Monthly Archives: April 2012

On Turning Fifty

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This is my year of gratitude. Not that I don’t already feel and express gratitude regularly, but this weekend—my 50th birthday weekend—made me realize that I need to focus for a full year on just being grateful.

I made this commitment after waking up too early this morning, a fairly regular occurrence unfortunately. My habit for those pre-dawn hours is to stay lying down, and search for a meditative focus to calm and center myself. Falling back to sleep is not my goal, though it sometimes happens. Rather, I want to make use of the liminal state to soothe any worry or anxiety that has me in its grip.

This morning in meditation I thought about my rich and wonderful birthday celebrations. For days I have been surrounded by humor, warmth, friendship and love, being toasted and fêted in such grand style it has been hard to take it all in. This morning I was able to sort out some of what has been going on for me under the surface. Overwhelmingly, I had the sense of long cycles being completed, and a feeling of grace at their fulfillment.

One cycle began soon after I left home as a teenager. I felt strongly that I wanted to have three children by the time I turned 30, so that by 50 I would be done raising them. This plan had its flaws of course, but it was also a profound sacrifice of my youth and freedom that I was willing to make. I wanted plenty of time to enjoy having grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and felt somehow that I wouldn’t find my vocation till later in life anyway, so spending my early years raising kids seemed to make sense.

As I sat surrounded by old friends yesterday, many of whom have known me since those early days, it slowly dawned on me that I really have completed that huge act of manifesting. My children are grown and pretty much on their own. I have my vocation, and my freedom. At fifty, a whole new life has begun.

The other cycle started more recently, and was marked by a big dream in early October, 2005. This was an extremely difficult time in my life. Just three weeks before, I had left my marriage of 20+ years after months of turmoil, and moved out to the coast. I knew by then what I wanted my career to be, but it was nowhere near developed enough to support me and my teenage daughters. Meanwhile, every day was filled with more painful revelations of just how bad my relationship had become. Everything behind me lay in ruins, and I could not see the road ahead.

Then I had the Bridge Dream:

I am approaching a toll booth at night, and scrounging in my wallet for the two dollar toll. I hand the fee to the attendant, and she hands me back a million dollars change! I hand it back, saying, “But I gave you exact change.” She says, “No, this is your change.” “A million dollars change? This is my lucky day!!!” I think as I drive joyfully off into the darkness.

A dream like this needs little explanation. Its clarity and simplicity meant that I could tell it to anyone and find instant agreement that ending my marriage and moving on was absolutely the best course of action. I told the dream to a group of Jungian friends, asking if they could see a downside to the dream. They were mostly silent, but one pointed out that energetically the distance between $2 and $1,000,000 was so vast that I should guard against exhaustion. Truer words were never spoken.

I have leaned on that dream for reassurance, trusting its truth when I didn’t yet trust my own. Yesterday, as I drove over the bridge on the way home from San Francisco, I felt in my bones that the Bridge Dream’s transformative process in my life is also complete. Perhaps there will be a moment when someone literally hands me a million dollars, but short of that I do feel a million times more alive, and more myself, than I did seven years ago.

The dream has seen me through some very low spots and helped me climb back up, and it has given me the clarity and compassion to guide others through their own dark nights of transformation. For this, I will spend an entire year in gratitude. I have my health, my life, my family, my work, my home, and a wonderful, shimmering circle of friends and loved ones. I feel truly blessed.