Birthday Thoughts: On Turning Sixty

NowWeAreSixWhen I was a teenager my little brother was pretty sure I wouldn’t make it to 21.

When I was 28 a plane I was on had to make an emergency landing, and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see 29.

For an infinitely long split second when I was in my early 30s I thought I had died in a bomb attack.

When I was 48 and I got word that my breast cancer had metastasized I was pretty sure that even if I should see 50, I certainly wouldn’t see 55.

Last year, I didn’t think I’d see Christmas.


Unbelievably, today is my sixtieth birthday. According to Auntie Wiki, some other things also happened in March of 1955. Jim Henson built the first version of Kermit the Frog. Fifteen-year-old Claudette Clovin refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama to a white woman, and was shackled, kicked and harassed as the police carried her away. Elvis Presley made his first television performance.  Peter Pan was presented on American television with the original stage cast.

Also in 1955: the Salk polio vaccine received full approval from the American Food and Drug Administration, Ray Kroc opened the first McDonald’s, and the first Hebrew-speaking Catholic parish was created in Israel.

1955 was a very good year.

Two years ago, I wrote:

It hit me suddenly today – I’ll be fifty-eight in two days. Will I live to see my next birthday? There is a good chance that I will not. The odds that I’ll reach the age of sixty are minuscule.

While I was writing today’s post I had a moment of clarity: for the last two years and a bit, ever since the bone mets started getting worse, I have oriented myself toward death. I’ve been thinking about dying, preparing to die, resenting death, accepting death, longing for death, running from death… I have allowed death to define me, have allowed this disease to define me.

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to my spiritual companion and asked him “How do you prepare to die?” “You don’t,” he replied and I sighed to myself. Doesn’t he get it yet? “You live,” he continued. “The question is how to live.” I dropped the issue because I was pretty sure he was clueless. I felt misunderstood and devalued.

Oops. As I’ve found over the years, it sometimes takes a while for important remarks to sink in. I rejected his remark off hand, but I was wrong. How to live is the question.  How to live a full life, “pressed down, shaken together and running over”, without slipping into that false positivity that is nothing more than denial, the permanent grin that is the mark of a bliss ninny. Instead it means that I accept what I cannot change (metastatic breast cancer) and change what I can – my attitude.

That is my challenge as I begin my seventh decade on this earth. I want to be in charge of my feelings, my attitude. I fully expect that I will have times of anger, frustration, depression, helpless feelings; of course I will. The difference is that I want to acknowledge the feelings and not let them be the boss of me. I have been working on this for a long time, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows, but now I am going to make it more of a priority. I don’t expect it to be easy and I probably won’t be consistent at first, but that’s okay. I’ll be gentle with myself when I blow it and start again.

I think this is one the best things about myself. (It’s my birthday so I am allowed a little brag, right?) I am sixty years old, an age that for most of my life sounded so old, and I can still work on myself, change myself, accept criticism (albeit not immediately), and act on it. My body is stiff, but my spirit is still flexible. Happy birthday, me!


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31 Responses

  1. Susanne says:

    Happy Birthday, my sweet friend! Love you to bits.

  2. Kathi says:

    The best thing about being sixty is still having a flexible attitude! That’s a real gift, too, because it’s not true for everyone. So glad you made it, dear Knot! Welcome to the Club, a much better club than that breast cancer club. You have every day that you have. xoxo

  3. Gail Speers says:

    Hello Knot! Happy Birthday! I like your post and I know exactly what you mean! I was dx at age 45, now 57! Big party for my 50th as that seemed likely to be my last BIG Bday. But I’m still struggling along. Yes, I think the point is to live. In my journey, the word “choices” seems to come up regularly. I choose to do the best I can 😉 I know what I would like to accomplish… The challenge is not to beat myself up when I can’t do it! I recently took a day off to worry about something… Then I put that worry aside. Hmm whatever works. Living to me means finding a way to explore all the things that interest you. I have a lot of interests as it turns out..l say the person with the most interests at the end wins! Oh well something like that. Do something special for yourself… Consider making this your Jubilee Year… Hey the Queen did it… Do something special each month, weekly if you can manage. 60 is definately one to celebrate!

