Monday, August 01, 2011

For One Hundred Years or More

We were invited to a birthday party. Our neighbor, and newest friend, turned one hundred years old. Meet Irma. She touched our hearts and faith with her warmth and generous affection.

I cannot speak for Irma, but for myself. I am blessed and honored for all the beautiful and loving people I know, and in Irma's eyes, in the sweet remarks she made, I was reminded of how dear my friends and family are to me, and of how precious and miraculous life is... how it is meant to be lived as fully and joyfully as possible. I do not ever want to pass up an opportunity to celebrate... everyone, and everything! Our greatest and smallest milestones and accomplishments should be sung about, and toasted. We should gather together often, in ease, with smiles.

I think of how we celebrated our Grandmother's birthday, when Eunice turned eighty years old, and the wisdom and love she shares with us. It makes me deeply thankful and excited that in a few days we will be celebrating her eighty-ninth birthday! It makes me think of all the times we have paused to reflect on our triumphs and successes, and how there is never a regret when we make the time to share each others' company, and make merry.

I am still learning. I hope to always be learning. Some lessons are ingrained, instilled, a part of me. Some lessons are new, or simply need a refresher... a reminder of their value and meaning.

I've learned to try new things, meet new people, to be open to friendships.
I have learned that love grows, and there is always room for one more.

I have learned that we will grow old, but we do not have to grow-up. There is no final destination, or ultimate finishing line... not in life. I used to wonder when I would know I was an adult, or a grown-up, or had arrived, but I have figured out that this life is moving, not fixed. I will be young and old, silly and wise, smarter, and not... it's about adapting, changing, exploring, enjoying, sharing... moving with the journey, not checking the watch and fixating on a destination.

Cookies will always taste good. Flowers will always be beautiful. Friends will always be welcome. Time passes and experience teaches, but some things never change. I hope I always remember that cookies, dresses, flowers, friends, parties, and anticipation are good, and always will be.

I have learned to try and find balance. A little bit is best. A little more might be better, but a whole lot is not necessarily so good. Play, and rest. Order, and chaos. Quiet, and resounding. Here, I need help, to be reminded. That's fine too. I am learning to be a work in progress.

I have learned that anything good, is even better when shared.

I want to live a long time. I have more dreams, more plans, more wishes. I want to be more daring, and I want to be as comfortable about being less daring. I want to live my long life fulfilling my ideals, answering to my needs and interests. I want to serve others too, to give, to touch. Balance... again. Finding the nerve to exceed my own vision of what I can do, and exerting the nerve to say, "no thank you, that's not for me."

Irma rode her single speed bicycle from New York to California, eighty years ago! This is amazing, and inspiring... the stories she has to share could fill books.

I have learned that each of us has stories that could fill books. I have learned that people will surprise you, in a good way, sooner or later. I have found unexpected kindness. I have found other stuff too, but we have all have our shortcomings. Perfect people don't exist, and those that aim for a kind of perfection are missing some vital qualities.

I have learned it is better to join the dance, even when you do not know the steps.

I've learned to try new things. New hats. New colors. New flavors. New tunes.

I know how it feels to be embarrassed. It passes. It is not fatal. I know what it's like to taste a disagreeable thing, or hear a discordant note... those are just fuel for a good story. I know if I am respectful of others, and myself, the discomforts are manageable.

And when something does not fit, pass it on. Let it go. Move forward. Try again. Never give up. Never surrender!

Look for happiness. Expect it, but don't wait for it to present itself to you. Happiness is active, it is about engagement, it wants to be sought after, found, nurtured. I've learned to be a participant in the happiness I seek. There is no other way. Boredom happens when I am too lazy or dull to recognize opportunity, to make light. And another thing, happiness is simple... it is not wealth, it is not grand schemes, it is not elaborate extravaganzas. I find happiness where there is respect, love, curiosity, intelligence, imagination, in stillness, and in merrymaking.

I have learned that the world is very big, and very small. I have learned that life is full of contradictory notions, false steps, circumstances, struggles, conflicts. The world is very big, and the world is very small. I don't know what this means. I have learned it is okay to not have all the answers. I do hope I live long enough to learn more though.

We toasted Irma, and she toasted us. It was not her years alone that made us feel blessed in her presence. She exudes warmth and grace. Pictures of her, in her youth, were as light and exuberant as she is today.

Everyone was invited to celebrate her life. We could hear the band from our home, the good feelings spread so far, so deeply, that I carry them still. What a gift she shared with us.

I want to learn more. I want to celebrate more. And, some things... some things I want to unlearn. I have bad habits and weaknesses, things which I would be grateful to lose, but mostly I want to unlearn fear and doubt. Nothing does me less good than my fears and doubts.

I would like to live to be one hundred years old, to see great-grandchildren, be surrounded by friends, laugh and reflect on a lifetime of happinesses and lessons learned, to believe that I will have accomplished inspiring things... but I think I must learn to live today, this moment, as fully as possible. However many years are left of my life, I hope to be as kind, to smile as broadly, and speak as gratefully today as Irma did on her one-hundredth birthday.

Irma and Maria were fast friends, kindred spirits... no time at all seems to separate these two souls.


judy in ky said...

This post just kept getting better and better... and then that last photo... oh my goodness! Just wonderful.
You remind me of my good friend Randee, in Philadelphia. She has the same joie de vivre that you have and I am always trying to be more like her.

Liz said...

Beautiful post. I always feel such gratitude for days and encounters like this one that renew my perspective on what's important in life. Lovely!

Miriam said...

"We should gather often, in ease, with smiles." That's perfect, and it describes how I think about you - you have such a talent for creating community, and for creating smiles. This is a lovely post about life, and what's important and not so important. Beautiful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

Natalie...such beautiful sentiments spew from your heart always! I loved all your photos that captured Irma's special day. Our elders are gifts...I treasure mine! cuz, Beckie

Evelyn said...


Rois said...

Amen! Good post,you've left me thoughtful.

warren said...

She looks fantastic and like a great new friend! I think I like her with the stein doing her toast the best! Glad you had such a fun time!

Natalie, the Chickenblogger said...

I am raising my tea cup and toasting all of you!
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