orange treeMy sixty-fifth birthday yesterday surprised me by being wonderful, ranking right up there with my tenth and thirty-fifth as a favorite. I felt loved and indulged, and I gave myself a break from analyzing whether or not I deserved it. I was attentive to the present, and grateful.

Among other gifts there was the blessing of rain. My two tall friends came to visit, and we went for a short walk up the muddy puddled canyon. Sometimes we were showered upon, and sometimes the sun broke through and the leaves were sparkling like diamonds. It was that kind of day. The air by the orchard was redolent with the heady fragrance of orange blossoms whose fallen white petals had piled up at the base of the tree. I scooped up a couple of handfuls and tossed them like confetti above my head, a little California blizzard, and I felt a sense of gratitude and joy. I live where orange trees grow, and this is a measure of attainment.

I have been thinking a lot about identity lately…who we were, are, and become. I wonder to what extent there is a fundamental continuity and to what extent we become completely different people over time. I’m deeply interested in how life alters us, particularly in the aftermath of my mother’s death and all the old sorrows it reawakened, the depression against which I have been struggling, and the coping mechanisms that have gradually become new patterns and have reshaped me so much that I honestly feel molecularly rearranged. I don’t know who I am anymore. I only know I am different.

It’s funny but I have recently learned that I’m different even in a literal DNA sense: I had an DNA test done and discovered that my genetic components are not quite what I thought they were, and it’s probably silly and symbolic but this too makes me view myself in a different light.

And I am thinking about the constant striving to learn and improve and create, to accept or defy, to figure out how to relate to others and how to be of service, to quell the sorrow and give wonder its due, to discover our infinitesimal place in the universe and be our best within it.

I am pondering all this in terms of my mother as well as myself…the tormented and difficult mother she was in earlier decades versus the brave and endearing creature she became in her final years, and I feel as though perhaps the final version was the most authentic, hard-won essence. I wish I had more conspicuously honored and loved her in that last season. I think life is so difficult, even for those of us with easy lives, and her life certainly was anything but easy. I am humbled by those who face old age with bravery and dignity and try to be affable and make the best of things.

Now I am close enough to the old age side to acknowledge that I’m headed there myself. I’ve done all the Social Security paperwork and gotten pension procedures in place, and my mailbox is littered with big envelopes from AARP and Medicare, and what once seemed remote and abstract is honestly upon me.

On my birthday I pray that all the accumulated and ongoing realizations make me patient and kind, although in some ways they have also rendered me honest and unfiltered, which sometimes seems the opposite of kind. Then again, it’s a relief to acknowledge the absurdity of things, and it’s really kind of funny…and increasingly, I think a sense of humor can be a kind of salvation. It might even be form of courage, and we can all use a shot of that.

But I am a work in progress still.

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3 Responses to Sixty-Five

  1. lisa says:

    Dear Cynthia,
    You have an artist’s eye and are extraordinary with words. You put into words that wistfulness when looking far into the distance, getting that split-second glimpse of who I was, all those years ago. Your writing so often crystallizes, precisely, many of the same life musings. It is a gift. I look forward to everything you write. (as an aside, I sometimes try to comment but can’t because the piece was so amazing that my comment would feel dilutive.)

    Every good wish for your Happy Birthday! The photo of your shoes in Feb 16th post “Notes” shows the shoes of a young, creative woman who has the spark of life’s whimsey. and tosses up orange blossoms like confetti. I’d say she’s very special indeed.

    One of your dedicated readers,

    • cynthia says:

      Oh, Lisa…how lucky I am to have a dedicated reader such as you! Thank you for your birthday wishes and this wonderful comment, which is truly a birthday gift in itself. I can’t tell you how much it means to me. And thank you for continuing to read this blog; I am always so pleased to hear from you, just as I would an old friend. I sometimes wonder where you are and if we ever crossed paths in the real world, but I suppose it doesn’t matter. Best wishes to you always.

  2. may says:

    Happy birthday Cynthia, be happy and healthy.
    I used to come and read here and used to go back with lot of inspiration about the daily life, here, nothing is extraordinarily, but always wonder how amazing life is there. Just want to say happy birthday and thanks for your words you posted.

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