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Another Year Older? What a Gift!

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Anne Lamott, best-selling author (Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith; Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith; Grace (Eventually); Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers), turned seventy the day before I turned seventy-one. She wrote about this milestone birthday, and her essay was published in the Washington Post (“It’s Not So Terribly Strange to Be 70,” 4/10 /2024) and circulated on Facebook. You may have read it.

A few of her reflections struck a chord with me, and I wonder if they would with you as well. Let me put some of it in my own words and add some commentary.

You don’t feel old because all the ages you’ve ever been are still inside you!

You don’t feel old because all the ages you’ve ever been are still inside you!

Feeling young isn't about the years gone by, but the timeless essence within - and that doesn’t age. When young co-workers hear me mention my high school graduation year of 1971, I see them stop in their tracks to try to calculate if their parents knew each other or were even alive then! Yet, I’m the one grinning because though I’d enjoy some of their stamina, physical strength, and balance, I wouldn't trade a moment of my journey. Well, maybe one or two moments, if I’m honest, but not the overall arc of my life. I feel like singing the “Dayenu” many days when I think of all I’ve experienced.

Dayenu (Hebrew:דַּיֵּנוּ‎) is a song that is part of the Jewish holiday of Passover. The word "dayenu" means "It would have been enough," "It would have been sufficient," or "It would have sufficed." The Dayenu reminds us that redemption is a process. Each line of the Dayenu makes this point. For example, we say if God had taken us out of Egypt and not brought us safely to the Promised Land, Dayenu — it would have been enough. In my life, for example, it would have been enough to have experienced Christian community at camp as a ninth grader, but I also got to return and help lead that experience for others as a senior. It would have been enough to have helped lead as a high school senior, but God placed people in my life who encouraged me to go further in my faith journey. And I’m still journeying! Dayenu!

You and I have accrued some wisdom yet are humbled by the vastness of what we don't know. There can be great relief in that, and there can also be excitement in new discoveries. Staying curious is a great gift we can give to ourselves and the groups in which we participate.

I've learned that no one is invincible; true shelter comes from within, and love is our staunchest protector. Understanding that imperfection is universal and mistakes are part of the human experience lifts a weight off my shoulders. I used to think my struggles were unique and sometimes shameful, but now I see we're all on this pathway of self-discovery together. We all need to be gentle with ourselves and others.

My primary takeaway from celebrating another birthday is that aging is a continual learning process. Those of us who have been privileged to live another year have just entered a graduate degree program. I hope you’re able to appreciate all you are learning!

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