I heard someone say this week that the life expectancy of an American is 78 years old. I had to google that and found that in 2018 life expectancy was indeed 78.5 according to World Development Indicators.
My eyes widened, and I thought, “Oh my, 78 is not that far away.”
Last year when I reached a milestone decade, I faced it with some trepidation. The day came and went and I didn’t feel any different. So much for that.
” . . . that life picked up speed, then most of it was gone — made you breathless really.” — Elizabeth Strout
Another birthday pages through my calendar, and I have mixed feelings. I suppose it’s my age. I think deeply about life, death, today, and what’s left of my tomorrows.
I remember past birthdays, some joyful and some a little sad. Some were memorably celebrated and some slipped quietly by.
When I was a child a July birthday offered possibilities, outdoor activities and swim parties with cousins and friends. We ate ice cream and watermelon, letting the juice run down our arms and spitting seeds in the yard. At this age I think it’s so hot, too hot to go anywhere or do anything. I feel like a party pooper to my own fiesta.
When my mother was alive, she made my birthday important. An only child, cherished and loved, she knew how to make a gift special, to make a day fun. I especially miss my mother on my birthday.
“No matter what peoples’ lives might hold . . . still and all people were compelled to celebrate because they knew, somehow, in their different ways, that life was a thing to celebrate.” — Elizabeth Strout
I’ve heard this quote from Annie Dillard’s book, The Writing Life, “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” And it seems so simple. The dailiness of living, the tasks of keeping a home, the going to and from work, the raising of children and loving a family, the art and beauty we create become the life we build. Day upon day, we make the life we have.
But what of the things that happen to us that are out of our control, like illness, death, choices others make that affect us? How we deal with it, or even choose not to deal with it, also becomes the life we have.
“All life events are formative. All contribute to what we become, year by year, as we go on growing. As my friend the poet Kenneth Koch one said, ‘You aren’t just the age you are. You are all the ages you ever have been.‘ ” — Mr. Rogers.
Daily I make choices that impact myself and others, forming the life I am building. I am more thoughtful these days to my calling, my art, and my contribution to the world. I understand a little better the gifts I’ve been given by my Creator and how to use them for His glory.
When I was younger, I was not good at saying no to any and all requests. I wanted to please people and said yes more than I probably should have. Now I understand better what it’s like to move in the flow of my giftedness. Trudging along in a place where I’m not called can be drudgery.
“Numbering my days isn’t about computing days but rather about drawing me to attentiveness. Life on earth is a brief sojourn–brief but not unimportant, brief but not inconsequential.” — Jean Fleming
In the last few years, I’ve compiled a list of my ten commandments (not to be compared to The Ten Commandments), a guide for the rest of my life. The first one is Be Peggy. Be who I am, not who someone wants me to be, not what culture dictates or how trends and styles try to mold me.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator, an individual with DNA like no one else. I insult the One who formed my innermost being if I continue to try to be someone I am not. It’s taken awhile to learn this.
The poem called Grab Your Purple Hat describes the stages of a woman’s life from age 3 to age 80. Age 70 says she “Looks at herself and sees wisdom, laughter and ability, goes out and enjoys life.”
Yes, that is the woman I want to be, wisdom gained through years and experience, laughing much and using my abilities. I want to enjoy this one beautiful life, welcome people with open heart and listen to their stories. I want to love and be loved. I want to give myself away until my final breath.
“I believe we grow old only when we stop growing. Inner stagnation leads to death before dying.” — Lois Mowday Rabey
Years ago I cut a page from a magazine with artwork by Mary Engelbreit. It is an old woman gazing at her reflection in a mirror and seeing herself as the young girl she used to be. The caption reads: “We are always the same age inside.” Isn’t that how I exactly how I feel, not in my aching bones or my aging flesh, but the real inner me?
My beginning was ordained by a good Father and He watched as I was formed in the darkness. I believe He has purposed my ending and all the in-between days, guided by His Spirit. There is nothing to fear as the years add one upon another.
This is my life. I hope I leave something good behind. I plan to walk the path, holding to my heavenly Father’s hand, and enjoy the ride.
Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways. — Psalm 139:3 KJV