Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mid-Life Musings: Beginnings and Endings

Two-months ago I crossed a barrier.  I was a young and vibrant 39-year old who then had a birthday that pushed me into the mid-life frontier.  Now here I am, a youthful personality trapped in an aging body as the unmerciful clock keeps ticking no matter how hard I try to pretend otherwise.  As I look around to gather my bearings in this unknown world that is mid-life, I first notice that I'm no wiser than I was yesterday.

What gives?  I thought that was the trade-off...the magical exchange...as the body ages, the mind fills up with wisdom.  Instead, I'm taking what feels like my first baby-steps in what is now my fifth decade not knowing where I am going and why I am even going anywhere in the first place.  So here are my mixed-up musings as I transition into truly becoming an adult.

• I like to begin new projects and I like to end them.  I hate everything in between (you know, where you actually have to be constructive and put in the work).  It is easy to remember the beginnings and ends, the highs and lows, but almost all of our life is lived in the middle.  We like to think we are living a glamorous life, yet we spend so much time putting stuff in our mouths, sitting on toilets, sleeping (or trying to sleep), mindlessly flipping through channels on the TV, driving from one place to another and planning the short interludes that we do when we're not in a car or on a toilet or hypnotized by the TV or sleeping or eating.

• Now about these projects I like to start, I have begun writing four different novels.  I have outlined basic plot structures and begun work on the opening sequences on each of these stories.  Then I get bored or realize how worthless these stories really are and the reality is that I will never get a book published.  So why do I have this urge to keep this hope alive that I will come up with something fresh that people would actually like to read and pay money to do so?  I guess I have this itch that I like to have the option of scratching whenever the mood suits me which makes me think I do have some hidden artistic skills that will at any moment blossom into a beautiful thing.  Any moment now...just wait...any...moment...now...

• I have this strange faith in God which has gotten all jumbled up of late.  One of my best friends in the world knows how jumbled up I am about God so he suggested I read a book that he himself had never even read.  So I read it and it makes all sorts of sense to me but doesn't really unjumble my mess.  So now I'm even more jumbled up than ever.  But now I'm okay with it.  If you want to talk about God and are okay with being messy about it...I'm your man.

• I have four young children.  Four kids is a lot and tending to their every need and want can be overwhelming most of the time.  When they are all around and chirping, they drive me crazy.  When even one is gone for more than hour, I miss him/her and feel like something is just not right in the world.  Surely there is a balance where sanity can actually exist and I can feel like a parent that is in partial control of his family.  (By the way, four kids is a lot these days!  Did I already mention that?)

• Beginning a new thing is usually pretty easy.  Ending it is even easier.  It's sticking with it during the good and bad where the true challenge lies.  Whether it's marriage, raising kids, a job, school or a New Year's resolution, this cat won't be impressed unless there's truly that middle...that's where life really is.  I have learned a lot by reading about other people's experiences, but muddling through the mud puddles in the middle is where wisdom resides.  There are no short cuts.  Trust me, I keep trying to take them and they never get me to where I want to go.

• And the world keeps moving, while some pass on...Our family suffered a loss in January when our cat Nemo was run over by a car.  Nemo was a good cat and was loved by all.  He was more than just a family pet.  He represented something abstract -- a touch of grace at a time when it was desperately needed.  His sudden death seems harsh and cruelly unnoticed by all of humanity except for the few who knew him during his two years of living.  We have all suffered loss in various forms and I don't pretend that the death of a cat can even compare to the loss of a loved one.  Yet for my kids, this was their first taste of the death of something that they loved.  My heart was broken for them as they grieved.  What surprised me though, was how my heart seemed to enlarge as I held them while their little bodies were convulsed by sobs.  I did not think it was possible to love them any more than I did, but there it was -- a newly discovered compassion that was triggered by a horrible event.  I hated their pain, but loved them more for seeing how brutally they loved and how brutally they experienced loss.

• College basketball is dead to me.

• Life is a paradox.  We often utter clichés to express this fact, such as "the more you know, the more you know you don't know."  Wisdom is a thing to be grasped, yet when you do grasp it in those random fleeting moments, it's nothing like you thought it would be.  As I age and mature, my wealth of knowledge has been exposed for what it really is -- a single drop in a vast ocean of all that there is to know.  Unlike the connect-the-dot puzzles I did as a child, I have been connecting dots all of my life and the pattern that is emerging is more mysterious than ever.

As you can see, there really are mud puddles in my mind.  Thanks for reading.


  1. So clearly that Mizzou loss sent you into a tailspin, too!

    Seriously, though, this is good stuff. I love the God talk getting messy. I was just thinking about how we skim read through David's lament psalms and say oh that was just his desperate phase. But David didn't have the perspective we have - that someday he would rule a prosperous nation into its only true Golden age. For David in the desert, though, those were very real moments when the only thing he could do was be honest about his feelings and struggles. And somehow, just by staying in the conversation, the laments eventually turned to praise. Hard won and probably more valuable than the praise he offered as a youth. He just needed to express it. And God was perfectly okay with that.

    Cheers, friend!

  2. Felicity, thanks for the encouraging words. I'm staying in the conversation.