Playing Pinball at Fifty

Today is my fiftieth birthday, and a time of reflection. Not that all of my days aren’t reflective but this is a big one. It’s a time to assess my life, measure it against where I wanted to be. I’m happy to say this is exactly where I want to be, in a calm, peaceful life with loving people around me. I have a good job, a cozy house, more pets than I should, wonderful friends throughout the country, and the world, and of course Ryan and Ivy, the center of everything.

Ryan and were talking over dinner last night about other paths I could have taken in my earlier life. This will sound metaphysical or religious, but I don’t think it matters at the end of the day which path I chose, because I was always going to end up here. Despite being irritatingly logical at times, I believe in destiny, in fulfilling what we’re supposed to when we’re here.

My mother taught to always look at a situation and ask what I learned from it. I remember learning about Jonathan Livingston Seagull when I was very young, pre-kindergarten. It was one of my earliest exposures to literature along with my Golden books and. Dr. Seuss. That book, more than any other, imprinted in me a guide to follow. For all the other belief systems I’ve had over this life that one stuck. Even if there is no reincarnation, or Heaven, even if this is it, we need to learn from everything we do and correct ourselves accordingly, so by the end of our lives we are that shining white seagull. gull

If I had a bad experience with someone, a break up for instance, Mom would say, “Well it was meant to be.” Most people say that because it helps them to find purpose in bad times, but it went further. She may say, “You needed to be in that relationship to teach you about resilience” or alcoholism, or tolerance, or patience. What I learned as an adult was that each experience wasn’t about what it taught ME. I look at some relationships or friendships and for the life of me don’t see any purpose. I could delete those months or years from my life and nothing would be different, for me. But maybe crossing my path changed their life in a fashion.

pinballLife is like a big pinball machine with Someone Up There banging the edges and harshly, sometimes with anger, pushing the bumpers when we get off course, redirecting our paths. We’re all going to die someday, end up with that third ball going down the hole, but the plan is to play as long as we can, and score as many points as we can. Not money points, or big houses, or expensive cars, but soul points.

I couldn’t tell you how many times my life has abruptly BAM, been thrust into a new path, only to get bounced around, and around, and around, and then feel like it was a failure. And then starting again and bouncing around more. There were times when I was utterly exhausted from the constant movement and change. I kept mental notes of it all, stopping at each turn to wonder, what did I learn?

Of course there are times too when you hit the mini jackpot and the lights go off, and the bells and whistles and you feel victorious. But you keep moving and changing paths and zinging around because that’s what life is. Some people avoid the life changes, zoom out of the birth canal, lead a mundane existence, and go down the death hole, not winning many points at all. But for every point we rack up, for every time we’ve been bounced onto another path, and another, and rung some bells along the way, we’re growing, evolving.

peaceThings are peaceful now in my life, which tells me I’m where I need to be. No one Upstairs is banging the giant pinball machine in the sky to move me toward something else (nothing material at least). My ball is still in play, and I’m ringing bells as I go. A couple of weeks ago I decided to learn Mountain Dulcimer. It’s not a big thing, but there are new lessons there, and who knows what will spring from it? I meet new people all the time, in stores, at events. Some may lead to new friendships, others just plant a seed in me or them, mini moments of enlightenment, but it is all easy and flowing with bursts of joy and contentment, the ringing of a bell, flutter of a neon light.

Maybe where I am in life, in California, isn’t about where I needed to be for me, but for Ivy. She is where she needs to be right now, for her purpose, to learn and to help others. She would not be where she is, also experiencing a period of peace and calm, if not for all the path changes over our lives.

We can veer off course all we want, but we’ll always come back to where we’re supposed to be. Things line up where they should, no matter what choices we make. Some people seem destined for hardship and pain. Do they choose it? Do they make their beds, do they draw in negative energy and cause all the bad luck? Or is just the path they are on this time around to learn, their Job existence if you will.

My greatest fear for the last twenty-two years since Ivy was born, is that I will die and Ivy won’t be able to cope without me and she will fall apart and I won’t be there for her. A few weeks ago we had one of our frequent deep talks. She said she likes me in this “Mom role” but realizes that even if, God forbid, something happened to me and I died, she would understand that I did all I needed to here and had to go help someone else. She’d be crushed of course, but she’d understand. This is about the deepest thing she has ever said, and she is a deep, intuitive person. I’m not sick, I’m not dying, I’m clearly not depressed, (knock on wood for all those things) but on this fiftieth birthday, I feel more content than at any other time. I don’t have a life filled with regrets, or dashed hopes, or unfinished business.

I have made me peace. Everything isn’t a hundred percent perfect but acceptance is a powerful and empowering tool. I won’t say Let Go and Let God because I’m really not religious and I think we have to do all the life work while we’re here. I hope I live another fifty years and continue to make meaningful connections, and change lives, and that Ivy changes lives for the better. I hope that her road is less rocky than mine was because I got her where she needs to be. Between us we’ve got a lot of soul points racked up, and believe me, we earned them.

Here’s to another fifty years of playing pinball

-Carly G.

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