Happy Birthday

This Saturday morning, I went  to my Zumba class–loud salsa music, dancing with hand weights for an hour. Someone asked how I was, and I shouted joyfully, “I’M SIXTY-FIVE TODAY!”

Until then, I didn’t know how I’d feel about it. The joy had started bubbling up when I saw the sun glinting on the bare trees on the wooded hillside outside our exercise room. When the class spontaneously broke into song, I joined them. How great to be 65, to feel like a wise old crone and at the same time an adventurer into new ambitions and new realms.

This joy is not as it has always been for me. If you read my last post and took the quiz, you’ll know that a person’s nervous system is capable of many states. They range from restful to debilitating depression, from vigilant to freaked out. In between, there’s where I think we should be most of the time: present to ourselves, engaged with others and with meaningful activity, bringing inner and outer resources to bear on challenges so that we aren’t overwhelmed by them. I took my own quiz and scored where I suspected I am in my life: happily engaged most of the time but stressed by wanting to do too much in 24 hours.

This isn’t where I’ve always been. I spend my first 45 years in what turned out to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms. (Please go to my article in the Rosen Method International Journal for more.) Not that I knew that;  isolation, fear and depression were all just normal and actually pretty well hidden from others most of the time.

Now that I’m offering people a self-assesment quiz, I question whether we have an accurate sense of our own state. Wired and zooming are so ordinary that people think they are relaxed when every muscle in their body is contracted. They think they’re relaxed when they can’t look you in at the eye during a conversation or actually hear what you said. They think they’re relaxed until you ask them when was the last time they got a good night’s sleep and woke up refreshed.

Even I needed feedback from the outside to understand how much I still carry a certain amount of vigilance in my stance. At 65, I’m grateful I’ve survived at all. I know what the world is like for most people; I’m fortunate to miss the worst life can dish out. Every day,  I’m grateful I don’t live somewhere that is getting bombed. I’m grateful I have survived my cancers. I’m aware that I am privileged to escape certain forms of oppression. I don’t take a peaceful American middle-class life for granted.

My internal sense of life is so radically different than it was before I learned how to be embodied that life still amazes me. Any ordinary, mundane thing has the potential to induce a state of joy and wonder. I’m overjoyed at how sunlight turns bare branches into silver etchings. I can scarcely believe that there’s music so beautiful, my  tears are streaming before I even know it. That’s a long way from having no idea what I feel inside and finding the world threatening at every turn.

When I was first coming out of my PTSD trance, I went canoeing one day on the Erie Canal to the Genesee River. It was a bright fall day, and the water was covered with a layer of golden and red leaves. You’d dip your paddle into this mass from the treetops; the air shimmered with light. I took in a breath and landed in a moment that I will never forget, a moment that changed my life forever. In that moment, I knew that I was fully alive and that there was nothing more worthy to do than this. I was doing this. I was in a moment when nothing was missing, nothing was wrong, nothing was on the way to something else. I thought, now I’ve lived. I can die tomorrow and not regret a thing.

That was over twenty years ago. Everything since then has been icing on the cake. No wonder I feel so rich at 65, can’t regret anything, can’t complain about anything. And the best part is, I feel as if I’m starting  brand new. New blog. New classes. New ambitions: write, speak, get my message out. Life is so interesting that (alas) I’ll never have time to learn all I want to learn and go to all the places I want to see and make all the things I want to make. I’ll certainly never be bored.

All that from landing in my body! I recommend it.


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