Monday, November 26, 2018

Mid-Life Musings

It's been an existential crisis kind of week....month....year....jumble of years. As I try to make sense of my thoughts and emotions my doggie begs to be adored and scratched, wiping my hands away from the keyboard. Duty must come before words. It is hard to make sense of it all.

I don't know exactly how to describe the maelstrom of thoughts, struggles, feelings, longings, disappointments, internal battles of faith and dreams and purpose. How to make sense of the experiences that have colored my world and shaped my heart?

I guess this could be called a mid-life crisis, though I think I have been having one of those since I was about 30, overwhelmed with more children than hands, no longer mistaken for a teenager, and realizing that running away to a ranch in Montana was no longer an option.

My life has been, by the standards of the world, a very wonderful thing. No poverty. No oppression. No discrimination (well, some of that). A roof over my head. Shoes on my feet. Food in my belly. A kind husband (always go for the one who is kind). Children who are amazing beyond anything I could ever imagine. And I get to live in a place where tourists come and come and come (you can go away now and take the traffic with you, says my tired, cynical self).

And yet I am at a place in my life where I don't really see a path forward and I see all of the paths behind me that I never took. What is my purpose? My kids are gradually leaving town for grand adventures, following their dreams. It never occurred to me to really, truly follow mine. I had neither the confidence nor the strength of resolve to take that path. And I look in the rear view mirror and they are there. Waving goodbye. Which, if any are still possible? Am I too old to pursue what I long to do and long to be? Statistically, I have likely another 30 years, at least, on the planet. If I take after my grandmothers, then let's bump that up to 40. Then why does it feel like it is all over? The grey hair? The changing body? The feeling of defeat?

And then there is so much I don't get. So much of what I used to believe I just don't know about any more. I have more questions and fewer answers. The Christian life isn't near as neat and tidy as it was packaged and sold to me. I have spent some time dumping out everything I believe and slowly, gradually, picking back up the important things, the essential things, and putting them back in my bag of certainty. That bag is much lighter now. Some people call it the deconstruction of faith. It is something I have had to do. The shoulds, the must haves, the extrabiblical mandates, and the lopsided emphases were killing me.

How do I channel the disillusionment into compassion? How do I love my neighbor with a clean conscience? How do I funnel the fact that I think too much, wrestle too much, feel too much into an outward facing love for other people? How can I reflect something of the character of God to others? How do I grab onto that compassion and love and mercy for myself? How do I embrace the intensity of emotion that comes with this time in my life and accept it for what it is? So many questions.

I guess that it what it is. A period of more questions than answers. Of more listening than speaking. Of more waiting on God than doing. A period of lightening my own load so I can bear somebody else's burdens.

Maybe that is what mid-life is all about. Grieving the loss of dreams and maybe getting some new ones. Letting go of the old ideals of what gives me value and learning to believe something new about myself. I just don't want to be one of those old, cranky people who waves her finger at others, scolding them for their screw-ups. I want to be MORE kind. MORE compassionate. MORE committed to listening and caring and coming alongside. MORE willing to set aside my dreams for the good of someone else.

I want God to use me for something good. I guess that is what it amounts to.