Today’s the day. Day 365. The final FIFTY post. Here goes:
When you’re writing a story for a screenplay or a novel or an essay, there is something called a through line or the spine. It is related to the theme but is not the theme. It is the one idea that links together all elements of the piece of writing and gives coherence to the piece. It is called the spine but I like to think of it as the heart.
In this blog, the theme was turning fifty, what it actually is like to be fifty, in light of how our culture defines it. But the through line, the thing that is threaded through every post and every interaction related to every post, the thing that makes it whole is the beauty and necessity of relationships.
What I’ve come to understand better throughout this process is that the reason why I started this blog, the reason why I stuck to it despite many twists and turns in my life, the reason why I have great hope for the future, post-fifty, the reason why anything makes sense to me is that I am not alone. A journal is an expression of what things look like inside of a person, and when I looked in, I saw all of you. I saw that my world is full because I am a part of something bigger than myself.
Now this isn’t exactly profound, but in my experience, it is something that is often pushed down while we go about our lives. Of course, we make connections with our family, with the people in our various communities, with animals and nature and humanity every day, but I believe we don’t allow ourselves to feel the power of those relationships while we’re trying to get from here to there.
For 365 days, I have allowed myself to feel that power. I initially was inspired to take on this challenge because of all of the people I know whose lives got better after they turned fifty. As I was on the cusp of fifty, I wanted to see if that would be true for me as well. SPOILER: it has been so far.
Every night, when I opened my laptop to write a post, I stopped and considered my day. Once I started writing, the meaning of the day or of a single experience rose to the surface. Often, as I wrote, I laughed or cried or restrained myself from screaming. Even on the days when I wrote about not having anything to write about, I realized and acknowledged to myself that my life was not without meaning because without me, the story would be different or wouldn’t exist at all.
Obviously, this is true for all of us. But when do we feel it? At ceremonies. Weddings. Funerals. Bat Mitzvahs. Graduations. Retirement Parties. When we or someone we love is going in for surgery or when we fall in love or out of it. But most days do not include these moments. So we forget or we ignore or we gloss over both our value in the world and the value of all living things.
That value shows itself in relation to other living things. Our dogs and cats show us. The cute kid who hasn’t learned limitations shows us. The people who behave in ugly ways or use their power to corrupt others show us. The people who reach out and tell us that they responded well or poorly to what we said either out loud or in writing show us. The tomatoes growing in our backyard show us. We are who we are in relation to everything that is not us.
Some of the other things I learned this year while writing FIFTY:
- Things that seem impossible are often possible as long as you work toward making it possible.
- Children and animals brighten our world.
- Being out in nature reminds us that we are whole without all of our stuff.
- We suffer because we are afraid of suffering.
- We are at our best when we touch other people, be it physically or gesturally or through action.
- When we try to be somebody we are not, we may fool others but we never fool ourselves.
- When you put yourself out in the world, people want to connect with you and many of them do.
- Family is everything AND is bigger than those related to you through biology or marriage.
- We see more when we examine the small things. We can extrapolate out if we so choose.
- We will never know everything we wish to know but that’s okay as long as we keep learning.
I am finished with the FIFTY project but I am not finished blogging or being over fifty. My hope is to continue blogging but less frequently. Initially, I plan to blog about once a week. I hope you will continue to read what I write and respond to me the way many of you do. It means the world to me.
Regarding the non-blogging part of my life: I feel inspired. I am writing more fiction and more essays than ever before. Over the next year or two, I hope to begin publishing some of what I write. I’ll try to sell my novel which is so close to being ready, and I’ll try to sell some of my shorter work to online and print publications. Beyond that, who knows? There is so much out there to explore and to learn. My goal is to go at it full force for the rest of my life.
Who out there wants to join me?
Finally, I want to thank all of you for spurring me on when the going got tough. I’ve made some new friends (virtual) and have reconnected with some old ones. I’ve discovered that you often have no idea who is reading what you write until you bump into people you haven’t seen in years and they start talking about something they read that you wrote. I can’t begin to express how much that fills me with joy. Overflowing.
In the words of Carol Burnett, “I’m so glad we had this time together. Just to have a laugh or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say so long.” Listen to the whole song here.
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