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Aging and Aquamarine

Mar

29

Posted by on Mar 29, 2018 | 2 comments

 

Right now, in this hair’s breadth of a moment, you are both as old as you’ve ever been, and as young as you ever will be again.

 

Interesting thought, isn’t it?

 

It is not unusual for me to think about time, in general, and aging, more specifically this time of year; March is my birthday month.

 

Aging comes naturally, but if your wish is to age gracefully, you’re going to have to be intentional.

 

Aging can be like a riptide, forcing you off course and threatening to pull you under. It can knock you off your feet in a single wave and leave you disoriented and wondering How in the world did I get here?

 

Neither aging nor aging gracefully are destinations; they’re journeys. One is completely left up to chance, the tail wagging the dog, que sera sera; the other is intentional, contemplative living, controlling and planning for a preferred outcome. The latter  also involves accepting what you can’t control and making the best of it.

 

A positive attitude ignites your ability to age gracefully; it enables you to receive all of life as this big, incredible, magnificent gift–all of it. That doesn’t mean you’re immune to hardship or disappointment. It means you’re better able to navigate those seasons when they arrive.

 

When I was a kid, choosing a birthday gift for a friend was always easy: something birthstone-related or Zodiac sign-related. That’s so funny to me now; I don’t think I ever got anything related to either of those for gifts when my own children attended their friends’ birthday parties. My birthstone is aquamarine, and I’ve always loved it; it’s one of my favorite colors to wear, clothing or jewelry. Maybe it’s why I long for and love the ocean so, exquisite aquamarine sea. And though I never bought into Zodiac stuff in terms of practice or belief, I know I’m Aries and it’s associated with fire, and there’s something in that I appreciate.

 

While the four seasons are like my children in that each one is my favorite but for different reasons – I see the signature beauty in each – I find myself thankful to have been born in the spring. Spring is colorful, alive with promise, with hope, with life! Aquamarine finds her way into spring.

 

Spring holds the darkest day in Christendom and the brightest. Jesus, in full surrender and submission, enduring a gruesome spectacle of death, demonstrating an incomprehensible love, and ultimately conquering the grave and bringing reconciliation of man to God through His atoning sacrifice. Spring is beautiful and reminds me of our hope in Christ.

 

I am at the age now where milestone birthdays have lost the meaning they do in our youth. Remember when you couldn’t wait to

  • turn double digits
  • become a teenager
  • get your learner’s permit
  • get your driver’s license
  • vote
  • order a cocktail (or beer or wine…)

I am at the age now where sometimes, dammit, I have to check the last box. I wish that didn’t phase me, but it does. I’m also at the age where my body betrays me, alternately catching fire or my hair changing color or just plain hurting from sitting too long. Seriously–sitting too long can hurt? Who knew?

 

But hear me loud when I tell you this: I am no victim of age. Neither are you.

 

I am at the age of incredible opportunity. 

 

I have lived 17 years longer than my own mother, who didn’t get to see her babies beyond grade school. I’m enjoying the incredible privilege of knowing my children as young adults, of seeing them on the way of becoming who they’ll be.

 

I’ve lived long enough and gained the experience that convinces me Romans 8:28 is true–

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
(ESV)

 

I’ve lived long enough to learn that there’s more than one way to the other side of the mountain, and that one day you will make it to the other side. 

 

I’ve lived long enough to understand the difference between “have to” and “get to”–

I get to clean my house because I have a house to clean.

I get to wash our clothes because we have clothes to wear (and a washing machine to do the actual washing).

I get to do yard work because I have a yard.

I get to give money to those in need because I have money to give.

I get to spend time getting to know God through His word, because He’s preserved His word in scripture.

I get to praise and worship the Lord because He has given me life now and forever.

 

Aging gracefully relishes Get-to living. Have-to living puts you under the chains of obligation. Be free, my friend. You get to be free. Let go of those chains.

 

I’m at the age where hindsight is a masterful teacher. Age allows you to see the veil lifting to reveal more and more of the big picture, all the tiny puzzle pieces of your life fitting together into something lovely.

 

I’m at the age where I can tell you it is never too late to:

learn something new

follow your dreams

try something that scares the snot out of you.

