On Waving Goodbye to Our Fears

Jo Jansen is in her early sixties. Like so many of us who’ve passed that landmark, time no longer stretches like a delicious taffy pull off into the distance. While she’s taken care of herself, the simple reality of limited time is as much a siren song to her as it is to the rest of us who eye our last years with a combination of deep excitement and trepidation.

A threat and a promise. The lady or the lion (or in our case, the lad or the lion, just to update the phrase)

Here’s how she’s handling it. This is a note she left me the other day:

I’m going to the Maldives and Mumbai in about 3 weeks and am beyond excited. I’m finding that as I grow older my sense of adventure is only getting stronger. Maybe it’s a lack of fear: pretty much everything I’ve ever been afraid of has already happened, and I survived.

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Kinda how I feel too, but perhaps for different reasons.

As the mid-October breezes herald a cool front approaching Colorado’s front range, I am facing the last fall (if luck backs me up) in this state. By next summer, I hope to be nestled in some new town or smallish city, busy settling in and complaining that I keep getting lost.

Getting lost pisses me off as much as not being able to sleep. But in this regard, getting lost means that I am on a new, prime adventure, just like Jo, who will by that time likely be planning her Next Big Adventure.

Perhaps one of the greatest gifts of passing our later decades is the realization that not only did we make it, but the Big Fucking Deals that we thought would end us at the time turned out to be speed bumps.

Not only that, those speed bumps were vitally important to being able to handle the next Big Fucking Deal that came along, that had longer teeth and bloodier claws.

And so on. You get my drift. After a while you begin to realize that the only way to learn to handle the BFDs is move through them and stop bitching, complaining, or running from them.

That has a simply lovely way of teaching us that perfect lesson that what doesn’t make us a carcass by the side of the road (like, texting while driving while shaving while eating a big Mac while fighting with the kids HEY was that my turnoff?) gives us confidence.

As in, why don’t I head off to the Maldives and Mumbai? For three weeks? And, alone? Why not?

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

Those who fire nasty darts at those of us who actually do these things may well also be those who dodged a great many of life’s bullets. Fine, but the cost of that is confidence, the sense of adventure that is bolstered by having suffered a few shit storms, and the humor that accompanies learning how to ride the bumps rather than having life drive its Hummer over you.

Losses, pain and heartache are the prices we pay for courage. As Jo says above, when you and I survive the worst things we imagine, it changes our perspective. We learn that not only do we possess the resources, those resources open new doors in other areas of our lives.

In 1998 I had a horrible health issue, filed for divorce and promptly went bankrupt. Today I am incredibly healthy and my credit rating is 842 out of 850. I’m working my life’s passion. I can think of lots of similar examples. This is just one reason I keep, and periodically review, my journal, and have since I was 19. I mine it for proof positive that at times I was completely overwhelmed and nearly did myself in.

But like Jo, in just a few weeks I am also leaving, again, this time for Ethiopia, to ride horses at twelve thousand feet. Explore Coptic churches and lava lakes. Alone.

Past sixty, the grace to let go of constant worry about a pound or a wrinkle or a belt hole that has to be loosened allows you and me to focus on what does matter. Whether that’s spending more time with beloved grandkids, learning to ride a Harley or packing off for parts unknown makes no difference.

As the immortal Augustus Macrae said to Woodrow McCall in Lonesome Dove,

Woodrow, you just don’t ever get the point — ‘It’s not dyin’ I’m talkin’ about, it’s livin’.”