Psalms 90:10, which serves as an epigraph to my novel The Boy Walker, advises, “The span of our life is seventy years.” That makes “The Big 7-0” seem ominous. I know. I turned seventy on Wednesday.
Fortunately, the psalm holds out hope of additional life by adding, “or given the strength, eighty years.” Then it seemingly pulls the rug out from under our feet by noting, “but the best of them are trouble and sorrow.” So what’s the lesson here?
Basically, it makes sense to live in the moment. Only two verses later, Psalm 90 implores God, “Teach us to count our days rightly, / that we may obtain a wise heart.” Do what’s right and just today, not tomorrow.
So okay, I’ll think more about today than tomorrow. But what about the past? Socrates proposed, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Too often, we examine our lives in exhaustive detail. The results may not be conducive to a healthy emotional state. That’s how it was for me over most of the last year leading to my birthday.
The problem is, certain ages present us with milestones. These can be challenging since we tend to think less about what we’ve accomplished than what we’ve failed to do. At 30, hope abounds. At 40, we believe we might make our mark. At 50, we start to make peace with reality. At 60, we acknowledge that most of our life lies in the past. Approaching 70, life stands in full review, although there’s more to be lived—given the strength.
Facing 70, I focused on my failures. Then I started to come out of it, capped off by my kids giving me an early surprise birthday party. Carolyn and I had planned a Shabbat dinner with Aaron and his husband Jeremy. Lo and behold, I came home from services to find Seth up from L.A. and Yosi in from Tennessee. I knew I’d gotten it right.
Now, I’m back to seeing the glass as half full. I had loving parents and still have my sister Kay. I have a great family. I hold a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature. I graduated from Infantry Office Candidate School at Fort Benning. My freelance copywriting business succeeded. I own a house. I’ve planted street trees for others, fed the homeless and written five books. A new novel comes out this spring. I’m no world-class traveler, but I’ve driven across the continent. I’ve also hiked Yosemite, skied Lake Tahoe, descended into the Grand Canyon and crossed the lava fields of Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. I’ve been to the pyramids of Teotihuacán in Mexico, Stonehenge, the Forum and Colosseum in Rome, the Tokyo Dome, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and Petra in Jordan.
I’ve also thrilled to seeing Aaron dance in Paris and Bangkok, and Yosi play fiddle in London. And I’ve delighted in Seth’s Facebook posts from China, Japan, England and Germany. I helped save an old woman’s life in front of Copenhagen’s Jewish home for the aged and closer to home, pulled a woman out of a treacherously flooded street in San Antonio. I have good friends. And I play a small role at my synagogue.
I’m seventy. I’m good. And I’m moving on. Seventy-one should be a piece of cake. Preferably chocolate.
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