I am 80

“We have four times as many people on the planet today compared to a century ago. It’s not because humans are having more children. It’s because we’re living longer…”

“One strange thing about the story of global life expectancy is how steady the number was for almost the entirety of human history. Until the middle of the 18th century, the figure appears to have rarely exceeded a ceiling of about 35 years…”

“We’ve doubled lifespan in the past century.”

New York Times, “How Humanity Gave Itself an Extra Life.”

At 2:35 am on May 17th, my two alarms sounded in the dark, and I was immediately wide awake. I had been waiting for a year to meet this new day. The day when I would have lived a full 80 years. As the numbers popped up at 2:37, I sang “Happy Birthday to me!” into my barely visible room and laughed out loud!

Then I gave thanks, copious thanks for those who have loved me and let me love them. And for the gifts that I was given at my birth to enjoy and employ out into the world.

I had made it! I was no longer “going to be 80.” I was now a full-fledged octogenarian! For real!

I don’t feel at all crabby about being 80; I am passionately grateful! I’ve been smiling a lot. As in really a lot.

Yes, my toes are numb from chemo. Yes, my joints speak to me after I’ve been sitting for a bit and certainly when I first get up in the morning. But it doesn’t last long.

Yes, I have well-controlled Type 2 diabetes. Yes, I have pills to control my inherited high blood pressure and cholesterol. Yes, I have hearing aids that have been an endlessly annoying problem with masks and that still require me to use captions for tv watching.

But I also have a clear and active mind, except sometimes for names and, occasionally, simple words like cucumber and lobby.

I have survived both cancer and its recovery (two distinctly different challenges). I am back walking with my Nordic walking poles, farther than I thought I could yet. I am able to live independently.

I am writing. I am still doing Facebook Live Sunday evening devotions for my church, excited by the challenges and frustrated by the gremlin of slow internet speed!

I am grateful. So, so grateful for what I have and for who I am becoming because of my old age.


As I became “really 80” on that night, I found myself acutely aware. In the darkness, I could sense that every Martha that I’ve been over these many years was there with me and cheering me on. And that I have come to love them all, to give them my sympathy, my gratitude and my unfettered love and forgiveness. We were a lovely little crowd there, in the dark.

I still find myself, a week later, with more grace and love for each of them than I’ve ever had.

As I turned 80 – wide awake in my bed at 2:37 that morning – my serious but playful child who ran the neighborhood was by my side, living freely and with joy. Sure of herself. Belonging.

I was the 16-year-old adolescent whose parents threw her a Sweet 16 surprise birthday party. The girls that I most wanted to fit in with were all there. But I had already become the teenager who never felt that I fit in anywhere, as much as I longed to. Yet, they were there. And they’re still here, all of us 80 in this year! And Zooming!

I was 21 years old and able to vote. Engaged to the campus hero. But not feeling worthy of his love. I would become a young wife and mother who had so very much to learn!

I was 30 and 50 and 70 – the ages I most hated becoming. Because I was closer and closer to being “old.”

I was 40 and 60, the decades that I loved and where I was to be the most creative yet.

All that I have been is still a part of me. And now, each Martha is having her story rewritten, with kindness and with grace. I’m so glad that I’ve had the time to do that. I would hope for that for all of us.

At 80, I know that time grows relatively short. That is palpable. But I still have so much that I can do. That I intend to do. I can’t wait to discover what is yet unfinished, what I just may still have time to finish.

I am hungry for the future. I am reading and watching everything I can get my hands on so that I might expand the neighborhood of my creative spirit. Tomorrow is bright. It still invites me into the wondrous unknown.

And I’m very okay with that.

23 thoughts on “I am 80

  1. Since I got my happy birthday wish in a day early (by “accident” or by heart whisper via the Universe), I feel a little less guilty about coming in here late, dear Martha. Oh how you inspire me! I love how you celebrated each of those Marthas, making me realize how, at 57, there’s a good chance I, too, will have many more Marthas to meet in my future. I’m so grateful for YOU being one of the very important Marthas in my life! You are lighting the way for all of us. With love and appreciation, TOM

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    1. Thank you, Ann! I am blessed in so many ways, not the least of which has been new and wonderfully creative friends like you. Here’s to all our futures and all the wonders that they will bring us!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Happy Birthday Martha! Your memoir will be amazing!!! So happy for you that you have rebounded and your energy is back full-throttle .You are such a bright spark! I loved that you shared so many wonderful memories here. It is said that we are every age we have ever been. I do believe this to be true. But, only when we have ‘aged’ to a certain point, like fine wine, are we able to appreciate the vintage fully. Shine on Martha! As it also said, and also true, age is just a number; it is what we do with our days that matters, regardless of our age. And you just keep on giving, sharing your beautiful spirit with others…I think therein lies the secret to ‘aging with grace’, the giving back, the never giving up, knowing that spiritually we only grow wiser.

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    1. Dear Linda, you are so right about it all! Age is just a number, but this number seems to have a life of its own. The more we welcome grace into our lives, the more we come to see of life’s beauty and the capacity for living kindly with it all. Thank you for your beautiful wishes and wisdom!

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  3. All the best wishes from Romania. ❤️ What a insightful and kind post. I hope to be as wise in my 80s… well, minus that wake up at 2:35 am. That’s a no-no no matter the occasion. 🙂

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    1. Ha ha! I’ve only done that early wake-up a few times, but this time seemed most fitting of them all. And I did manage to sleep well afterward. Thank you for your wonderful best wishes. Wisdom seems to follow both experience and curiosity – both of which I have in abundance. I have a feeling that you do, too.

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      1. I spent a lot of time around my grandma growing up, and she was wise. Maybe some of her ideas were a stepping stone toward my future wisdom. I am yet to arrive there. 🙂 In any case, lucky me! I was born around 1 pm. 😀 No need to wake up in the middle of the night…

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    1. Thank you, Parker! I’m so glad you liked the post. It was fun to write. As for Bob Dylan, I can only say that I got here first…and wasn’t into that music scene for quite a while. Age has mellowed me and I find myself proud to be his fellow Minnesotan!

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  4. This is glorious on so many levels. Welcome to the Octagonals, as one of my friends says! Thank you for sharing all your Marthas. I know you have exciting times ahead. I am also keen to fulfill more of my potential in this my 82nd year. (Next on the list for me is a solo show.) Such a thrill, isn’t it?

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    1. Thank you, Isidra! I must tell you that today in my morning writing, I suddenly realized that I have a book in me! I’ve been following Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way” and finding miraculous openings. That book appears now to be a memoir. And then I turned to my emails and found…You! Wonderful you! Synchronicity is popping up all over the place, and I am gobsmacked! Bill Apablasa, another of your followers, recommended that I get Mary Karr’s book, and her quote had already given me an “Aha! moment.” It will be arriving Friday, and I shall be ready! I’m still pondering your new Book Club…what a wonderful idea!

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  5. I hereby declare that I am going to transform some of that Martha energy and insane wisdom into my life. I should feel lucky to come even close.

    Such a beautiful affirmation for living at whatever age!!! Loved it!!!

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