  4. Maxine D says:

    Oh Knots what a wonderful milestone – as Kathi said, join the club 🙂 I’ve been here a few years myself.
    I too sometimes take time to appreciate constructive criticism, but I love your willingness to be flexible, to be teachable, and to be gentle with yourself in the process of change.

    happy birthday dear friend.
    {{{{{Hugs}}}}}, prayers and blessings

  5. Deborah says:

    Happy birthday, dear Knot! Your friendship, and your blog, are such blessings!

  6. You made it, I’m so very glad you did… and of course you should brag! I love this post… I love you more. Happy 60th birthday, dear friend.

  7. She says:

    Happy Birthday ! Joi de vivre!

  8. Elizabeth J. says:

    Have a Happy and Blessed Birthday, Knot.
    Your friend is so right, we need to concentrate on living, joyfully, fully living. But, sometimes that can be hard to do.

  9. Happy birthday, Knot!

  10. Dearest Knot, wishing you love, peace and blessings on your birthday. Marie x

  11. Ooh that’s a pretty nasty looking avatar with my name 😉

  12. Vanda Rosignoli says:

    You make me cry, Sis.

  13. Glendon Bell says:

    Happy Birthday Knot. Hope I am alive to wish you 65.

  14. Tracy says:

    Happy Birthday Knot. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way people think it will and I’m glad about that because it means you’re here. Our days on this planet aren’t guaranteed but we can all do our best to ensure however many days we do have are spent on the beauty of life itself 🙂

  15. Stephanie says:

    Dear Knots,

    Happy birthday!

    Each day is a milestone, birthdays are stops along the way and a new decade can be a turning point.

    May your seventh decade bring joy, depth and breadth of experience, filling your spirit and soul with God’s eternal love. And when you breathe your last, may you recognize that you’ve lived fully and are dying fully into that love.

    I’m reading Christian Wiman’s My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer. You may enjoy it too. If you’d like a taste of his work, here’s a link – http://www.onbeing.org/program/remembering-god/feature/love-bade-me-welcome-gazing-abyss/4662

    Warmest wishes,
    Stephanie Sugars

  16. Hi Knot,
    “My body is stiff, but my spirit is still flexible.” I absolutely love that! Life is such an evolution isn’t it? I so vividly remember when 40 seemed ancient and now look at us! Happy, happy birthday to you dear friend. Grateful to know you, albeit from afar.

  17. Julie Frayn says:

    Happy birthday, Knot. Wishing you find happiness and bliss (without the ninny) a little bit every day. Even if it’s just cherries, almonds in honey, lentil soup, and sunrises. Love to you.

  18. Vera says:

    Dearest Knot, I celebrate your birthday with you and may you be called blessed. Peace and love, sister. I hope I make it to 60, your time battling mets is inspiring. God bless and keep you, my sister and friend.

  19. Happy birthday, dear friend! May you live all the days of your life!

  20. Rebecca says:

    Happy Birthday to you!

    We never know the outcome of things but it is so natural for us to want to “prepare,” as this is also an aspect of survivorship. We also seek answers to be able to adjust to our reality, to able to accept it.

    I am glad you are celebrating another birthday. And because I always carry hope for all of us, my wish is you get to celebrate another. And another.


  21. susan rahn says:

    Beautifully written! When I was growing up I never thought I’d live to be 19. And with each birthday I would have similar thoughts about future birthday’s. Never really understanding why I had such feelings.

    Now with a similar diagnosis as yours, I look to each year as a challenge and I LOVE a challenge! Here’s to you and to many more birthday’s!

  22. Kelly B says:

    Happy Birthday! The essay was lovely – thank you for sharing it with us.

  23. Happy Birthday!!! I hope you have a fantastic day. Thank you for all that you do for us. I know for me personally birthdays have taken on a whole new meaning. I cherish and look forward to each and every one of them. Living 15 years with cancer and 12 of them as a metster I live each and every day to make memories with my loved ones.

  1. 14 March, 2015

    […] tomorrow, or yesterday, depending on your time zone, March 14th, Knot Telling turns 60. She wrote a wonderful blog post about living with Metastatic Breast Cancer… and reaching the Big […]

  2. 14 March, 2015

    […] happy birthdays together; Katy writes a beautiful, heartfelt letter to her daughter as she turns 9; Knot reflects on reaching sixty (check our Susanne‘s lovely blog post for Knot); and Elizabeth and […]

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