The quote from the Greek writer Heraclitus goes like this,
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
I just finished watching the Ken Burns special called Country Music. I am a lover of history and a casual fan of country music. But this special touched me deeply. As I watched each episode I was reminded of the heartache and resiliency of the human spirit. The music, uniquely American, that was once minstrel, then hillbilly, then honky tonk and bluegrass, then country western, then just country, and country rock, and then Americana, lived its life within the reality of change. As hard as some fought to keep it pure to “three chords and the truth” it never belonged to anyone. The music had a life of its own. And went with it where the tide carried it. Reshaping the path as it flowed from one generation to the next. From one area of the country to the next. From one type of people to the next.
It got me thinking about this life that I have been given and all the change that I’ve experienced. In my twenties and thirties I lived the American dream with a family of my own, wonderful kids, and a plan for our future. My forties, I was introduced to travel, I met my true self again and wondered where she’d been. I said yes when I should have said no. And woke up to all the possibilities that lay before me. It ended a few days ago when I turned 50.
My forties began in a piano bar surrounded by my family who loved me. They paid the singers to get me on stage to shout out my birthday. My husband of 18 years had just left me and I was distraught. The song they ironically chose to sing was “You’ve lost that loving feeling.” My fifties began with a similar gathering of the same group of loved ones and we all went to an Eagles concert. I marveled at where the time had gone. And how different a person I was from the girl who sat on the piano at age 40. Listening to Don Henley sing, “We may lose and we may win, but we will never be here again.” So true.
A decade has gone by and it feels like a week. In my forties I was determined to LIVE. Experience what I missed in my twenties when I was having and raising children. I wanted to step away from the wall and into the messiness of life and to revel in each day’s opportunities. I laughed a lot, I smiled a lot, I experience much love, and I cried a lot too. What did it get me? I guess it all depends on how you look at it.
I saw seashores in Cornwall, Ireland, and Wales that I never expected to see. I had heart to heart talks so deeply true and honest that I felt like a connected with another human being for the first time in my life. I went with the flow at times and other times I tried steering against it until I capsized and had to be fished out of the river miraculously surviving to live another day.
It all made me who I am today. And tomorrow I will be someone different.
What I know to be true is this. I am me. And all of those things I experienced, good and bad, have wedged themselves into the crevices of my being.
Country music doesn’t hide from the pain of life. Sometimes a song will even sit in it and wallow for a time. But songs come and go as decade do.
I would never have guessed in a million years that ten years later I would be writing still this same journal of my life. Back then my forty-year-old-self wanted to tell my thirty-year-old-self to hang on and that it gets better. Now at 50 I want to tell my forty-year-old-self to be careful who you let in. I wonder had I lived my life differently where I would be today instead. I wonder if I missed my chanced at a long and happy second marriage.
But missed chances are just what ifs. What is…now, is reality. So honestly, at fifty, I’m content to admit that I don’t have anything figured out and that is ok. I don’t have a real plan anymore. Instead I’m living one day at a time and hoping and praying for the best. I know what I don’t want in my life now. But I’ll let God bring me what I do… Because this girl at the age of fifty finally understands that He loves me enough to bring me out of whatever despair I’m in currently to see another day. And what that day looks like will be a blessing if I choose to see it that way.
Grandkids? Maybe. A new husband? Maybe. My hopes now don’t include such details.
I got two cakes with candles this birthday and both people were asking me to make a wish before blowing them out. And both times I struggled to come up with a wish. So I faked it and blew them out anyway. That really bothered me at the time.
But maybe its for the best. Maybe just being thankful for my life is enough. And asking God to help me see the good in each day. Something tells me, if I keep this attitude, that this decade – whatever it brings – will probably be my happiest. Not because my hopes and dreams will be fulfilled…but because I know better.
Approaching my birthday was difficult for me because I judged my life on the world’s standards. I am fifty and alone. I kept saying that over and over. Then I said…but I want to be. And that is where God has me. As if to argue with myself. I am fifty and in a new job I’ve only had for one year, a new community I’m just starting to get to know for real, and a new mortgage. And I lamented that I was not in a twenty-five year relationship planning my retirement like some of my friends. Where is relaxation on MY horizon?
But now that my birthday has passed. I realize that it was just another day. And all I have is each day anyway. I can do things with my life that married people cannot. I have freedom, and solitude, and time for quiet reflection. That is just as much a gift as a retirement plan. It’s just a different reality. I’d probably get bored in retirement anyway. God knows what I need. And I trust God with that plan because it’s the one He gave me, not the one I had for myself back in the twenties.
No one person ever determined the path of their river. God alone does that. No matter how hard we try…so we might as well enjoy the ride it takes us on that is uniquely ours to take however long He gives us; because when its over…we can’t take anything with us except our souls.
I want to dedicate this decade to my soul. The only thing I will have once this life is over.
” Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
I began this post with a Greek philosopher and end with a Roman poet.
“He who postpones the hour of living is like the rustic who waits for the river to run out before he crosses.”
I resign myself to time, not to fear. May God take me where I cannot imagine as He already has. May I not get in His way for He wants the best for me. The Best is Surely Yet to Come.