Privilege Blog

Copying Texts Like Monks Illuminating, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:17am

Today is my birthday, as it happens, I am 61.

I thought of something yesterday or the day before. The world likes to characterize aging simplistically – we’re either slumped in despair at our upper arms, or dancing as gray hair streams down our oh-so-supple backs. Neither true. Many of us who are this age have seen as many good changes as bad, and as many bad as good.

Also known as you win some you lose some.

My college professors taught me that the Renaissance happened in part because the monks discovered Greek and Latin history. The theory is that transcribing the texts of a rich past civilization gave the monks perspective on their own times, once they realized their experiences had been lived before. I guess they learned knowledge is relative? That history will look back?

In any case, here’s what I like best about 60. You know you’ll see you were young now if you get to be 80 some day. Because you’ve looked back before. You’ve turned 50 and thought, “Wow I was young at 30.” You’ve turned 60 and realized that even 40 is a baby.

So you, or at least, me, forgive yourself your jowls. I mean, not every day. Sometimes I scold them in the mirror. You shake your head and shrug a bit at your difficult characteristics. Again, not every day. I still suffer some nights worrying I’ve talked too much or too fast.

But on the whole, there’s equanimity in the layering of life. Peace in palimpset. Which I wish was called chiaroscuro, because it would sound better, but you can’t have everything.

Maybe wisdom isn’t a better blue, per se, it’s layers. For example, cobalt, marine, turquoise, french.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. Feeling like I just have to sign this, xoxoxox.

71 Responses

  1. A very Happy Birthday to you! Wishing you a wonderful day, and looking forward to reading another year of your work!

  2. Happy Birthday!
    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what stays exactly the same as we age and what changes. I always thought that I would be a completely different person when I got to “my age” (53) and of course, I am still me and yet so much older than when I was 40. Have a wonderful day.

  3. “…cobalt, marine, turquoise, french.” I love all those blues/layers. Happy birthday, Lisa! Celebrate all those years that came before and all those yet to come.

    1. @Jane, Thank you. And I hadn’t thought of it that way, but I like it, that a birthday is all the past such and all the future, not just the day itself.

  4. Happy birthday! You’re exactly right about looking back at our younger selves. I hope you will look back at this birthday and remember it fondly.

    1. @Mary, I love that I seem a baby to you, and I will double down on enjoying these years. My doctor told me that I should not expect to feel old until I was about 72. So many years of youth remaining to enjoy the pleasures only youth allows.

  5. Happy Birthday, Lisa. This is a beautiful piece. Thank you for years of beautiful pieces. I look forward to more. I adore the idea of peace in palimpsest. It’s a wonderful way to remember that life is not perfect, but it’s fuller and richer for the layers. I think of living a life as the enameling of layers one atop the other, but palimpsest is a richer metaphor because it allows for the underlayers of past life to show through. I love that palimpsest means rubbed smooth again. How many times do we do that during a lifetime? Or make the attempt, that is. There is a Stanley Kunitz poem I’ve mentioned more than once in different contexts called, The Layers. Kunitz wrote it at 70 and lived to 100, so there is the basic premise of your piece right there. At the end of the poem he says,

    “Live in the layers,
    not on the litter.”
    Though I lack the art
    to decipher it,
    no doubt the next chapter
    in my book of transformations
    is already written.
    I am not done with my changes.

    Celebrate well however makes you happiest. Have a glorious new natal year.


  6. Happy birthday, you young thing, you. Sixty one is just as liberating as sixty… I know because I’ve been here for months.
    Not sure I should have said “you young thing.” Surely being young is not something we should be complimented on… simply an accident of birth. Like beauty, when I think of it.
    So, I’ll change that sentence to say “…you wise thing, you. Not to mention talented. With really great taste.” Now… that’s a hell of lot better than being young!

    1. @Sue Burpee, A hell of a lot better, and such a nice set of compliments. A simple thank you will suffice. Also a lot of x’s and o’s. xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox.

  7. A very happy birthday to you! I will be 61 on my next birthday as well. I always thought I’d be a different person at this age, as someone else also commented, and I find that I am the same person and a different person – both. Maybe I am more myself. I’m not sure.

  8. Happy Birthday Lisa!
    Sixties are such a wonderful decade…I find them to be so liberating…my attitude is much less serious and I feel a sense of freedom and fun seems to be my focus these days.
    Hoping that you are sufficiently feted by family and friends.

    1. @Bungalow Hostess, Thank you! I am glad you feel free and fun. My transformation is to become far, far more thoughtful and inner-driven, to get quieter and slower and kinder. I am guessing that if we are lucky, we all get the transformation we deserver.

  9. xoxo back to,you today on your birthday and everyday. I love your writing. Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

  10. Beautiful post and a very happy birthday. I’m 65 and I appreciate your honesty and insights, as always – particularly about aging.

  11. Happy Birthday, Lisa. 60 is a special one. I saw that milestone some time back. I have learned to celebrate what I can still do rather than worry about what I can’t.

    I hope you’ve had a glass of bubbly or two. Here’s to life!!

    1. @Teddi, I was given a complimentary glass of champagne, how did you know? ;). I like your attitude, I’ll try to do the same.

  12. Happy birthday, Lisa. I haven’t commented in a while but I check your posts regularly and always find something wise and worth thinking about. You are, to me, so much more inspiring than Linda Rodin, and have been ever since I first discovered your blog about five years ago, when I was in a funk over turning 50. You have shown me that you can be fierce and funny and even more of a badass, even if you do get jowls (and you’ve made me feel better about that too!) Enjoy the weekend, you fabulous babe.

    1. @GS, I take heart from what you say, and I hope you are enjoying your 50s fiercely. I think I’ll try to fly the fabulous babe flag today somehow, in your honor. <3

  13. Wishing you a very happy day. As my late Uncle used to say, “It’s just a number.” “Don’t let it define you.” I have always believed that no one thing can define anyone…and so much for the number!

  14. Happy Birthday!! I’m glad we (as a subset of society) are having these open discussions about aging and how we navigate. When I was younger, I don’t remember my grandmother or anyone over 50 talking about their experience specifically related to aging, other than physical/medical issues. On the other hand, I think our generation is changing how we age and what the expectations are. But yes, 40 seems so young now!

    1. @Susan B, What would I do without this subset:). 40 seems young. 38, for example, seems like a little baby. I just want all the 38 year olds to revel in their youth.

  15. I think you are fully prepared to enjoy 60 and subsequent – and, in my experience, it keeps deepening and improving: something to anticipate!

  16. Dear, dear Lisa. I couldn’t have said it better and no one younger will fully understand. They’re not supposed to. It’s our sorority. Wishing you here, in your home, a very happy birthday year of 61. xoxo

  17. Happy Belated Birthday, dear Lisa. Wisdom from you, as always. I’ll try to forgive my sagging neck today. And yes, xoxoxoxo to you, too.

  18. Wow, you just said so much more beautifully something I posted this morning to another blog. Context is everything, eh? At nearly 72 I know that my occasional self dissatisfactions are similar to the ones I felt at 20 when I wasn’t chic or sleek enough. Of course, old photos from those days now reveal the silly lies I told myself and believed. As will my recent Facebook selfies reveal, when I am 90, my current silly lies.

    We’re alive! Just like Frankenstein’s wonderful, beautiful monster.

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