I know or have known a lot of people who lead interesting lives. A woman approaching 50 who has recently taken up skydiving. Another who leads adventure tours to Africa. A man who photographs wildlife around the world for National Geographic. A published poet. A student who spent two years studying culture and language in Asia, before college. A woman who produced an opera.
I have another friend who has told me many times that his life is far more interesting than he’d like. He has lost two children, is now raising a grandchild and in his time he has endured plenty of other sorrows and challenges. Interesting is relative.
Interesting is something I have learned to appreciate and I must agree that sometimes the unknown road is by far the best. I had a known vision in the back of my mind for much of my first 50 years about how the second 50 years of life would occur. I
thought I pretty much knew how my time would be spent, who it would be spent
with and where I would spend my days. It was not a particularly exciting vision but it was known and pleasant.
Then a hairpin turn appeared up ahead. Suddenly I couldn’t see what was around the next curve. I had to leave behind much of what I had known and I moved to the mountains of Colorado. It was a familiar place for escape but I was headed that way solo. Previously unplanned. Living alone at 8,000 feet on 40 acres with miles and miles of national forest as my neighbor was pretty unknown to me. It was a paradise in which I worked as hard as if I was living in a circle of hell. I learned to respect the land, the wildlife and the people who have lived in that country for generations. I began to
understand why they had lots of children. I could have used a few to help with the chores.
It was a far more interesting life than I had lived in suburbia. I made mistakes, learned a lot and somewhere in the sweat and tears of that time I came to realize how much more I was enjoying my life. I began smiling more. I was sleeping deeply at the end of the
day. I began scripting a new life and found all kinds of things that interested me that had not been in the original over-50 plan.
That first plan revolved around a man I used to love who tended to look over the fence to the greener grass beyond and to view his cup as perpetually depleted. He had a family that loved him, a family he could love, a career that others would view as successful. He enjoyed enough of life’s trappings to be envied. Despite all that, he told me once that his life was completely dull and boring and when he said that, I felt hollow.
I am fairly proud of how I responded when our marriage ended. I acted with some dignity and grace, though not always and not completely. While I might have been slow to recognize it, I have come to realize that whatever amount of grace and dignity I had at that time came from the fact that I was slowly coming to think of the circumstances that ended my marriage as a gift. A gift that smacked my center and for which I never asked. A gift that shook up my life and made it much more interesting. For which I am now grateful. Perhaps I should send he and her a thank you.
“May you live in interesting times” is ostensibly an ancient Chinese phrase. While its origin may in fact be more recent and more Western, its intent is not disputed. It is a curse, not a blessing, and the giver is wishing trouble and upheaval upon the life of the recipient. The supposition is that life is better if you live in uninteresting times of peace and tranquility. I suppose I could send off this curse instead of a letter of gratitude. But I am genuinely grateful for the gift that set me free at a time when I did not know that I needed or wanted to be set free. And I wouldn’t truly wish turmoil on anybody.
But neither would I wish anybody a dull and boring life. Peace can be found along different roads. Sometimes it takes a jolt in the midst of the calm and stillness to get there. Personally, I perked up with renewed attention when I faced the unknown. Once I rounded that hairpin turn, I found great beauty and tranquility that I might never have found had I never gone that way.
My life might sound a bit exciting to some but probably sounds pretty ordinary to others. It is a simple life in which I have chosen to make adventure a part of the second 50 years. Small adventures, I suppose, in the grander plan. Small adventures that make life interesting, give me big satisfaction and provide wisdom I might not otherwise gain.
Wisdom to know that I can deliberately choose to be happy in life. Wisdom to finally understand that nobody but me is responsible for my happiness. Wisdom to prepare for a life that will evolve as it chooses. And the wisdom to respond to what happens in life as I should.
In my next 50 years, I will spend money on experiences, not things. I will not say no just because it is a bit out of my comfort zone. I will live life and not watch it on television or read about it on-line. I will care for myself so that I can continue to take part and not be sidelined as I age. I will open my mind and see and appreciate those I meet along my journey. I will keep engaged in things that feed my heart and my mind. I will spend more time with people who support these commitments. I will spend my time in ways that build my happiness.
And I will look upon my life as a blessing and wish for others an interesting life. A wish, not a curse, that life unfolds for them in whatever form of interesting they may need to feel peaceful and tranquil.