Sixty. I'm turning 60 this month! I'm so glad I've lived long enough to say those words and celebrate their meaning.
I'm turning 60. I'm alive. Healthy. Strong.
I'm turning 60, and—please don't take offense—I no longer have to be concerned about what anyone thinks of me! (You know, the old Am I doing it right? Am I saying it right? Am I being what or who I'm "supposed" to be?) I'm turning 60, and I've earned the right to be just as I am. I'm more secure in being myself than I've ever been.
I have reached the moment Derek Walcott describes in his beautiful poem "Love After Love": "...with elation / you will greet yourself arriving / at your own door, in your own mirror / and each will smile at the other's welcome."
I am in awe of the way my journey here on earth continues to unfold. My life has been marked by miracles for as long as I can recall—and even before. (My entire existence is the result of a onetime frolic under an oak tree.) My early days speaking in a Mississippi Methodist church—Baptist leanings, shoutin', and Holy Ghost included—prepared me for a future of speaking in a public arena I could never have imagined.
And now, at 60, I simply want to share what I've been given. I want to continue to encourage as many people as I can to open their hearts to life, because if I know anything for sure, it's that opening my own heart is what has brought me my greatest success and joy.
My highest achievement: never shutting my heart down. Even in my darkest moments—through sexual abuse, a pregnancy at 14, lies and betrayals—I remained faithful, hopeful, and open to seeing the best in people, regardless of whether they were showing me their worst. I stayed open to believing that no matter how hard the climb, there is always a way to let in a sliver of light to illuminate the path forward.
We go through life discovering the truth about who we are and determining who has earned the right to share the personal space within our heart.
This I also know for sure: God—however you define or refer to Him, Her, or It—is for us. The forces of nature are for us, offering us life in abundance. We humans narrow what is an open field of wonder and majesty to the myopic reality of our day-to-day experiences. But there is extraordinary in the ordinary. Every day and every breath is magic—if we can only see it for what it is.
Some days the awareness of the sanctity and sacredness of life brings me to my knees with gratitude. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the idea that the little girl from Mississippi who grew up holding her nose in an outhouse now flies on her own plane—my own plane!—to Africa to help girls who grew up like her. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound!
I approach this milestone, the landmark of 60, with humility, supreme thanksgiving, and joy. Knowing for sure grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.
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