It’s My Birthday!

I’ve been thinking about this birthday since 2020. I have to be honest. I love that it’s my birthday. Don’t get me wrong. But I just hate turning 70 years old. It hurts. How can it be that I am this old? When I was growing up, 70 years old sounded old, and I mean really old. White hair, old shoes and frumpy clothes. Right? And then I begin to wonder if I was subtly taught ageism? Was I? How can I be an activist to eradicate this? Maybe this is the first step! 

Well I am here to tell you that my next decade will look different from what I witnessed as a little girl! I can assure you of that. I’ll go kicking and screaming into ugly shoes and frumpy clothes. Let’s hope that I don’t go overboard and dress inappropriately. Mon Dieu! 

Jessica Lee Shields born on February 24, 1951 in Jackson, Mississippi.

So here’s the truth! I’ve been grieving this past year. 

Thank goodness this is normal. Did you know that this is normal? Be honest! 

Here’s what I’ve done the past year to get me ready to welcome the new decade in my life. I have to credit the Pandemic with helping me to be successful. My commitment was to arrive on February 24, “ready” for the next decade instead of using 2021 to get ready. So I journaled about this at length and came up with a fairly short list. I was going to have set in place healthy habits. Hooray! I walk 3+ miles a day with Bailey weather permitting. I eat healthy. Thank goodness for Hello Fresh. I wanted to arrive on February 24 with a fit body and I think that I look the best and feel the best in years. I began a list of things that I will research and slowly add into my daily routine. Yoga and meditation is of great interest to me. I have to figure out my vertigo because when I lie down flat and get up, even slowly, I am really dizzy and feel lousy for hours. I will raise my hand and ask for help because this is number one for me. I’m going to continue to write both personally and professionally. I am on a journey of looking back into my southern ancestry hoping to be an activist for anti-racism and anti-bias with my memories and stories from the 1950’s and 1960”s. That’s important. 

So am I going to be ready for my birthday? I’m working on it. 

I love reading and I found an old friend, a book that I had bought way back in February 1997. A Women’s Book Of Life: The Biology.Psychology.And Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle  I fell in love with Joan Borysenko’s work. This book leapt into my hands last month and I found the chapter entitled Ages 70-77: The Gifts of Change: Resiliency, Loss and Growth. OUCH! I’m in that age bracket now? A gift? Really? 

And right there in that chapter was the proof that what I’ve been feeling the past year is normal. Whew! What a relief! This one statistic jumped out at me. Once a woman is widowed, she can expect to live another 17 years. I think that I am going to live way longer than 17 years because of my genetics. But genetics only account for 25%. Here are some of the thoughts from that chapter that are guiding my thoughts to create a vision for my next decade. 

Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Nazi concentration camps, wrote that “suffering minus meaning equals despair.” 

“Resilient people cope by some positive meaning in their suffering, whereas despairing people often feel victimized,” writes Borysenko. There’s that word again, meaning. 

It’s imperative for me to find the meaning in this crisis, and yes I do believe I’ve been in a crisis for the past year. That’s crisis with a little “c” and not all CAPS. I know from prior experiences in my life that I will find the meaning. It takes time though and I must be patient with myself. I loved the thought that Borysenko writes about the three “c’s.” Challenge. Control. Commitment. 

Well it’s obvious about the challenge. I’m going to add that I am going to be intentional. It’s critical to be mindful so that one day I won’t wake up and ten years are behind me. See that’s it! It feels like in the blink of an eye the majority of my life is behind me so this next chapter in my life had better count. I am going to be mindful and accept the challenge. I’m ready! 

Control. The good news is that I’m single so I’m in charge. I really don’t have to consider anyone else. I like partnering, harnessing my inner resources to manage the next decade, again with intentionality. And let me assure you that I can manage my thoughts and feelings. It’s time to take control of this next decade. I’m ready! 

Commitment. The good news here is that I am very comfortable with this word because of my profession in early childhood education and as a Conscious Discipline Certified Instructor. That being said I am committed to living the next decade with joy! I’m committed to being myself. Okay, the word joy is getting stuck in my throat but I’m going with it. I’m ready! It’s time to take that first step. 

And then I got stuck in how to end this blog. Where’s the “sweet spot? Where’s the meaning? I went for my daily walk on February 18 thinking about the ending. I arrived home and opened my computer and found that Joan Borysenko was holding a virtual training on February 20 on. .. . wait for it. . . .The Dharma of Aging. And just like that I have my inspiration from her and I found my ending because of that training. 

This is a transition for me. I’m celebrating that I am cognizant of this transition and writing about this event. I’m ready! 

So where’s the sweet spot for me in this moment? Where’s the meaning? I’m going to equate these two words.

