to me, special gifts commemorating my ocean retreat from my three besties, a faerie ring in my very own back yard with a full Harvest moon exact on my birthday, and FB birthday wishes galore! All this and more graced me on and around my birthday, including the joy of a wedding in our circle of lifelong friends and the heartbreak of loss and grief saying goodbye to two beloved family pets, all within 72 hrs. Yes. Life is like that. And being humbled by that and in awe and acceptance of that is what it’s like to be 60.

We all know age is a relative thing and whether 60 is the new 40 or 50 or whatever, is really beside the point. It’s really not about age at all. It’s about the acceptance that life happens, it is what it is, and it’s about how we show up for it. It’s about cultivating greater self-awareness, discernment of priorities and deal breakers, commitment to integrity and honesty, becoming more compassionate and staying humble and teachable as we stand in our courage and strength to face it all and continue to grow ourselves up no matter what. One thing is for certain at 60 - you really start thinking seriously and differently about life when you realize you’ve lived more years than you have left even if you live to be a hundred. That shifts one’s perspective very quickly. Life is ever-changing, ebbs and flows, dark and light, death and birth, no matter how old we are. I haven’t landed anywhere yet and I don’t believe I’m supposed to land anywhere. I’m here for the ride. There’s a whole new feel to this decade and I think/I hope/I believe/I have faith I’m ready for it. 

If not now, when?

I’ve decided one of two things happen at 60: we either accept and embrace it with grace and love and allow the flood gates (ie, our hearts) to open up even more or we resist it with fear, bitterness, judgments, resentments, regrets and close them. When we do the latter that’s when we start growing old.

I choose to keep the flood gates open and believe me it’s all been flooding in more than ever before. I can’t think of a better way to paint a picture of “life at 60” and answer the question "how does it feel to be 60" than to be in the throes of releasing, receiving, celebration, grief, gratitude, appreciation, connection, separation and opening the heart even more through love, laughter, joy and loss. In the space of 72 hours I experienced the loss of two beloved fur companions in the family, a wedding and my own milestone birthday. Being alone with the ocean and in nature for 10 days and becoming one with the ocean waves, ebbs and flows, storms, rainbows, sunsets, birds, shells, white sandy beaches and me, prepared me for this intense time. I simply rode the waves of all of it as it came, I still am and that’s what I’ll continue to do, one day at a time. That’s all that’s ever asked of us really. Just be present with what is, moment to moment, with humble gratitude and an open heart and willingness to grow from it all. There’s no past to dwell on; no future to worry about where we’re going. We never arrive anywhere really. As the saying goes, it’s the journey not the destination.

So one last toast and cheers to me at 60 and to you, whatever age You are! Here's to Us! Here’s to the journey! Thanks for being my companion. Together we make it happen and make it all worthwhile.