Nearly two years ago I woke up on my 40th birthday in the tiny town of Chagcharan, in the mountains of Afghanistan and wrote:
Yesterday was my 40th birthday. I woke up thinking of all the people who I’ve loved who didn’t make it to 40. I was at once sad and deeply grateful to be alive. Is this what aging feels like?
A lot has changed about my life since I was last in Afghanistan and when I think about those changes, I realise we don’t always get the choices we thought we were going to get. Or the choices we were raised to expect we would get. But we get other choices, choices that we might never have anticipated.
They are not easy. And not always what we thought we wanted. But those other choices are life. And I’ll take as many more of them as I’m given.”
Today is my friend Susannah Conway’s birthday and with her usual grace and wisdom, she invited me and some of her other friends to mark the day by writing about what ageing means to us.
To me, above all else, ageing means I’m still here and for that, I’m grateful.
Ageing also means learning what my body knew all along, and this is what four decades in this body have taught me.
I am stronger than I realize. And more fragile than I like. I can endure pain with courage, and be reduced to tears by a virus. I carry my memories in my cells, and I am constantly being born anew. I hold tight to fear and resistance. I breathe deeply, and let go.
My legs will carry me farther than I think I can walk. My heart will keep beating even when it is broken. My feet will find the path. My hands will sooth a crying child. And write a story that will make you cry. And pour you a glass of wine, and brush your hair, and stroke your cheek, and hold your hand. I will chop wood. And carry water.
My 42 year old body understands the wisdom of rest, the beauty of stillness, the power of touch, the importance of dance. And that there is only this. Here. Now.
I am here. I am beautiful. I am powerful. I am brave. I am scared. I am alive. And I am grateful.