The pads on our 6-month old puppy’s paws are still soft and pink. My husband said it’s because life hasn’t had a chance to wear them down yet, because she’s still a “new dog”. I like that concept: “new dog”. If you think about it, we were all once new ourselves.
Puppies are such a gift, so pure and innocent. Ours has only five states: streaking through the yard at top speed; playing; cuddling; afraid that she’s in trouble; and asleep. Life is very simple for her, and it’s refreshing to watch. Her few moods are highly contagious, especially her joy and love. She’d wormed her way into all of our hearts by her second week here. She’s easy to love.
Just as her paw pads will eventually wear down as she gets older, it’s easy for us to get worn down the farther we move away from being “new”. Life has a way of wearing on you, if we let it, even robbing us of our joy. That’s why I love having a puppy in the house again, even though she’s destructive and expensive. Her innocent antics make me smile and remind me of when I, too, was new. She gives the priceless gift of joy.
“If you carry joy in your heart, you can heal any moment.” –Carlos Santana
This is my favorite movie title. The Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt movie is pretty good, but the movie title is awesome; it’s become a sort of life’s motto for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been unbelievably blessed. I’ve got three really cool kids with my high school sweetheart; I have a job I love and colleagues I like; and we don’t have big money worries. I realize how few people can say all of that. Yet life is still challenging. I struggle, just like everyone does. Some of my struggles are obvious even to those I know only casually, while others are known only to family or very close friends. Sometimes I get really weary…no one goes through life without baggage or scars.
But I also know how good I’ve got it. I may get tired and stressed, but I wouldn’t trade my life and problems with anyone. I thank God for every day, and pray for His help to be better and stronger tomorrow. This is definitely as good as it gets.
“I think I’ve discovered the secret of life. You just hang around until you get used to it.” –Charles M. Schulz
The older I get, the more weary I get. I don’t know how to fully explain it, and I don’t mean that I’m more tired (though that’s true, too). I mean weary, like not just in my bones but in my soul, too. It’s not a good feeling, yet somehow it’s not totally bad, either. It’s almost familiar, even though it’s new, like somehow it was inevitable. I’m at the stage now where I’m working to decide what it means, and more importantly, what to do with it.
While I think that a small part of it has to do with the realization that I’m now unquestionably in the back half of my life, this isn’t a mid-life crisis. I have a precious family that means the world to me and a meaningful job I love. I’m healthy and active, and I’m in the best place I’ve ever been in my life spiritually. No, it’s more than that. It feels the most like more of a vague realization that life is just flat out a struggle, and there’s too much suffering in the world. This loony election season hasn’t helped any, but this is way bigger than any political outcome. I just get weary.
I get weary of the polarization and seemingly unreconcilable divide in our country. I get weary of the need to hand money and a blessing out of my car window to the homeless. I get weary of seeing the photos and hearing the stories of especially children fighting horrific diseases for their very lives. I get weary of politicians acting in what is clearly their own best interest over those who elected them to serve them. I get weary of layoffs and domestic abuse and addiction and racism. It becomes overwhelming.
Yet when it seems like just one more all-too-human story may knock me down, another story…an offsetting story of hope… shines through. The amazing part is it usually only takes one of the good ones to counter many of the bad ones. That’s the power of good, of love. From those small, shining nuggets of hope, I get the strength to carry on. Even though I am weary.
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” –Galatians 6:9
Do you know who this man is? Neither do I, but I feel like I should. This picture popped up when I Googled the tiny cemetery in rural Oklahoma where my great-grandparents are buried. It’s the spitting image of my great-grandfather, but it’s not him. Great-grandpa lived to be 100, and I was blessed to know him as an adult. Humans are hard-wired to recognize those we know. Though the resemblance is uncanny (my mother says “amazing”), I know it’s not him.
So who is he? The Internet associated him with a country cemetery of maybe 350 residents, of whom I’m related to a meaningful percentage. Plus he’s looking at me with my grandmother’s eyes and her brother’s face…he’s got to be a relative. We have no idea who he is, and there’s no one left who would know. The last of my great-grandparents’ twelve children–ironically their oldest–died five years ago at 100. My guess is that he’s my great-grandfather’s father, after whom he was named, and who’s buried in the same cemetery. The resemblance between them is too strong for him to be anything else. According to his headstone, my great-great-grandfather died in 1925. Anyone who might remember him would be at least 100. I doubt that person exists.
