Gratitude, Joy, Oneness and Service (Day 642 – Day 648)
This weekend, I celebrate my birthday. I love my birthday and I love it if people make a fuss over it, but I tend not to wait for others to do it. I take myself away to Vienna most years and have a different cake and coffee every day of my trip. I don’t just go to Vienna for the cake (although Sächer Torte really is good). I go there because they have one of the finest Art History museums in the world and because I am a big fan of Austrian Expressionism and the Vienna Secession art and crafts movement. I also love the Volks Garten and the special Rose Garten that is a part of it. I could spend all day photographing the Gloria Dei roses that bloom in May. And of course, Hundertwasser built some amazing social housing in Vienna based on some of the principles of Art Nouveau (a favourite design style of mine) coupled with deep ecology. His art work is amazing, too. He was an outsider artist in every sense of the word.
This year, however, I am staying in London for a Paint Jam, because it will likely be the last one for awhile. I will be in Vienna next month.
Age of course, is on the mind of anyone over 21, when their birthday comes around. I had a big birthday last year and the fact that I hit a new decade seemed to imply a different way that people viewed me. Suddenly, I was ‘old.’ If you go back through my posts, you will find that this was the theme, last year.
Inside every old person (whatever old means) is a young person whose body is wearing out. Well, that is what ‘they’ say, isn’t it? I’m not so sure that is true. I have a friend who is 26 and who is, in some ways, behaviourally much younger than that. But emotionally, he is has the maturity of a wise old person. I was much the same way. In some ways, I feel that I am finally growing into the age I was, spiritually and emotionally, as a child. I have always been sensitive, perceptive and wise. It’s just that now people are no longer surprised by it.
There is something so funny in that. I was talking to my flatmate this week about something I had perceived that everyone else had missed. She didn’t think that was spectacular. In her Italian English, she said:
“You have your age!”
I wonder what that means. It is so funny what labels we put on age. One can’t do certain things because one is too old, but if one displays wisdom, it is expected. I don’t buy this.
Wisdom is the product of both a personality that is sensitive and perceptive and of one’s circumstances. Some people are born wise and some people have to attain wisdom quickly because of their precarious circumstances. Some people older than I, in their senior years, are dumb as a block of wood and lack any self awareness, let alone awareness of others. Age gives us nothing but worn cartilage, poor eyesight and blocked arteries, if we aren’t careful. Everything else is either the luck of personality or has been hard earned.
I also had a friend recently insist that I am old. I found that odd. He was feeling old, and while a year younger than I am, I find a world of difference between us, in attitude. He is ready to die, although he probably has another 40 years in him. I am not.
Neither of us is what I would call old. Neither of us is what I would consider young, either. We are at this awkward in-between age where we are ‘coming of Age’. We had a similar transition as we went from child to adult, but we never talk about the transitions of age that come later. I estimate that the latter transition will last from 40 to 75 for most of us and is a very challenging time of change. How we define ourselves is what matters most to our mental health in this period, and to the quality of our lives.
I wonder why so many are so quick to define themselves in such self-limiting ways and insist that others align with their categorisations?
I am grateful for my flatmate’s repetition of a cultural norm that she meted out, unchallenged and for the non idiomatic choice of words she used to express herself. Words are my blood and so it opened a portal for me to question the ideas that those words conveyed. I am grateful for my friend who insisted twice that I join him in considering myself old. My resistance to the label gave me cause to pause and give myself the space to consciously choose how I will define myself in this next year of life. And most importantly, I am grateful for the opportunity to mark another year around the sun. There are many friends and family members that will not see that privilege again. It is a joy to spend time with my Street Art friends and it will be a joy to see my favourite city, Vienna, one more time. I think about the 26 year old self that I was, the 6 year old self and I anticipate the 86 year old self that I will someday be. I feel the Oneness of me at all times in my life. We are who we are and it is only the body that houses the mind and soul that changes and wears out. We are eternal souls and so, although I have felt and succumbed to a lot of pressure and rules about my age this year, I don’t understand why we get so hung up about the biological date of our bodies.
We all “have our age.” And we all have a limited number of years on this earth. What we do with the distance between our age and the end point is up to us. My most important act of service in this lifetime is to live out my life’s purpose, for as long as I have on this planet.
And what does all this mean? Maybe I am at the point in my life where I feel that I have finally grown into my wisdom. Maybe I finally “have my age,” but I am under no obligation to accept anyone’s labels or rules.
And, neither are you.
Don’t raise a toast to me, in my honour. Forget all that “adult” stuff. Go out and blow bubbles, climb a tree, fly a kite. Run and jump and dance and sing. Whatever you do, please don’t act your age.
For what are you grateful, this week?