On January 11 of this year I turned 65. This is the part where you’re supposed to say or think, “Wow! He doesn’t look that old.” Sure don’t feel that old. At least most of the time! The “I” that I am feels ageless—that part of me that will ultimately dance into eternity once my physical body meets its expiration date.
However, a few weeks before my actual birthday, I got into a funk about that number. I kept getting announcements in the mail about Medicare and supplemental insurance, which I knew nothing about. Yet with every piece of mail I got, it threw the reality of it right in my face. The number itself and the encroaching birthday became specters lurking nearby, haunting and taunting me, ready to jump out at me around every corner. In spite of knowing that I was very healthy, loved, and had a great life—and I didn’t feel old at all—I realized there was something about that number that touched on a belief deeply ingrained in me. After all, weren’t people supposed to retire at that age?
After pondering this major life transition for a couple of weeks and hearing my guides tell me loud and clear that my work here isn’t finished and won’t be for at least another 20 years or more, I had to make some choices as to how I viewed myself in relation to this passage. With the help of a men’s group with which I’m involved, it came down to one thing. I can metaphorically commit to death, and be morose for the rest of my life. Or I can surrender mind, heart, and body to the reality of my age and commit to life.
I shared this with the group, and with their love and support, deeply affirmed this commitment. Stating it out loud and being very clear lifted my spirits immediately and the phrase I used, “I commit to life” continues to be a guiding mantra for this new era I’ve now entered. What it means to me is to be as fully present as possible, to continue to allow myself to evolve, and most importantly listen to and heed the voice of Spirit in whatever way it shows up.
Okay, so on Saturday January 4, I went with my stepfather Richard to get his daughter Victoria from Disneyland. We were gone for a couple hours and when we got home, I opened the door and there was Serena, our nine year old, eyes as wide as a bug’s! Glancing just past her there were quite a few people that I knew sitting in the living room. Then I saw the balloons and the decorations. It quickly sank in. This was a surprise party for me! And thank God we came back earlier than expected and Jesseca’s father had forgotten to let her know that we were on the way so that there was nobody jumping out from behind couches and doors to yell, “surprise!” Very grateful for that!
Most of my extended family was there as were two couples that were close to both Jesseca and myself. It was a very warm feeling and I felt very appreciative of everyone taking the day to share with me. After singing Happy Birthday to me, the gifts were presented. I had asked three of my nieces, all sisters, to sing for me on my birthday (which of course I thought was a week away). Jordan, Sydney, and Paris, ages 16,13, and 11, all sang one of my all time favorites “In My Life,” then Sydney did a solo of another favorite, “Hallelujah.” My heart melted with my love for these girls and their expression of their love for me.
I went to my office in back of the house to get something and when I walked in, my eyes were drawn to a walking stick sitting in the corner. It was my Irish great-great grandfather’s shillelagh (She-lay-lee). This unassuming oak walking stick, waist high, with black and reddened mottling covered with a smooth veneer of polish, the luster still glowing in spite of its age, called to me with the voices of my ancestors. I was inspired to bring it into the house and a ceremony emerged.
I described the shillelagh as a representation of the ancestors of my lineage, and since most of the people there were also my blood relatives, they too shared the lineage. Everyone was already in a circle in the living room. I described how I would pass the shillelagh around and requested that each person while holding this sacred piece of wood give me a blessing as a birthday gift. In turn, I would offer them a blessing in exchange. It was a heart-filled ceremony and the blessings filled the air with love and gratitude that was palpable. Food for the heart and soul.
Following the ceremony as I sat quietly in the corner rocking chair I surveyed the room, looking at all these incredible people to whom I was related, either by blood or by a different kind of kinship. The world was right and I was glad to be alive and be sixty-five. I am committed to Life, I am committed to Live.