On Turning Sixty

Time to dust off the old Xanga blog and bore you with my musings.

In a couple weeks, I will turn 60.  Some of you already are sixty while others still have a ways to go.  As I think about this “milestone” (which I am told is “just a number”), several things come to mind.  “Time is running out.”  “I still have lots of dreams.”  “How long can my body hold out?”  “Five years until I can retire!”

At work the other day, someone asked if I am afraid of death.  They thought that might explain why I have been “obsessing” about turning 60. (Actually, I have been “obsessing” at work so I can have a party!)  I dealt with the fear of death long ago.  Being a nurse in the hospital gave me a lot of insight on dying.  Then when my writer-friend, Valerie Kelly, was diagnosed with cervical cancer, she posed the question to me.  “Are you afraid of dying?”  I told Valerie that I am not afraid of death itself, but the process.  I am afraid of pain, of losing abilities, of leaving family.  When I have witnessed people dying, it often has been fairly peaceful at the end.  A year or so later, Valerie died, barely 40-years-old, leaving behind a baby boy (she had been diagnosed with cancer right after giving birth to her only child.)  Death is sad for us remaining on earth, but as a firm believer in the “Communion of Saints,” I believe Valerie and deceased friends and family are still in my life.  So to me, turning 60 and being closer to death is not the issue.

The issue is time and dreams.  Do I have the time and energy to fulfill my dreams?  What happened to the “Great American Novel” that I was going to write?  Will I see all three of my boys married with children and/or established in life?  Will Dennis and I have time to enjoy retirement?  I think turning 60 is turning me into a skeptic.

I have always been a fairly optimistic person with lots of dreams and aspirations.  Now, I am beginning to feel like the old Peggy Lee song, “Is That There Is?”  (“If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing.”) 

Are my dreams even the same as they were when I was younger?  A lot of them are. 

So, what is keeping me from attaining them?  My life is getting in the way of my living.  The day-to-day routine of work, errands, appointments is cutting into my time.  I seem to be working harder than ever at a time when I thought I would be winding down.  The economy is robbing us of our leisure time.  It is too risky to go after my dreams when my family and others depend on me for stability and a paycheck.  What if my dreams are unrealistic?   I have lots of excuses for not going after my aspirations.

Being a nurse wasn’t my dream.  It was my mom’s.  It was a practical solution to a young married couple’s hope for the future.  Nursing has turned out to be good for me in many ways, but it also has squelched some of my creativity and time.  I have struggled to combine my passions with my work, but lately, they seem to be at odds with one another.  Nursing has provided me with opportunities that I might not have had otherwise and I am grateful for that, but it is not my passion.  I seem to be good at it, but it holds no “fire” for me.  I enjoy the patients and being able to help, but I don’t have the same commitment and desire that my mom had or that other nurses I work with seem to display.  I admire my co-workers and the doctors for their dedication while feeling lacking in my own. 

So, what do I do?  Resign myself to the fact that “that’s life” and “that’s all there is?”  Do I try to live my dream while letting those around me down?  Can I put my job on the back-burner while I find myself?  Do I forget my dreams and “put on my big girls panties and deal with it!”

I sometimes wonder about people like Mother Teresa and if it really was her dream to work with the poor in Calcutta.  Whenever I ponder such things, I think I should place my life in God’s hands and rely on Him for guidance.  That is easier said than done.  There have been occasions when I have begged God, even yelling at Him at times, to tell what to do with this crazy passion He has given me.  If I’m not suppose to write, why do I have this insatiable desire to write?  Writing is both a blessing and curse for me.

Sometimes I minimize my passion by telling myself that maybe God’s plan for me is to just write a letter to someone or make up a  humorous little poem for some occasion.  Once I entered a radio show contest, writing a limerick for Valentine’s Day and won a free dinner, CD and other miscellaneous prizes.  Things like that provide a temporary “fix” for me, but soon I am wanting to do more.  While in Chicago, I took a writing course at a local community college on “How to Get Published.”  It was a fun class with weekly critiques of stories we wrote.  Once we did some “free-writing” and I wrote about writing as an addiction.  The class found it rather humorous as well as telling. Many related to being “addicted” to writing.

I have seen a modicum of success but it’s never enough.  In the past, most of my writing has been in nursing journals and newsletters.  I became mainstream when I started submitting to more general publications.  Seeing my story about Mike’s football birthday party in Family Fun magazine was fun (as was the check I received for it).  But…there was no byline, so people didn’t know who submitted it.  Working with the Chicken Soup editor on my story about the North Platte canteen in WWII was interesting.  Seeing my story in the Chicken Soup for the Veteran’s Soul was even better.  But again, temporary.  Articles in the Religion Education Teachers Journal led to some notoriety and a speaking engagement, but still not long-term.  Anthology books followed with short stories published among other authors’ stories, but nothing you would find at Borders or Barnes & Nobles. 

The past three years have been “dry,” with no submissions sent in for publication.  I write every day, but for myself.  Sometimes a letter or lengthy email is sent to a friend, providing my “fix” for the day.  The novel I worked on for a couple years sits in the computer untouched for some time now. 

My New Year’s resolution for 2011 is to write a biography of my good friend, Mary Zgud, who died in 1985 in the Mexico City earthquake.  She has three nieces who never really knew her and I want to tell them her story.  I am doing this for the girls so that they might know who ther aunt was from the perspective of her best friend instead of her brother, their dad.  (Not that their dad’s perspective is flawed, but as any writer will tell you, stories about the same event or person can be very different depending on who is telling that story.)

So, I think I will embrace being sixty and try to find balance in my life somehow.  I have lost so many friends and family before they reached the age 60, that I need to resolve to make what years I have left the best they can be.  It may mean changing some things around, but fortunately, I can be flexible (except when I climb out of bed some mornings!  Ouch!)  Like Gracie Allen said, “Age is mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” 



One thought on “On Turning Sixty

  1. I think it would be very inteesting to see how many of us ended in a profession we did not plan on.  I certainly never planned on being a teacher, but I love it and can’t imagine doing anything else.  Mother Teresa did plan to work in poverty.  She was the child of a wealthy  family.  She gave it all up to answer God’s call.  Not everyone is called in that way, but we are all called.  Enjoy your life each day.  Every birthday after 50 is a celebration of life.  When I turned 50, one of my kids was in England and the other was in Wyoming.  Both going to school.  My firends and I celebrated for a week.  I can hardly wait to see what happens this year.  I always wanted to travel, and fnally got around to it in my mid 50’s/  There is always time.  Keep smiling.  We love you, your wit and wisdom.  Linda Crist

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