What happened to my flowers?!?
We went to the beach in the midst of a beautiful Tallahassee spring. My yard was full of color and promise; azaleas, Japanese Magnolias and Dogwood were splendid with blooms! Less than 48 hours later, the flowers of “spring,” certainly the shortest season in North Florida, were all but gone.
Spring’s promise is being fulfilled too quickly for my tastes. It seems the transition happens overnight, as one day we wake up to the full-on green of summer’s heat. Cycles of change are inevitable in nature and in the lives of individuals — in my life.
I remember my mom saying each year passes more swiftly than the last. It made no sense to me as a child enduring the seeming eternity between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But today I agree with the generations before me. “Tempus do fugit,” as Granny liked to say agreeing with Mom; time flies.
I said in my last post I would write about “His continuing work of grace in my heart.” The time stamp says it was a month ago — I would have guessed 10 days. Barbara Bush had a quote about the life of young mothers being comprised of “long days and short years.” It’s so true! And for this 50-year old empty nester, this month has been similar. I am a mother without a child.
Lately I feel like a misfit: a stranger in my own body and mind — lost and confused. Something akin to the insecurity of adolescence when we are children in increasingly adult bodies, I am a searching version of my past self, with obviously aging skin, bones and muscles. The real me feels invisible in a crowded room.
With incessant digital capturing, I’m shocked at images of my middle-aged face and form — so drastically different from the athletic, unwrinkled woman inside. This matronly version of myself is not one I easily appreciate. And my mind? The forgetfulness, the confusion and unrest. Not knowing what’s next or what to do? Who am I?
In the little time my youthful self spent thinking about midlife, my current reality was not a part of my imaginings. Midlife crisis doesn’t fit because it implies recklessness and chaos. I don’t want to dismantle what I spent a lifetime building. Yet something tells me, even as Rob and I are creating a second infrastructure with “family” in mind, I need to face the truth that the old is falling away like the blooms of spring, and new growth is happening without my permission — it’s time to embrace it!
We are blessed and grateful that our children come home fairly often. But nothing is as it once was, and their departures back to their “real” homes always loom. Each good bye is a reminder that the full-time mom season is over.
The remaining tasks still available from my stay-at-home-mom days leave me feeling empty. I used to create our family life, full of friends and activity. All that went into homemaking and being mom was fulfilling and gave me great joy. A place and a purpose.
Whether at work or at home, I’ve managed to “busy myself” through the days, even productively sometimes. Then, Rob and I continue the old nighttime patterns, as if we still need to be home weeknights — a rut of sorts.
Recently, I wandered around Fresh Market, departed and drove to Publix — pushing a shopping cart again, but collecting only a bag of grated cheese (I later returned it and left empty handed). The futility of my leftover routine overcame me. We laughed and enjoyed a night out.
I try really hard to live in the present, but I often carry the grief of moments gone. Sweet memories of times fully lived and the regrets of opportunities lost. Recently, I’ve been overwhelmed with longing for my familiar and imperfect but beautiful past life as a bustling family.
God has met me in these last weeks, full of grace and compassion. The funeral of a 90-year old family friend who lived exceptionally well gave me glimpses of my own finish line, my obituary. Thirty, forty fifty… they came so fast. I never really considered life beyond my little “family.” But I am here and God-willing, I have 25-30+ more years. I want to live well and age gracefully.
Psalm 92:14 says, “They will still yield fruit in old age; They shall be full of sap and very green.”
Everything in my life is fair game to offer for examination. To retain if still useful or to remove if outdated. I want to make room for God’s continuing plans and purpose for me. I feel more urgency to share His love. To engage others. More intentional and thoughtful about my steps than before, when doing all the things that made up my days was enough. Now I’m spending a lot more time praying, being still, and listening.
My conversations tell me I’m not alone in this unsettling stage — struggling to loosen my grip both on what always was and on what I thought would be. Wondering if I have the courage to create something new and to claim the life God has for me now.
At 50 I’m living the backside of what I always thought of as my “future.” My goal is to keep my eyes and my heart on God whose grace is eternal and whose work in me will continue until he brings me home.
Something inside whispers that being busy is not the same as being fully alive — and that I have a lot to look forward to, as each day I surrender to being more of who God made me to be. The great thing about the passing years is we get to hang on to every age, as we build on all God accomplishes in each season we are His child.
Isaiah 46:4 says “Even to your old age I will be the same, And even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; And I will bear you and I will deliver you.”
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