Observations Off the Cuff Recurring Epiphanies

Seven Decades – lessons learned

I’ve learned a few tricks in the seven decades since my emergence on June 4th, 1954. Here’s the short list.

I am celebrating my 70th birthday today by going for a walk with Shelley and taking the rest of the day to muse and reflect. I won’t be doing laundry or moving mulch or cooking. Bob and I will order pizza for dinner and we’ll be foraging the fridge until then. I may draw a picture or lay in the hammock and talk on the phone or cut some flowers or sit in the shade and read. Whatever I do or don’t do, I will mark the day with intention because Seventy sounds like a big number.

Like all of you out there, young and old, I have mastered some stuff since my emergence on June 4th, 1954.

Here is a short list of things I have learned:

New to the world – 1954

First decade, birth through 9 – Bodily Functions
I learned to walk and move my body without smashing into things, to ride a bike without holding on, to sit in balance atop a horse, to swim in the salty waters surrounding City Island, to write, and to read about Lassie, the Black Stallion, and the holy martyrs who willingly allowed others to violate their bodies.

Eighth grade graduate – 1968

Second decade, 10 through 19 – Independence
I learned to change a diaper, look after my little brothers, hitchhike, clean up my room and paint the walls, run away from home and return with my tail between my legs, make pancakes, body surf, pass a blastocyst, go to the hospital, leave home, drink a pint of scotch in one sitting, get a job and then another and another, and rent an apartment.

Flower child – Denver 1975

Third Decade, 20 through 29 – Healing
I learned what it feels like to get your head shrunk, to dry out, wait tables, drive a car across country and back, and start thinking of others. I began amassing a tool kit of coping strategies for living without fear, pain, or avoidance. I learned to laugh and help others see the funny.

Lost in the woods – 1989

Fourth Decade, 30 through 39 – Consequences
I learned about marriage and how one shouldn’t take it lightly and marry the wrong person but most of us do anyhow and have to get divorced. I learned to pay attention to my body and feed it with exercise. I started jogging, then learned to stretch first after getting plantar fasciitis. I learned how to start a business and later, why owning a business is not for me.

Hope over experience – 1994

Fifth Decade, 40 through 49 – Enlightenment
I learned about life after divorce, how to recognize my soul mate, about true love, second chances, following my heart, sharing a life, shaping a life, and how it feels to live off the grid in a developing country.


Life with the right man – 2008

Sixth Decade, 50 through 59 – Maturity
I learned about forgiveness, how to connect with my parents, nurture a marriage, feed family connections, move and settle down, move and settle down, give everything my all, stay committed, and be kind.

Self-published author – 2018

Seventh Decade, 60 through 69 – Self Care
I learned to say no, slow down, ask for help, take it easy, make French Onion Soup, self-publish, learn from others, take nothing for granted, and focus on the people who bring me joy.

Many of you have learned these lessons and more. Perhaps you know how to make a Souffle, or knit a sweater, or not use swear words in front of decent folk. Like you, I am still learning and like you, I did not learn these things without help.

My father nurtured my intellectual curiosity, my mother took me into the water, held my hands, and told me to kick, my grandmothers gave me unconditional love and cookies, my brothers taught me to be gentle, my friends helped me listen and learn, and my husband, Bob, proved to me the power of hope over experience.

The student, launching into her eight decade

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

8 replies on “Seven Decades – lessons learned”

Wonderful essay about a wonderful life! Thanks for sharing your journey in such a deep and sometimes funny way.

I love that…’The Student’….yes…we should all keep learning every single day of our lives. That was a great summary of ten years into short paragraphs. How it flies by huh? I love you so much, thank you for being YOU. I’m so happy that we’re friends…you taught me a lot in these decades of life and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn. xx

Happiest of Natal Days, Camille! Enjoy your day and your eighth decade! xo

Wow a great life so far! Girl you’ve got it goin on, it’s a pleasure to know you, you far away girl!

Thank you all for your comments! Wow, Eight Decade, that’s sobering. Well I hope I rock it like I did the Seventh.

I wasn’t sure what to write, but thought I should say something on this momentous day and I knew I wasn’t going to cough up 70 life lessons nor did I want to.

I think our lives mostly follow the same arc: you’re born, you creep, you walk, then run, then find something and/or someone to bring you joy. Writing is one of my joys and the friendship of so many is another. They say human connections will keep you young. We’ll see.

Well done and I’ll give a toast to all of us for the many lessons yet to learn. Learning is living!

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