February 23—- It’s the last day of me being in my 60’s! I just arrived home after 3.5 miles with Bailey. It a beautiful day on the island today! I chose to listen to the podcast linked below which inspired me with words like anticipation, and mystery. These words so resonated with me because I am a Seven in the Enneagram vernacular. Seven’s love an adventure. And that’s my sweet spot. I am going to embrace the rest of my life and allow the adventure and mystery into my life.

Here’s that podcast: Being Well With Dr. Rick Hanson: Radical Compassion with Tara Brach

I am going to embrace this moment with joy and celebrate.
So good bye dread!
Hello 70!
Happy Birthday to me! I’m ready!

Please leave a comment below for me! Oh how I love reading your thoughts! We’re better together.

I decided to post some photos to honor the past 70 years with the focus on the first twenty years. I am feeling grateful for a full life ; full of family and friends. Thanks to my parents for setting me on a path full of  great experiences. Here’s to you Jesse and Louise! Here’s a link to read about my relationship with Mom and the re-writing of our story.
It’s About The Connection

Jesse and Louise Shields

Kindergarten Class in Gallatin, Tennessee I am on the back row, third from the left.
First Grade Gallatin, Tennessee Can you find me? I’m in the middle row!

We lived on a farm in Gallatin, Tennessee! Love that photo of throwing snowballs with my Daddy. My Mom sewed all of our clothes. And yes, I won a dancing contest with Johnny! That’s my sister Aledia!

I love Girl Scouts! Really I loved it! I was a Girl Scout until I graduated from High School. I was a Girl Scout Leader when we lived in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

I loved the above photos. Hazel Margaret was my best friend from Owensboro, Kentucky. The tent is falling down and I am inside that tent. Oh my the laughter! What great memories!

Oh how I loved my three years at Ole Miss. Yes, I graduated in three years. What was I thinking? I missed a year of fun, oh yes and of studies. My sorority was my family.
Alpha Omicron Pi, Nu Beta Chapter

Ole Miss Freshman Year 1969
Don’t you love my long hair? We are welcoming folks into our home!
This came out in the campus newspaper. That’s me leading our sorority in Sing Song Christmas 1969. We won!
I was known on campus as “Lamb Chop” because I could do my mouth like the puppet. Yes, this is what Archie Manning called me. He probably has no idea of my real name.
I adored this group of guys. They had the highest GPA of all the fraternities. What an honor to be their sweetheart!
Senior Banquet 1971
Rush 1971 The creative juices that we put into this 5 day event. This is a skit from My Fair Lady!

5 Replies to “It’s My Birthday!”

  1. You have been on my heart more than usual this week in anticipation of today!
    You never ever cease to amaze me! Your love and joy. Your ability to seek and find the sweet spot. Your commitment to paying attention to the world around you and your ever evolving place in it. The way you make the most delicious lemonade from the lemons life occasionally throws at you.
    I am immeasurably grateful to know you, to call you friend. Loving you and being loved by you is one of the greatest gifts of my life.
    My life, my family, how different we would be without you. We’d be missing an invaluable piece in the puzzle of us.
    I’m so thankful you were born on this day seventy years ago!
    I’m so thankful you were raised by Louise and Jesse!
    I’m so thankful you are in this world, alive and aware, and chock full of Jessica-ness!
    Happiest Birthday to you, my darling friend. You’re going to kick this next decade in its ass!
    I love you like crazy cakes!

    Like

  2. Happy Birthday Jessica!!! I LOVED all the pictures – you’ve always had that sparkle in your eyes and infectious smile. You live your life out loud and the love and laughter in these pictures reflect that. As Kelli said – inspiring!

    I will always remember our first time spending quality time together at the 2014 VAECE conference in Roanoke, VA. I felt like I was walking around with royalty as people kept greeting you with huge smiles, excited squeals, and big hugs. I thought, “Now THIS is someone I need to get to know better!” And I’m SO glad I did.

    I did not know (or remember?) that you suffered with vertigo – oops! So those PT exercises I shared with you aren’t going to be so helpful since they all involve lying down. What about CHAIR YOGA? All the benefits of yoga without the lying down and getting up! Here are a few links I found doing a quick search on YouTube.

    Meditation – ah – this has been a slow, often frustrating, journey for me. My counselor told me that the Buddhists describe what I experience often in meditation as “monkey mind” – my thoughts keep jumping around! It can be challenging for me to simply focus on my breath without becoming distracted by thoughts. Again – YouTube has been super helpful to me here, and I started SMALL – literally searching “1-minute meditation.” It’s a practice! Mindfulness is about noticing, and you are very practiced at that. Did you know there are meditation podcasts? Oh yes, my friend. Did you know there is such a thing called walking meditation?! I look forward to hearing what you find helpful and giving it a try myself!

    Cheers to your next decade. I am here.for.it! Love you!

    Like

  3. You light has been shining since your birth – and continues to SHINE. A BRILLANT, thoughtful, facinating Blog of a brilliant, thoughtful, fascinating life!
    Sooooo grateful you have been part of my life. HUGS and LOVE!!

    Like

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