by Janina Grey
This morning I awoke and went about my normal routine of starting my day. Opened the curtains, started coffee, showered. And as I surveyed myself in the mirror I noticed something other than gray hairs and wrinkles.
I saw peace.
Today I am 60 years and a day. Today I am embracing the autumn of my life.
As I write these words the harmonies of Celtic Harp, Sun Theory, fills my brain through my ear buds. The above image taken two autumns ago at Eighth Lake fills my vision on my desktop. Out my window I see fallen leaves scattering my yard, a grey and pale peach dawn is breaking over the blueberry farm across the road. Black coffee fills a Christmas mug handed down to me by my mother, who passed at 70 years young. It’s warm in my belly and heart, filling me with its rich sweetness and happy memories. And I truly am filled with peace.
One of the last conversations I shared with Mom was on her back porch in early August, sitting on her glider, admiring a maple tree she’d planted as a seedling that now towered over her yard, providing shade in the summer and homes for the little creatures she liked to feed seed and corn. She never feared growing old. But that conversation provided me with a bit of wisdom I did not know she possessed.
Motioning toward the tree she told me, “Life is like that tree. We go through seasons. I am in the autumn of my life. And I’m good with that. I get it now.”
She died a few weeks later, unexpectedly to us, but I think there was something in her that was preparing her for the moment when she would pass from autumn to winter, slipping into the cool folds of The After, to rest and rejuvenate in preparation of what’s to come.
I am in the Autumn of my life. But I’m not preparing to pass. I’m looking forward to the next turn of the Wheel of the Year. I’m looking forward to wrapping myself in the snows of Winter, weathering the dark nights, the dark mornings, the bundling up in sweaters and mittens, the holidays and getting together with loved ones. I’ll think about Spring when the time comes. For now I am embracing the days as they present themselves to me like gifts waiting to be unwrapped.
So many people fear growing old. They run from it. They try to hide from it. So it’s difficult for me to understand why I am so at peace with turning 60. My mother died at 70. My older sister, Janie, died at 47. My paternal grandmother died at 60. My age. Sixty.
But my maternal great grandmother lived to be 100 years old. A Centenarian. My maternal grandmother is looking at celebrating 99 years of life this summer. I plan to be there with her, by her side.
She is growing old with grace, sharing wisdom and laughter and love. As did my mom. That’s what I have inherited from them, from life.
At 22 years old, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. We didn’t think I’d live to see 30. But I’d just gotten married and not only did I live to see 30, but throughout the next two decades, I had two beautiful babies, bought a house, built a career, and eventually relocated to my dream life. It was a full good life.
At 40, I lost one of my kidneys to cancer. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it to 41. I asked for one more year, to see my daughter in her ballet recital in the spring. To see my son perform in his first musical. My request was so simple. Over the next couple decades I was given so much more, but lost so much as well. My first marriage ended. I lost my sister Jane. I lost my career path as a journalist. My babies grew up.
But the voids created by those losses were filled with so much more. I lived beyond my requested one year. I watched my children grow into amazing human beings. I found the love of my life. I found a new career path where I help people find their life and purpose and empowerment. I fulfilled my dream of becoming a writer. I found myself and healing in my spiritual journey.
I was given so much more. So much, much more. A lifetime of love, filled with new people, new chosen family, new memories.
At 58, I faced a third bout with cancer, endometrial/uterine cancer. I didn’t know if I’d see 60.
But here I am. Not only seeing 60, but rocking it. Yeah, I take more naps, I am adjusting to slowing down a little (a little). I like the quieter times, the easier pace. Sometimes I overbook, and I have to scale back, but I’m learning not to overbook in the first place. I’m learning new things everyday. About myself, life, the people I hold close. About love.
Life is changing, and its for the better. It’s always for the better, if you give yourself permission to let it be so.
I don’t consider myself old. I feel younger today than I have at other times in my life. But life is different. I’m not in the same place I used to be, and that’s okay. For me, the key to happiness is to embrace the changing seasons, let life flow, and don’t worry about the things we can’t control.
Surrounding myself with goodness, people who love me and appreciate me, who respect me and all my quirks, who don’t make unnecessary demands on me is my goal. Filling my days with purpose, but also with time to do nothing, slowing down, not overbooking myself, all of this is the self care I have been putting in place the last couple years as I prepared for this cyclical turn of my life.
This is long and rambling, and I’m sure not everyone will read it, but I wanted you all to know that embracing your autumn will bring you peace. Understanding we are like a Maple Tree, going through the seasons, celebrating life, resting when we can, is all a part of life.
I want to grow old gracefully, like my mother. Like my grandmother and my great grandmother. Fill my days with love and laughter, with hugs and tears of happiness. Let my eyes rest on sights that fill my heart with awe. Let my ears tap into sounds of nature and music and peace. Let my body be filled with goodness. Let my head rest on my soft pillow, snuggled with my husband as I drift off to sleep, only to rise refreshed and ready to face the new day.
There are no worries of wrinkles, or gray hairs, or a few extra pounds. I’ve earned these trophies. These are things to lift up and wear with a smile and laughter.
And when the time comes I want to be remembered as a kind, strong woman, who understood herself and loved herself-every bit of her self-and lived her life unashamedly and without reservation, all the while embracing life, peace, and eventually, embracing her autumn.
5 thoughts on “Embracing Autumn”
80! That’s amazing! Congratulations and Happy Half Birthday! I’m so glad my thoughts resonated with you.
Happy Birthday, and Happy Peace as well!
Thank you so much!
Ah, Janine I so share your outlook. I will be 80 in May, and this is the best time of my life.
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Ohhh 80 next month! Happiest of birthdays to you! Congratulations!