ON TURNING SIXTY … FIVE!
by Jnana Hodson
The milestone demands some acknowledgement, or at least a hard assessment of my life to date. To be honest, when I graduated from college, I hardly expected to survive past my mid-thirties, and the way things were going, maybe I wasn’t far off the mark. On the other hand, I never anticipated the turns this journey has taken.
For one thing, I rarely thought of journalism as my lifetime career, but rather as a steppingstone to something else. While the field could be exciting at times, getting caught up in the management side of the business took a toll, and the more recent downward spiral of the professional publishing industry in general is downright frightening.
I had envisioned myself either returning to my hometown and writing for a newspaper that no longer exists, or else working in the heart of a large metropolis with its range of concerts, galleries, lectures, and theater, possibly after going back for a law degree. Of course, neither way opened, but the ashram route did. And I, who started adulthood somewhere between agnostic and logical positivist, was now on a spiritual pathway that would lead me to Quaker practice.
As I look back on my adult life, the only thing that has made sense has been this spiritual evolution. Each of the geographic moves, ostensibly in pursuit of a career, actually introduced the next step in an expanding faith and practice. Now my generation is having to move into places once filled by the “mighty old oaks” who came before us – the most troubling aspect being that we are, all these years later, still the younger members of Meeting or, for that matter, much of literature and the fine arts.
The craft of writing has itself has taken its own curious twists within this; while the poetry and fiction have often arisen in the discipline of keeping my skills sharp in the face of the daily grind, and thus have often veered toward the “experimental” side of literature, they’ve also served as a tool for investigating the unfolding experience – something quite different from trying to “create” a poem or story. Examining a situation honestly and directly, rather than trying to be ironic, cute, entertaining, or ideologically correct, is one of the consequences; on the other hand, you’re constantly measured against some standard of innovation. It ain’t easy, balancing the two.
Nevertheless, I’ll confess to a lot of remaining frustration. All of the unfinished work before me, for instance, or the difficulty in achieving successful book-length publication, despite having more than a thousand poems and short stories published in literary journals, at this point, on five continents. On a more personal level, I could look at all of the social skills to be fostered, to say nothing of a round of grandparenting, should that happen.
Even so, as I told my wife a few months back, I have nearly everything I’ve wanted, though it resembles none of what I imagined. The crux here is in being receptive and grateful, which proves surprisingly elusive when we’re in the middle of the usual swirl.
* * *
This is something I wrote for myself at sixty. And here it is, with a few tweaks, five years later. Just as applicable.