Ironically, I sit down to write this article on the evening of my birthday. Each passing year I become a little more reflective when May 1st comes around, perhaps because I am more aware of how quickly this carnival ride of life starts spinning.
At times, a deep sense of gratitude penetrates through memories of challenges and pain. For in aging I gain the ability to clear the superficial flow that has sometimes been my life, and realize that relationships, family, and living a meaningful life of purpose and harmony are really what I want.
But other times I have a penetrating sense of urgency:
I need to hurry up and figure out how to cross that off my bucket list before I am too old!
Do you ever have that feeling on your birthday?
So the idea of awakening to my own greatness is one I ponder a little more seriously each birthday. In terms of years, I am turning 44. When I looked up the average lifespan of a white, non-smoking female in the USA, the average age is around 81 years old. Now I am not saying that I will live to be 81. That isn't a decision I am ultimately in control of. But it IS interesting to look at my life as barely over half over.
There have been amazing examples in history of people coming into their greatness later in life. Anna Mary Robertson Moses (known as Grandma Moses) started painting in her seventies and produced over 1600 paintings in the next three decades. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't write her first novel until the age of 65, and ended up writing one of the most beloved series of books of all times: Little House on the Prairie. And then there was Ronald Regan, who of course had a successful career as an actor, but didn't hold public office until he turned 55 years old.
What does all this mean to me? And to YOU?
We all have our gifts, our talents. I know that sometimes I box myself in to the life that I think I am supposed to lead, or that someone else may think is right for me. But who's to say that I cannot continue to explore the greatness that may be lying dormant inside? And the particular greatness that I awake to may be something that brings my passion for harmony, love, and a good life more present to me than anything I may have experienced to date?
The other piece to contemplate, friends, is that greatness often times is a collaborative event. This past weekend I had the great fortune to be called in to play for a symphony up north, who needed a few more cellists. At first I hesitated, for it had been a while since I had performed a symphony concert. But I knew that by committing to play I would be accountable to help the orchestra sound their best. For it is in everybody's best interest to show up in spirit and energy to make the whole symphony sing.
And it was a beautiful time, sharing that collaboration of greatness. Life is much like that, when I step up to the plate, so do those around me.
Perhaps awakening to our greatness is simply a segue to awakening greatness in our neighborhoods, our communities and our world.
So, when I wake up tomorrow, one year older, and hopefully a little wiser, I will remember this lesson from the Jungle. Be great. Be open to being great, no matter what your age, your ability, or your past history. It is never, ever, too late to enjoy this carnival ride!
by Jen Slayden