Jan 20, 2011

Awake my soul and smell the coffee...

I think it started about the time I turned 50 years of age. I really didn’t “feel” as old as the over-the-hill jokes that came my way implied I should. But I did the math and by no stretch of the imagination could I any longer consider myself “middle-aged”. I don’t personally know anyone who has turned 100 years old, though I know there are a few out there.

But, I certainly did not consider myself as “elderly” either. So what WAS I anyway? Or rather, WHERE was I on this timeline called life? While no one is guaranteed the number of years they will live on this earth, I decided to mentally divide up the years of life into quarters. In order for this to work, I had to make an assumption on the length of my life. So I picked 80 years. After all, the Bible says in Psalm 90:10:

“The length of our days is seventy years-

or eighty, if we have the strength...”

It will be noted that by choosing 80 years as my life span that I made another assumption too: that I would be one of the “strong” ones. If I’m granted any more years than 80, I would just consider it a plus. That’s where assumption number three comes into play. My grandparents and my parents have lived past the octogenarian mark. Surely I will too.

Next I decided to name the four quarters of life by using the names of the seasons. Up to age 20 would be called spring; 21 to 40 would be summer; 41 to 60 would be the autumn season; and 61 to 80 would be the winter of life. The term “elderly” would only apply to those past 80 who could no longer get around and live an active life. My only relative that met this criteria was my grandmother, and that was in her 93rd year.

All this kind of thinking took place about a dozen years ago. During the years since, thankfully I have become less preoccupied with trying to put my life on a timeline and figuring out where I might be. Instead, I have come to understand this with certainty: no matter how many years I might have left on this planet, they surely were fewer than the number of years I have already lived. And so I have been busy trying to live them to the fullest.

The shift in thinking was subtle, but very real. Somewhere along the way I have gained an increasing awareness that life is short no matter how long one might live, and that I wanted to major in the majors.

A lot has happened in my life since the year I turned 50. My kids grew up, went to college, got married, had kids of their own, and now have their own mortgages. My father died, my mother was declared legally blind, and I became a part-time care-giver for her and for a couple of my grandchildren. My empty nest doesn’t seem the least bit empty, I still get up early to make breakfast and see my husband off to work, and my car racks up as many miles as it did when I was a taxi driver for the kids. I’m playing with a life long dream by doing a little writing here and there, and I’m tending to my spiritual life daily. I have peace with God and make time to serve Him by serving others.

Some of my friends don’t approve of my lifestyle. Many of them think I should be living more for myself, whatever that means. Actually in many ways I am living more for myself...I’m doing the things that matter to me the most, even though my energy level obviously can’t compete with what it used to be.

I was talking to an older pastor’s wife a couple of years ago, and her advice was to “run the last lap the best”. And that is what I want to do. I want to live each day intentionally and with the full knowledge that every day is a gift. I want to keep a short account of offenses. I want to leave some kind of legacy that will matter to someone. I can’t assume anything about when my life on earth might end, except that it is inevitable that someday it will. And by my own definition, I am in the winter of my life. I’m OK with that.


Rebecca said...

I like the advice to "run the last lap the best"! Sounds like you're doing GREAT with that :) Keep it up, my friend!

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

A beautiful way to look at your life. Until recently, I would have given myself 80 years; you can imagine the shift in my spirit, which makes running the last lap the best even more profound and pertinent for me.

I'm in touch with my mortality, and I'm mostly OK with it all; others, however, aren't comfortable with the "thinking" about it. And while I don't think we should get "stuck" there, it's good to do a pulse check every now again.

Keeps us focused on what's important.

Love this post, friend. Keep writing your heart and working out your faith with fear and trembling. Your family is blessed to have so much of you in this, your autumn season of living!

PS: Autumn is my favorite!!!!!

Nellie's Cozy place said...

Hi Jacquelyn,
What a great post, I am so there with you!! I am totally content at this point in my life, and am living a life that I love. With age comes Wisdom.....and I love that, things become much clearer and priorities much sharper. I think the Lord will probably come and get us before we
turn 80....what do you think?? At least that is what I am hoping for,
I'm not afraid of dying I just think it would be neat to go in the rapture!! lol
What stories we could tell to our loved ones that are already there. lol
Blessings hon,

Anonymous said...

Dear Jacqueline,
My birthday was yesterday. While I am 'doing okay' with it, I would say that the part that bums me out the most is not MY age, but that I didn't get to have children until I was 'older' by average standards. The other component is there is an age gap with my husband's age, that makes me reluctant to publicly discuss our ages, which for some reason, always comes up.
I was so blessed to have my mother visit this weekend for the occasion of my birthday. My precious father left us nine years ago. She was talking about the brevity of life and it was weighing on her. It saddened me to notice how she had aged dramatically since I had last taken time to notice.
It would be my fervant wish that we all be raptured and called up thither before we taste of death. This was the desire of many who have preceded us also.
At any rate, your reflections on the seasons of life are so very appropriate, and they cheered me onward. LOVED the comment about running the last lap best. Many resign from life before they reach that point. Weariness overtakes and resignation sets in. Involvement as long as possible is the key. Retirement is not a Biblical concept. Thank you for your work.

Watery eyed at the end of summer,

Jacquelyn Stager said...

Dear Jen, thanks for this comment and for sharing yourself here. I'm sad I do not know how to connect with you?? If you see this, email me at Jacque481@aol.com!