47!, cell-phone addiction, tattoos

Tomorrow (which will occur in 5 minutes) I will have arrived at the day upon which I turn 47 years old. I am sufficiently in touch with my child-self to be frankly astounded by the size of that number. I am quite amazed, however, by how little I find myself to be entering my dotage, and in fact, am living a life in which I feel renewed energy, drive, love, and purpose, for all of which I feel deep gratitude.

Seven years ago, on my 40th birthday, I went to a pottery painting place and made a platter celebrating what I had in my life: a partner, a house, a child on the way, friends, etc. I am going to the same place tomorrow, after my family birthday brunch. This time, my purpose is to paint cell-phone trays. I did something similar before when I made little jewelry cups, one for most rooms of the house so that when I take earrings or rings or necklaces off I have somewhere to put them where I’ll be able to find them later. This has worked quite well, and saved me quite a bit of stress over the years. What I intend relative to the cell-phone trays is a bit different, however.

I find myself addicted to my phone. I’ve written about this before, but the degree to which it is so has come into sharp relief for me in recent months. I feel good about my solution. I will decorate these trays and place them in at least three rooms of the house, and then, after I’ve checked my schedule for the day & done whatever communication I need to for the morning, I will place my phone in the tray and not pick it up until such time as I’ve decided is appropriate, ie, when my kids are down for their nap, or at the end of the day, etc. And I’m going to turn off notifications so my phone is not constantly mooing at me (as it does when the volume is turned off but the phone is still able to vibrate).

The only possible exception is for picture-taking: but upon the recording of whatever moment I’m wanting to capture photographically for posterity, back the phone needs to go.

I am only able to take this step because as I’ve let go of the debilitating shame I’ve had for much of my life, I find myself better able to take actions in support of whatever the highest option is.

This evening as I soaked in the tubs at a local spa and considered tattoos (something I have done over the past decade or so), here are the words that came to mind: compassion, honesty, presence, ferocity, love. These are qualities which I celebrate as my gifts, and also honor as my challenges, qualities to cultivate and to which I aspire. And the animal which to me embodies them is the elephant, which is fierce in defense of its family, loving in life and upon death, powerfully strong, and, in my perception, thoughtful and present.

I don’t know if I will ever get a tattoo, but in the last couple of years I have finally (to the delight of my oldest child) decided on my favorite color, blue, and now I have recognized that the elephant is what I consider to be my totem animal. I think I am claiming and celebrating myself, who I am and who I want to be.

And that is a big gift in this, the beginning of my 48th year of life.

Garden Of The Gods

This morning I went to the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs. It was a deeply moving and spiritual experience. I don’t use that latter word lightly. I have rarely been to a more aptly named spot. I expected to find the rocks beautiful. I did not expect to find tears in my eyes at the sight of the first one, and I did not expect that experience to be repeated over and over.

It’s easy enough to come up with relevant adjectives: staggering, overwhelming, glorious. But talking about strong emotion, expressing with words that sort of feeling is very difficult to do.

I have always thought of myself as a water person rather than a rock/earth/mountain person. It’s my dad who likes to climb mountains. I always want to go to the sea. But I think various things, some obvious and some not, have been shifting in my 40’s. And part of that is developing new appreciations, new understandings, new loves, as well as new sources of renewal, both physical and spiritual.

I remember when I was a pretty little kid thinking that compared to the lifespan of the stars, my life was insignificant, and my sadnesses a passing blip in the stream of Time. That perspective did sometimes help me take the urgency of the moment down a notch or two. Now, at the advanced age of almost-47, I find that perspective has softened and broadened. The rocks, the earth’s spiny exoskeleton, have seen the passage of more time than my human mind can actually truly comprehend. But I can feel an energetic exchange between them and me and whatever undefined thing there is in the ether that I currently name Spirit. My life, no matter how short, matters. My experiences and feelings matter. All lives matter. And I honor the ideals and intention of the donor of the park to the city of Colorado Springs, who wished that, “it be kept forever free to the public.” And the public comes there, in all its diversity of raucousness and reverence.

I am not sure I can name the reasons that I cried upon sight of the rocks. But they seemed to me to be meaning made solid. They endure, and yet they change. They are affected by wind and rain, by ice, and by people. People have carved names and hearts and initials on their surfaces. I find this outrageous, though I understand the impulse to leave a mark on something so everlasting. And I accept as the cost of freedom that people will make unconstrained poor choices.

But I do think we need to teach and model reverence. We humans are very capable destroyers. Along with availability of affordable consumer goods seems to have come a casual disregard for the materials, work, and energy that have gone into the making and selling of those items. We need to remember and communicate the value of craft, persistence, longevity, and consideration for those who will come after us. And we need to remember our history, as well as allowing real history that has been suppressed by the powerful to reemerge when it is presented to us.

My experience today at Garden of the Gods reminded me of two of the questions I need to keep fresh in my mind in my daily life. And those are: “What is the most compassionate thing I can do for myself (and others) right now?” and, “What is the highest option?”

I am very glad I had that time by myself with no need, perceived or otherwise, to filter my experience through anyone else’s presence or perspective. I want to bring my children there when they’re a bit older. And I’d love to go back with my friends. But this morning’s solo visit was a real gift. I hope to keep the memory of it fresh so I can continue to receive its blessings.