On Turning 50

IMG_4472October 8, I turn 50.

That doesn’t even sound real.

50!

I might be half way to dead, but I’m probably closer. I’ve joked with my kids that I’m going to reach 105. I aim to make their lives as fraught with my presence as human will allows. Besides, it will likely take me that long to render paybacks for all the gray hair they’ve given me, times four.

I’m not ashamed of turning 50, nor am I depressed by it. I’m rather delighted with the achievement and think of it more as a beginning than an ending.

Here’s something — my birthday lands on the day of a full blood-moon lunar eclipse. It’s the second in a four blood-moon succession, a “tetrad” in science-speak, that began last April. Before the 20th century, three hundred years passed between tetrads. That means Sir Isaac Newton, Mozart, Queen Anne, George Washington, Napolean, Abraham Lincoln nor their contemporaries ever had a chance to witness this type of thing. The event will peak in the early morning hours of October 8, the very time of the very day when I was born 50 years ago.

There’s more — my birth name, Cynthia, was an epithet in its Greek origin for the moon goddess, Artemis, born on Mt. Cynthus. In fact, the Greek Selene and Roman Diana, personifications of the moon, were often called Cynthia. Even the Christian meaning suggests moon-ness with its “reflector of light” translation.

I don’t know what all of these coincidences imply, but I find them fascinating.

I’ve also been thinking about how, in Leviticus, the Bible speaks of the practice of Jubilee, the every 50 year observance when slaves are freed, debts are forgiven and the mercies of God are particularly manifest. In commemoration of my 50th year of life, this is a celebration I can get behind.

In a way, my Jubilee may have already begun. Life has arrived at a stripped down place. My kids are grown and mostly on their own. I’m single again and on my own. People I loved have died or disappointed, fallen away. I’m making good progress in my quest to become debt-free, and as I sit on this precipice of time looking back 49 years at a wildly tumultuous and disadvantaged past, it occurs to me that it is just that — passed. I ache a little for the sadness and the loss and the travail, but I am the sum of my experiences, not the victim.

What lies ahead? Maybe I’ll feel like writing again. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll find love. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll go on solo adventures of discovery where I unearth far more than I ever dreamed. I might even stay put here on my little acre in the trees, doing as I have been, waking each day to the marvels and beauty of an ever-changing creation, grateful for the solace and balm this heaven affords.

But I’ll live this next year spying life through the lens of Jubilee. Every moment will pass through that filter and I’ll be searching to spot the good. October 8 this year is a big one on the celestial calendar, and it’s a big one for me too. I’ll set out to chart new territories, map the landscape of this ever-evolving self, and I’ll be flying solo — finally, finally, finally feeling as free as I’ll ever be.

 

It is not made of glass…

“Work in the perfect confidence that: 1) it is going to be harder work than you have ever done; 2) it will not yield its secrets easily; 3) it will drive you a bit crazy until it surprises you and even then the surprise will have other complications that will drive you a little more nuts; 4) it will open with perfect simplicity like a flower in sunlight in the first fresh morning of Spring, and then close on you like an iron door manned by six guards of the inquisition–and, 5) all of this being true, you cannot truly hurt it. You can only make it necessary to do it again, get into its little dark grottoes and work it, and let the opening and closing and the secrets and the falterings take place knowing that you cannot hurt it. You absolutely cannot ruin it. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. You cannot permanently harm it. It is not made of glass, but of LANGUAGE, that sweet and glorious possession, that is there like a guiding spirit, wanting to give you everything. Just be worthy of it and don’t expect it to dance on command. It needs to be courted, gently cajoled and caressed. Trust the beauty of it, and don’t over worry it. It WANTS to yield its treasure. You only have to be patient, and quietly stubborn.” ~Richard Bausch

Prologue: “Survivor” (an excerpt)

A year ago my therapist called me a survivor and it made me angry. The very word smacked of a solicitation for pity. I didn’t want to be a survivor, nor did I believe my circumstances were necessarily reflected in the word. What fit better? I don’t know: outliver, extant, remainer, alive. To me, survivor is more befitting a person who, for whatever reason: horrible accident, dreaded disease, inexplicable act of God, stared at death’s door and maybe even rapped their knuckles on it before walking away, back into the light. Mine hasn’t been such. If I’ve survived anything it’s the mere act of living. If I have faced any adversity it has either come to me on waves of my own stupidity or the selfish, stupid acts of others. If I have survived anything, it has been ambivalence. That I repeatedly have found myself in situations where I am not wanted, am in the way, am only good for the muscles in my back, is not an admission of self-pity. I promise. It’s simple fact. Of course like so many of us, I am sometimes given to bouts of self-pity, but recognizing that my past is fraught with schemes, paths, designs, traps, call them what you want, which are designed to render me powerless, has been elemental in energizing the forging of a new path and nothing akin to pity.

My therapist’s label made me angry, and that anger is what I needed. Fuel. Tinder. A bellows stoking the flame..

“I don’t want to be a survivor,” I told her. “I simply want to live well, but to this point that has been impossible.”

She said, “Like it or not, it is who you are.”

For the last year I have been working my way into that skin. Trying to find how it might fit, how it might work to my good or, dare I say, the good of others. What has come from it is this book, an exploration of what brought me here, forty-eight years after my birth, to this unlikely place. And that made me angry too. Still. So much of it isn’t fair. But life’s not fair, princess.

What I find most intriguing in my reflection is that I can’t give up. I have tried, but then an awful hope takes hold, grabs me by the collar and yanks me back to my feet. I want to surrender to cynicism, to fatalism, to nihilism, to that blessed chasm of ambivalence that will allow me to rid myself of the burden of care once and for all.

It never happens.

And sometimes I think good doesn’t happen either, but that’s where this whole survivor thing kicks in. Try as I may, I can’t surrender. Whatever I’m hoping for has yet to manifest. I don’t even know what it is that I’m hoping for except proof that all of the hard stuff has been for a reason, a good one at that.

I’ve encountered good along the way. I count my blessings. I take nothing for granted, not the heat from my furnace, the canned goods in my pantry or the backup toilet paper in the bathroom. I know the fragile gift of life and am grateful each day for the health and safety of my four children. I feel infinitely blessed to have, after twenty years of longing, found a home in the country that provides incomparable solace. Each day affords new opportunity to express to God my litany of thanks.

But that doesn’t mean I have a clue what God is doing. Something still isn’t right and maybe that’s just another way of saying that I’m still alive. As long as I live and breath and have my being there will be difficulty, self-inflicted or otherwise.

The Angry Chick’s Guide to Survival is not advice. It’s my story, what’s written of it so far. It made me angry to live it; I got angry writing it; I am angry still. But I have changed. I am not who I was, and know I can never go back. My anger has changed with me. It evolved out of victimization into indignance and finally ushered me here, to a place of steeled resolve.

Life is not a given, a constant. With it comes no guarantee. I am making peace with the word survivor. Instead of saying I am forty-eight years old I say that I have survived for forty-eight years. And anger has become the most positive force I know. Fuel. Tinder. A bellows stoking the flame.