Sixty Things I’ve Learned in My Sixty Years

A Guest Post by the Woman Formerly Known as Goose!

[Her birthday was a couple of weeks ago, but we’re celebrating it this weekend. When I ran across Ian Martin’s “Sixty Thoughts on Turning Sixty” awhile back, I challenged WFKG to come up with a list of her own to show how wise and witty she’s become during her long sojourn on the planet. She obliged and has agreed to share it here as the Madwoman’s first official guest post. Thank you, Goose, and happy fricking birthday! So glad to have spent so much of the sojourn with you. Okay, kids, pay attention: Words of wisdom from a cranky ex-Texan coming at you in 3-2-1-0!] 

  1. Growing older? It really does get better. Or at least it has for me.
  2. Where there is great love, there are always miracles. That’s true. (Thank you, Marilee Lindemann. Oh yeah, and thank you, Willa Cather 😉
  3. Goes to show you never can tell: I have been deliriously happy with the funniest, sweetest, smartest woman in the whole world for over 29 years. There were naysayers who said it wouldn’t last.
  4. Wise is the woman, wise is the man, who refuses naysaying.
  5. Goes to show you never can tell: marriage equality really is sweeping the land. Things can change.
  6. Goes to show you never can tell: state after state, marijuana is being legalized. Things can change.
  7. A mom who stands up for the right of her 5-year-old daughter to wear PF Flyers on Romper Room is doing something much more profound than it appears at the time. Thanks, Mama! [Editor’s Note: See photo below. Goose is on the far right, in the black socks and tennis shoes, the only girl on the “Don’t Bee” side of the room.]
  8. All the problems of the world can be solved after 2 martinis.
  9. You may not be able to remember the solutions the next morning. . . .or they may not seem so wise, but still.
  10. The love of a dog is a good, no, it’s a great, bountiful thing.
  11. “The system is working” is one of the most dangerous mantras that long ago swept the land. Tripping right off the tongue, it brings calm when there has been no resolution. (Thank you, Keguro Macharia.)
  12. Calm without resolution is a volcano, and it is an active one sure to erupt. Always remember that.
  13. True friendship can in fact be, as Blake said, opposition, but it is always real treasure.
  14. Laughing at least once a day is the best medicine.
  15. Humor really can change the world.
  16. If everyone spent a few minutes every day enjoying poetry, the world would be a much more pleasant place.
  17. I still have not figured out why it’s never bothered me to get older. In fact, I used to say I was older than I was—30 when I was 27, 40 when I was 38, stuff like that. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that if you are alive you are also always getting older (as you have while reading this post) and I like being alive.
  18. So I guess it goes without saying that I don’t mind saying “I’m 60!” In fact, I like saying it. So why do so many people assume that a woman will lie about her age, meaning lie and say she’s younger than she is?
  19. Though I really like my card that says “membership has its privileges,” I don’t understand nor have I ever cottoned to exclusive clubs, formal or informal, though I’ll confess I’ve been a part of one or two. But needing to leave out, exclude, has never made sense to me. . .and seems to indicate insecurity, always, without exception.
  20. That gorgeous spring is accompanied by pollen is just how things are—the beautiful often partners with the annoying. Without pollen, there would be no spring beauty.
  21. I have learned that sometimes people really do lie.
  22. I wonder more and more, or maybe I mean that I more and more have come to think, that most people like living in echo chambers. Real disagreement and exchange of substantially different views are more rare than I was trained to believe.
  23. One has to accept, over and over and over again, that one doesn’t always get one’s way. . .and that’s ok.
  24. One has to accept that disappointment over not getting one’s way does not necessarily get easier with age.
  25. The most important human activities are laughter, loving sex, and enjoying a beloved’s company.
  26. Many people’s love of poetry remains undiscovered self-knowledge, and that is not a good thing.
  27. There is great wisdom in knowing when a circumstance is really good enough.
  28. A smile not only lowers blood pressure—it can make one’s whole day.
  29. Done really is better than perfect. . .most of the time.
  30. Texas really is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow—see this from Nanci Griffith (skip the ad but don’t miss Nanci’s introduction).
  31. When I left “West Texas Heaven” (see Kimmie Rhodes), I probably knew deep down somewhere that I was never going back again. . .but I was not at all conscious of that fact as I stood on a plateau overlooking San Angelo.
  32. At the age of 21, “West Texas Heaven” really was the only one I’d ever known.
  33. To grow up in a land where horned toads ran around in the backyard is a very good thing—not only for the individual child but for mother Earth, who is losing such delightful creatures (who will sleep in your hand if you rub their bellies).
  34. Blessed are they who always remember the importance of having fun.
  35. One can feel like a chump for being kind, but that silly insecurity passes. Kindness is true wealth.
  36. Snobbery is laziness. And boring.
  37. Watching The Empire Strikes Back once a year is a healthy thing to do. ‘tis a great way to spend 124 or 127 min. (depending on which version you watch).
  38. My brother Bobby Earl, my mother, beloved ML, Kimmie Rhodes, Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, BZ Palubinsky, and many more all taught me just how important music is.
  39. A large group of people singing a cappella, not necessarily in harmony with one another, is nonetheless a beautiful thing. There’s power in the human voice.
  40. My father, my sister, and other dear friends who can’t sing in tune taught me that singing together does not have to be in tune to be very pleasing.
  41. An afternoon in a good museum lowers one’s blood pressure.
  42. A walk on a beautiful sunny day lowers one’s blood pressure.
  43. A walk on a cloudy day lowers one’s blood pressure.
  44. 45 minutes on the treadmill listening to Helen Leight lowers one’s blood pressure.
  45. Yoda: “There is no why.” That is often true.
  46. Yoda:  “Do or do not. There is no try.” That is always true.
  47. “I don’t believe it.” Yoda: “That is why you fail.” That truth speaks for itself.
  48. Obi-wan: “Don’t give in to hate. That leads to the dark side.” True. It’s also true about envy, jealousy, any and all despisals—listen to Muriel Rukeyser.
  49. A cocktail in the late afternoon with a dear friend is heaven on earth.
  50. “Give Peace a Chance” is so very important for individuals and groups and organizations alike. Wait a minute, it’s not just very important, it’s crucial.
  51. Life really does happen while you’re making other plans. John Lennon, who famously reminded us of this, should know.
  52. When the poets “stand back and let all be” (see “Jungleland,” Mr. Springsteen) we are in trouble, deep trouble.
  53. Winning is not really anything lasting or important—it really is how you play the game.
  54. My friend Margie is right—“ecological hope is really about love.”
  55. Staying up nearly all night talking to my friend William 36 years ago was a very good thing to do—we have the gift of true friendship and there just can’t be anything better than that.
  56. I am the wealthiest and most fortunate woman on earth—I have more than a handful of true friends who really are family.
  57. Taking stock, as I have done here, should be done more often than once every 60 years.
  58. “Ethically, I am looking for / An absolute endorsement of loving-kindness. / No loopholes except maybe mosquitoes.” The older I get, the more wise I realize are these words of my mentor and dear friend Alicia Ostriker.
  59. One doesn’t have to be Henry James to know that “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” 
  60. The road goes on forever, comrades, and the party need never end.

mn romper room

 (Photo Credit: Smith Family Archive. WFKG on Romper Room, 1958.)


  1. Love it, Martha! Happy 60th – mine’s coming up soon and you’ve inspired me to create my own list. (Love the photo!)


  2. I feel bad that I’ve never been able to really enjoy reading poetry. Maybe I’m just not patient enough or something? Although I do love listening to great music lyrics, like Bruce, Dylan, Velvet Underground, Bowie, Runaways, Blondie, etc.



    • mnsmith says:

      Hey PhysioProffe — of course you enjoy poetry! Look at the crew you mentioned in that comment. Continue to ENJOY and mix in a little Emily Dickinson. She’s pretty wacky and I don’t think she imbibed in wacky tobacky 😉 Thanks for the birthday greets. It’s been FAB!!! The party never ends ’round here, ya know.


  3. contingentcassandra says:

    Happy birthday, WFKG! Those sound like sixty well-spent (and jam-packed) years.


  4. Happy Birthday, Goose! Wish I could be among those dear friends sharing cocktails with you. Thanks for the wisdom & the excellent role modeling. (WWMND, indeed: I need to ask myself that more often!)


    • mnsmith says:

      Hey Historiann, Thanks for this wonderful note! You were here in spirit, have no doubt. And hey, won’t you be in the area in the fall? The party will still be going on. We started several weeks back when our dear friends Andy & Meredith were here and we’ve just kept going. One dinner tonight and another tomorrow evening. THAT’S WMNWD!!! xxoo


  5. Everybody here is a dear friend sharing at least a virtual cocktail — and those have the advantage of not producing hangovers or water retention! Hope to catch up with you soon in Real Life, cowgirl. In the meantime, you know that if it’s ballsy and brave and a hair’s breadth shy of crazy, that’s What Martha Nell Would Do, so crack your whip, follow your instincts, and you’ll be just fine! Take care.


    • mnsmith says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself–ballsy, brave, a hair’s breadth shy of crazy. Are those too many words for a tshirt? xxoo


  6. Thanks for this. I’m a 60 year old Ph. D. student. Go figure. I finished my other career. This post is great fuel. Especially numbers 12 and 14. Carrying them forward with me. Can’t retain more than two.


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