When I was 12 years old, I spent a lot of time imagining how my life would unfold. I created a wonderful plan, complete with well-defined dots, connected by entirely straight lines. I soon realized that the map I drew in my mind was sketched in pencil, not in ink.

Looking into the future, it seemed that my life would unfold in predictable ways. Events would be always be within my control. I would never allow myself to be caught off guard. I expected complexity and opportunity to arise, but, I had confidence that, with my efforts and talents, I would turn straw into gold.

Many women in their 60s today felt the same way when they were little girls. Like me, they also found out that there were plenty of surprises in the 50 years since they started dreaming.

To get some additional perspective on this, I asked the women in the Sixty and Me Community “What was the biggest surprise in your life?” I received a wide range of responses. Some were heart-warming and positive. Others were tender and painful.

If there was one lesson that I took from everyone’s responses it was that we all think that our lives are the only ones that took a winding path. The truth is that the opposite is true. We can all find comfort in the fact that everyone, just like us, is doing the best they can to deal with the surprises that life throws their way.

Here are a few of the responses that I received to the question. As you will see, they contain some important life lessons.

What was the biggest surprise in your life?

One woman talked about the fact that she was told that she would never have children, only to give birth to triplets a year later. Another mentioned that she had been surprised to find herself pregnant at 40.

Other women discussed the many ways that love found them, or they found love, in unexpected ways.

One of our members discussed the pain of struggling as a single parent, only to find herself cut off from the children she loved all those years.

Some women reflected on the unexpected changes that happened to their bodies as they got older. As one woman put it, wrinkles are something that we all expect “would happen to others, but, not me.”

On the other hand, several women comments on how unexpectedly wonderful getting older has become. There are so many wonderful opportunities for women over 60 today and many of our members are taking full advantage of them.

Some women experienced the hardships of war and had their beliefs in the goodness of people shaken.

Many women loved and lost, only to come out stronger for the experience.

Then there were the women who experienced small, but important, periods of good luck. One recalled a 4 month cruise that she won. Another talked about the kindness of a stranger, who left her money when she needed it.

Many of the women in our community said that their biggest surprises involved their families. Some found long-lost relatives. Others recalled the simple, yet powerful, joy of seeing their grandchildren for the first time.

Perhaps the biggest surprise that the women in our community mentioned was the discovery that they were much stronger than they thought. No matter what the world threw at them, they rose to the occasion, took their hits and emerged as resilient, complex and beautiful women.

Surprises are inevitable in life. As women in the Sixty and Me Community attest, they can often be a blessing in disguise. Learning to accept surprises with a positive and welcoming attitude makes all the difference in the world. I hope that their stories inspire you as much as they do me.

How about you? What was the biggest surprise in your life? Please join the conversation.

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