Today’s my birthday, and it’s OK if you didn’t know, or didn’t send me a card or a gift or anything. I know how it is. All my friends have birthdays, and leading up to the day, I may think, “Awww, I need to send a card, or do something to help celebrate,” but my follow through is just not good. I could say, I’m going to work on that this next year, but my now 66-year history pretty much proves my follow-through on improving my follow-through is weak, at best.
I’m sorry to any and all I may have snubbed in the past by not expressing deserved birthday wishes and congratulations, and I totally forgive any and all who have done the same in the vice versa. That said, I just can’t help be a little obnoxious when my birthday draws nigh. I don’t mind a good celebration, a piece of cake – and if someone offers ice cream, I am totally good with that. Seriously.
But I can also manage well, and happily, without. Realizing that may be the greatest gift of my aging process.
It’s been done before, and there’s a likelihood it will be done again because I just can’t seem to pull myself out of the snare. That is, this first column of August to share things I know, that I didn’t used to know, and perhaps some things I understand that had alluded me previously – all just celebrating that “another day older and deeper in debt” conundrum Tennessee Ernie Ford sang about.
Last year, a week past my 65th birthday, and in a bit of a bind, you might say, I needed – I’ll just come out and say it – a job. What’s an aging and maybe out-of-touch writer to do? Well, and here’s the lesson: I listened to a friend and pre-K teacher’s advice and applied for a teacher’s assistant position in the San Angelo school district. I got the job. I got the interview for the job because, actually, the district badly needed assistants, but also because I convinced the curriculum director, who I knew, that I was OK with the position’s low salary – and was ready and willing to do what needed to be done. At one point in the interview process I looked around to the principal, to the special education director, to the teacher. They seemed eager to round out my sharp corners to fit in their round holes, if I could show up, love the children, and try.
I convinced them, and myself, I could and would do that. And it was the start of a beautiful relationship. A very fulfilling year.
At the beginning of the summer, when I was lame from a blood infection that settled in my knee, I was in tears telling the orthopedic physician’s assistant I’d be ruined if I couldn’t go back to work in August. She explained what I needed to do – therapy and anti-inflammatory medication – and advised, “Don’t play the ‘what if’ game. You’ll be OK, and the what-ifs only change the outcome if you let them. Deal with what’s right in front of you.”
I take more notice these days of the relationships of hurry and worry. I may be slow taking the left turn against traffic, but your honking at me from the car behind won’t hurry the situation. And that 60 seconds we’re waiting may save us all time in the long run. Oh but there’s so much more to it than that. Patience is such a little-used but necessary tool.
I found a framed plaque the other day that reads, “When I wait, You strengthen me.”
Waiting. It’s a good thing.
After all, as is found in the ancient teachings of Buddha, “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”
One day I hope I will be able to trust my own heart and brain; that I can lean into my own strength and stand on my own moral compass and principles; that cruel and hateful rhetoric dressed up as any other thing is still cruel and hateful, but my humble opinion will not sway anyone not ready to be swayed. Arguing won’t change anything but my blood pressure. It behooves me to step away from the negative; let go of the harm and embrace the right and good with kindness, compassion and care.