His face has stayed with me since I found the picture; it bothers me that I don’t know for certain who he is. He looks just like a man I grew up loving, a man who attended my wedding. We must be related, yet he is lost to time. I suppose that’s the fate of us all. We’re here for a brief instant, then the day comes when the last person who remembers us is gone. It is sad, but it is life. Already I’ve lost friends and loved ones at this halfway point of my life. Yet I remember. I remember them with fond memories; I will see them again, all too soon. And I will learn who the man in the picture is, and we will remember together.
“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” –Antonio Porchia
I celebrated a milestone birthday this week. It was a great day, in the middle of a ten day vacation in Florida visiting our son. We miss him a lot since he moved a thousand miles away. On the trip, we hit a couple of theme parks, swam (a lot), and just enjoyed time together as a family. I had originally planned to let the milestone slip by as quietly as I could, having snuck out of town for it. But as the family time and friends’ birthday wishes made me reflect, I decided to go public.
None of my other milestone birthdays have bothered me, but as this one approached, I found myself wanting to hide my age. As a logical person, that makes no sense…fifty is only one more than forty nine, and I was fine with that one. The illogic of my reaction made me decide to face it, because something’s obviously bothering me about it.
I don’t fully understand what it is. We hear (and say to ourselves) that age is just a number, and that we’re only as old as we feel. I’m not scared of dying, and my genetics say I’m barely over the halfway mark. I don’t have many regrets. My best guess is that, even with a lot of life likely left, I still feel like I’m somehow close to done. Of course that’s ridiculous, because the only thing I’m remotely close to done with is work, and I am looking forward to that. I just have no idea what I plan to do next, though I know I will do something. Perhaps this is just another example of my bad habit of trying to look forward too far, to plan too much. Since I can’t see around the next big corner, I shouldn’t even try. Instead, I’ll just have to keep working at living in this moment of my life. It is, after all, a pretty good one.
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” –George Burns
I don’t know where the time has gone. We’re creeping up on Megan’s 17th birthday; later this summer her kid sister will follow her siblings into teenagehood. Seventeen. It sounds so near-final. I know I shouldn’t look at it that way, but it’s hard not to. Her brother left home a year older and never came back. No boomerang kid, no summers and Christmases back home the way I’d reassured myself it would be. He simply walked away, shoulders back and unblinking, straight into the sun and his future. Of course I’m proud of his independence and happy that he’s happy, but weekly phone calls and annual visits are no substitute for hugging him goodnight every night.
It’s impossible to say what path the girls will take. Our own journey would have been unbelievable at that point in our lives. We all must find our own direction, stumbling and feeling our way, getting extraordinarily lucky sometimes, falling face first into the pavement others. Our scars either make us hole up and hide away, or they leave us stronger…limping and bruised, but wiser and more certain of what we believe in.
I am just as optimistic about our girls’ futures as history has proven that I was right to be about our son. They are optimists. They know how to laugh. They are smart. They are so very strong and independent…I never worry that they’ll allow themselves to be taken advantage of by anyone. But I also know that they will make mistakes…some big…and they will get hurt. And I will continue to hurt when they do, just as I always have. Except that I won’t always be right there to rub their backs and say soothing things to help make it better. I will have to count on who they have become to get them through from here. I know I won’t be ready. It’s a good thing that they will be.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” –Denis Waitley
A friend recently shared a nugget of wisdom with me, that change helps keep us young. I’d never thought of it that way, but this fact was as immediately obvious as real truth always is when suddenly revealed. I was grateful for this particular truth as I head into yet another big life change, this time a job change. The thought of this change helping me stay young-at-heart has enormous appeal to me in mid-life, heading to a new company which I hope to be my last. I would like to know that the pain which change always brings will have benefit beyond being the toll required to get to the other side.
I’ve started over so many times that I’m no longer scared of it…I’ve even been told that I’m good at it. I would hope to have learned some tips and tricks, given how many times I’ve done it, but I still never look forward to it. Change is hard, you start over on everything: being accepted and trusted; learning the “don’t do’s” in the new culture; making all new friends. Oh yeah, and learning a new business. It’s exhausting. I’ve always hated the first six months of every new job.
But I also see my friend’s point: when we’re changing, we’re growing. When we’re growing, we’re learning. And when we’re learning, we’re regenerating. That sounds like the definition of youth to me. What a wonderful gift of perspective she gave me: I think that, for the first time, I just might enjoy these first six months.
“To find the joy in work is to discover the fountain of youth.” –Pearl S. Buck