I had always considered turning sixty would be a defining moment in my life. I believed I would be at one with myself, comfortable and secure in my place in the world, calm and at peace. Two years ago, when my whole world turned upside down, I questioned whether that would ever be possible. Previously I wrote of seeing my life as a tree passing through seasons. After my youth of spring and the happy summer of motherhood, in the autumn of my life I felt my tree had been cut down and I had plunged into an early winter of despair.
However, after some time, I realised that the roots of my tree (family) and my trunk (experience) had not been destroyed. Moreover, I was growing new branches (friendships and opportunities) and I had managed to save some seeds from my younger years. Then as I saw green sprouting all around me, I realised I had reached a new spring, and some of those saved seeds I had already planted and they were beginning to grow.
These are the seeds that I saved and this is where they have come from:
- Kindness: Although living a hard life herself, bringing up nine children through two world wars and the depression, my grandmother always knew someone older or sicker or more lonely who needed her help. My grandmother taught me kindness.
- Pride: My father did not see me graduate or marry yet his look of pride in me, whenever I did anything of value, is imprinted in my memory.
- Laughter: One of my uncles, taken from us too young, filled our family gatherings with fun and laughter.
- Serenity. My aunt who died of cancer at age 33 was always serene and calm.
- Boldness: My cousin nearest to me in age was killed in a car accident on his 21st birthday. He was daring. I was cautious. I still hear his voice ‘go on, you can do it’ that urges me on to begin things I am afraid to try.
- Courage and resilience: My mother lost her mother, sister, husband, an aunt, two brothers, two friends, and two nephews over an eight year period. Widowed at 47, she worked for the next twenty years in order to educate my two younger brothers and provide for her own retirement. She never complained and has been the rock of support for everyone else in our large extended family.
- Fairness, Standing up for others: When I was about ten a friend of mine taunted a disabled girl in front of me and I said nothing. When my mother found out she said to me “if someone ridicules someone less fortunate and you do not defend them, it is as if you said the words yourself”. My mother taught me to stand up for fairness.
- Community: My mother and father were community minded people.
- Wisdom, tenacity, endurance, gratitude, hope and optimism: from my mother
(my mother is 87 after-all, and she keeps throwing me more and more seeds)
- Family and loyalty: As well as sharing happy times, my large extended family and close friends continually support me and each other, no matter what.
- Belief in me: My sister and best friend have shown an unswerving belief in me
- Parental love: I had a strong belief as a mother of not only doing things for my children, but also doing things with my children; coupled with family togetherness.
- Patience, humility: My four beautiful children have taught me patience and humility.
- Justice, Free Speech, Humanitarianism, Ethical Science, Protection of the Environment: My whole family including all my children have lived by these beliefs and have spoken up for these as essential elements in a free compassionate society.
So how do I feel my life is for me at sixty?
A new spring. A new beginning. A new chance. A new opportunity.
I will begin by continuing to plant those seeds I have listed and keep nurturing them into the future. .