I’m at the age where I believe it is always right to:

lead with love

forgive, then forgive again. And again.

be generous

be kind, because everyone is dealing with something beneath the surface.

I am at the age where I want to steward my time well, love the people in my life well, and honor, serve and love Jesus well. In my past I have wasted time, taken friends and family for granted, and resisted God and what He asks of me.

 

An incredible opportunity has come my way that couldn’t have happened before now, unquestionably a God-gift. One year, 365 opportunities, and this one is huge. Tomorrow I turn 55, and 2018 is the year I will write my first book. It took me a long, long while to get to the age when, finally, my life is not my own.

 

Soli Deo gloria.

 

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Because 50 is Relative

Mar

30

Posted by on Mar 30, 2016 | 6 comments


 

Never Apologize For Your Age - Robin Dance

If you were backed into a corner and forced to give an answer, what age would you say is “old”? What milestone birthday is The One that tips a person beyond the top of the hill into a mess of wrinkles and infirmity? How old do you have to be to be considered a senior citizen, an elderly person, an old geezer?

How old is “old?”

I suspect that line is a shifting one for all of us, that the number grows higher with each passing year.

Old age is relative to our current age.

Ageism is rampant in our country and culture, subtle and sinister in that people who practice it probably don’t even realize they are. I’ve been on the receiving end of it a few times, and it’s shocking. In my mind, I’m not old! (Showing up to film a Tim McGraw music video comes to mind….) But if I’m older than you, relatively speaking, I might be. Or not.

Depends on how big a jerk you are.

But wait–that’s part of the problem. If I think you’re a jerk (which I don’t, really) because you treat me differently because I’m older than you, that’s giving mental ascent to your prejudice. It is buying into the thought that at some point Old Age < Youth. It’s agreeing that at some point you become less valuable because of your age.

You do not become less valuable as you age, but your currency (what you have to offer) may change. In many important ways, your value increases.

Never apologize for your age as if it’s something to be sorry for!

 

My God, growing old is the price you pay for long life, and it’s a privilege not everyone shares. What you gain over time in wisdom and experience is invaluable! By the time you reach midlife, you’ve endured heartache, you’ve survived tragedy, you’ve learned so many lessons your life is a textbook. You have amassed a wealth of experience from the wise and poor choices you’ve made. You’ve born consequence, you’ve collected milestones, you’ve celebrated new life, and you’ve mourned the passing of those you love.

You have grown rich over time but you have to understand and value the currency.

 

Anyway…today is my birthday. I’m 53 and I woke up with a pain in my middle knuckle, of all places, and my first thought was, “Did I jam my finger in my sleep??” But then my second thought was, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! HOW CLICHÉ IS IT TO WAKE UP WITH A NEW AILMENT ON YOUR 50-SOMETHING BIRTHDAY?!”

So I ignored it, took a birthday selfie in bed, and posted it as a proverbial finger to aging.

Clearly, I’m winning the internet.

It’s fun to watch old episodes of Friends on Netflix, and when this episode (with Brad Pitt, about Ross making out with their librarian when he was in high school) showed up not to long ago, it inspired this post.

I’m pretty sure if any of the Friends cast watched it now, they’d think Mrs. Altman was pretty darn cool.

 

 

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Don’t I look different…? {Part II, a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

18

Posted by on Aug 18, 2015 | 4 comments

Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same

ii

There’s this scene in the 1980s version of About Last Night where Demi Moore’s character, Debbie, is rebuffing her former lover’s (and boss’s) advances. Steve’s a persistent one, not believing her first “no” and reminding her of what they once shared. Her response is angry…indignant, not so much at his uninvited gesture but because he can’t see “it,” her feelings for her current boyfriend.

Debbie: There’s somebody else now.

Steve: I don’t see a ring.

Debbie: I don’t need a ring…. Look at me. Don’t I look different? I’m in love, can’t you tell? This has never happened to me before. I want to have ten kids with this guy…doesn’t it show?

The scene strongly resonates with me though under different circumstances. I’ve felt a similar emotional tension, markers of something significant.

After I got married…

After giving birth to my first child…

The shock of learning I was post-menopausal when my body told a very different story

And now.

When we’re young, we think there’s a point at which we’re grown. What I’ve come to realize is as long as we’re alive, we never stop growing, at least not in the ways that matter most.  In the beginning, we celebrate a series of Firsts. Somewhere beyond the crest of the Hill we celebrate lasts.

Sometimes endings and beginnings are one in the same, the point of view and beauty therein lies in their beholder.

 

My youngest and I shared a dual ending/beginning, and it hit me he’s not the only one coming of age. So am I.

His departure ushers in a new season for me and I find myself wanting to scream

Look at me! Don’t I look different? This has never happened to me before!

I didn’t expect to feel different, but I do. Nothing has changed and yet everything has changed.

Everything that happens
    has happened before,
and all that will be
    has already been—
God does everything
    over and over again.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:15 CEV

Sometimes all I need to talk me off the ledge are Ancient Words.

* * * * *

PLEASE check back as I continue this series, as I process this new and precious life season. Though I feel it deeply, and at times, painfully so, there is too much good about it I don’t want you to miss!   It’s easy to subscribe for free, so if you haven’t yet, consider this my personal invitation.  (Also, if you haven’t yet, please read the first post in this series.)

Robin Heart Signature - Green

 

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Facing giants {a series on motherhood & empty nest}

Aug

17

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 | 13 comments

A good thing to file away about empty nest

i.

I’ve been pulling this Band-aid off for so long, I’ve become accustomed to the sting. It still hurts but the pain is a dull one just below the surface.

Until it isn’t.

But then once it’s off, that means the healing has taken place and the wound is restored to health.

Isn’t that the way it goes?

Last Wednesday we took our youngest to college, to the big university that happens also to be in my hometown. Athens, Georgia was a wonderful place to grow up in the 60s and 70s – living in Five Points was a citified Mayberry – but I went away to school and never returned except to visit. Reasons are many, mostly tied to job, but I’ve arrived at a definitive peace with my hometown, and it feels so good to be there now, like all the unpredictability, challenge, and change over the last four years was leading to this: setting the stage for my baby to go to college in a familiar-to-me place.

Home. Through him, in an odd sense, I’m able to be at home when I go home. Family is still there – family has always been there – but I think I appreciate being closer in proximity in a way I haven’t in a long, long time.

So we moved my boy in to the 9th floor of a 960-student high-rise, and we left him and a chunk of my heart right there on Baxter Drive, 1.4 miles from the apartment we were living in when Mama died, down the road from my high school and middle school and around the corner from Barrow Elementary….within a few minutes and miles of where I spent my entire first 18 years.

It’s easy to drift into memories – they’re a flood – but I’m anchoring myself to today.

We came home to begin a new season, and lordy, our house was screaming quiet.

And here’s the thing, a good thing for you to file away if you’re years from where I am: 

You can “prepare” for Empty Nest all you want, you can steady your heart for the letting go, and you can even believe it’s good, well done, that this is what your parenting goal has been; but that doesn’t insulate you from the impact of this major change. 

So…I’ve given myself permission to feel it.

 

Thursday, my husband went to work like normal, and I went to work like normal. No, not normal, I threw myself into my work and barely stopped all day. Not to eat or use the bathroom, just go go go so I wouldn’t have to listen to the damned silence.

But then late in the day I had a conversation with a work colleague and she asked about taking Stephen to UGA the day before…and I stopped in my tracks. I couldn’t speak. And she spoke simple, liberating words over me, He’s your baby. This IS a big deal. It’s okay to be sad.

Which of course made me cry, which of course made me feel better.

Sometimes tears are a means of escape for all the feelings pounding your heart.

 

I AM a half-full glass girl. I DO see silver linings in stormy clouds. But sometimes it’s fine, even better, and certainly more honest, to absorb the impact of life and to recoil; eventually you’ll spring back.

If you don’t, you need to get help.

Two things are helpful, important and maybe even necessary when you’re approaching or in the season of Empty Nesting.

 

1. Give yourself permission to grieve. Your identity has been wrapped up in being a mother for a lot of years; while that will never change, your role will. Transitions can be tricky…. Remember that while there may be loss of young humans under your roof, their departure is one measure of success as a parent. You’ve been raising children to be independent young adults, not grown children who need you to survive. Their leaving might not be your only end-goal but it certainly should be one of them.

2. