I can't claim ever to have attached much significance to milestone birthdays, but I'm most definitely aware of the one bearing down upon me this summer. (Although I think that what's most unnerving to me is that the next big one will be seventy!)
I've chosen my word for this year, which is as difficult to live into as I had imagined it might be. I've also been playing around with a few alliterative companions, words which might light the pathway through the next couple of decades.
I harbor no illusions about certainty or control. The phone could ring at any moment. Five years ago I was a seminary student, a little startled by the dramatic changes in life that I'd undertaken, but relaxed and confident about the future. Why ever not?
In those five years, I've earned an M.Div, and a certificate in spiritual direction, been ordained to ministry and begun to pastor a church, developed a small spiritual direction practice, led some retreats and participated in some other events and presentations, seen my three children graduate from college, lost one of them to suicide, and dealt with breast cancer.
When I list it all, I'm somewhat surprised. To put it mildly.
No wonder serenity seems a worthwhile objective.
I feel just a tad silly, writing down what I perceive to be the challenges that lie ahead for the next couple of decades. As I said, the phone could ring at any moment. But, pretending that it won't, here's what occurs to me:
Family: It will change, and it will never be what I dreamed of for 25 years, as one of the main players is gone. But the rest of us are still here. My husband will retire eventually, and then what? Will my other children marry? Have families? Continue in the work they've chosen, or make other decisions entirely? Where will they live? What about us; will we stay or go? How will my father's post-80 life proceed? Will my brother retain his health and energy?
Work: People raise possibilities with me but, on the whole, my major internal task these days is to hunker down, settle in, and do what I do. Those seminary years were directed toward the future, filled with uncertainty, and then completely shattered by Josh's death, and by the strenuous effort required each moment to survive into the next one ~ but the future is here, and I did survive, and now I have to live what lies right before me. This stage requires a completely different mindset.
Health: My breast cancer experience, and a bit of a scare some months later, made their point. Oblivion is no longer an option. (Or is it, perhaps? ~ said hopefully.) I'm not thinking so much of health issues themselves, but of how to cope with them. I came across some reading recently about childhood trauma and its residual effect on adult challenges, which went a long way toward explaining the intensity of the physical pain I experienced last winter, as well as the bewilderment (oh, let's just call it by its name: denial) of the medical professionals involved. I'd prefer no repeats.
I get it. Life is difficult, and sad, and filled with loss. And beautiful as well. Beautiful and terrible. And time is short. So, some words:
The final word comes from Mr. Carson, who said a couple of weeks ago, "To misquote Dr. Johnson: If you're tired of style, then you're tired of life."
I was very much disinterested in style ~ in that sense ~ after Josh died. But now, it's possible that I feel a bit of a resurgence. A bit of an inclination toward magis.