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Sitting in Chairs Like Old Folks
Midlife is weird and sudden.
Tim and I went for a two hour walk on Saturday. We’d been sitting in a car for a combined 16 hours over two days of travel to our youngest son’s All Star Football game, and we kind of felt like we were the ones who’d been on the field. It hurts to sit, if that tells you anything about our age. We needed a long walk to undo the traveling.
It was good to walk and talk. Lately we’ve had mornings together a few days a week and we sit in the living room with our coffee and we read a little, pray a little, and talk. It’s been a sweet time together but I feel like we’re settling in to our twilight already, sitting in our chairs like old folks.
We almost always talk about the future and what we hope for it. These last few years have been a lesson in things we didn’t anticipate, and I sometimes feel hopelesswhen I try to envision the future—mostly because the present we are living is ZERO BITS what I had planned for. Thankfully, when it comes to optimists or pessimists, Tim and I have always taken turns—when I’m one, he’s the other. It’s a great marriage hack.
On our walk, I was the pessimist—did you pick up on that? I was the one wondering how our hopes for the future would work out, considering our present. Tim dreams of selling everything and investing in an obnoxiously large piece of land where our grandkids can run free, fishing and hunting and building forts on our family property. I dream of all that, too, and a small home for the two of us that somehow expands magically for large family gatherings every weekend. We both dream of ways to impact the people we’re in community with; but also, how to get away from everybody and live in solitude. We dream of moving away but staying close; of staying close but shrinking back; of big spaces and large gatherings but a tiny house with an RV.
We want it all and very little. This paradox is the way we dream together, and it’s no wonder we are surprised at the way our life has actually worked out. We are in a completely new phase, with a new business and a nearly-empty nest, but with the same old desire to simplify, downsize, purge; and things keep getting more complicated. I think we are just bad at planning but good at dreaming.
Unless I live to be 94, I am over the hill that comes at life’s midpoint, heading down the back slope of the mountain. We used to run long distance and I remember a race where the midpoint was a pretty significant hill/mountain, and when you turned around to head back to the finish line, there was this great relief. Arms and hips and feet rocked in rhythm, down the easy slope of hill you had just gutted it out to climb. Turning back was easy and you could almost float, lead with your hips, and glide home as the ground rolled under you. Inevitably, the hill would flatten out and the ground had to be pulled under your feet once again, but for a little while there was relief.
Absent of mile markers and finish lines, God alone knows our midpoint. I could have been midway at 25 and missed it, but for sure our bodies feel the breaking down and all the warnings from our youth are here to haunt us. They told us we would feel this way. I just didn’t expect it to come on so suddenly. I missed the part where we coast downhill.
Suddenly is the timing of life, though. For all our planning and dreaming and years of hard work, all of a sudden, we feel worn. And whether we are midway or closer to 80% done, we need some kind of plan for the rest of life; we need to plan as though there is a second half, full of good things.
“I would have lost heart,” the psalmist says, “unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”
My hope is that there is still time to learn and grow—not simply to become better, as some evolutionary goal point to optimize my humanness—but to be more like Jesus. I think this probably doesn’t involve adding or acquiring things, or making huge changes and big moves. More likely it means subtracting. Even more likely, it involves less mitigation of our fears and more planning for goodness. Bad things will happen with or without our planning, but good things require a cultivation and space, an openness to the possibility of their existence.
I’m going to try and remember that on our next walk, and I think we’ll be optimists together for awhile. I don’t know that I’m halfway to anything, or if everything is almost over, or if I have a really long way to go, but I don’t want to spend opportunities for good on worry about the bad.
I also don’t want to sit in my chair when all this awaits out my door:
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Not hopeless because I don’t think I have a future; I think what I mean is that making plans sometimes feels futile because que sera, sera. Ultimately, I do believe God has good in store. I just get in a mood sometimes.
Psalm 27:13 NKJV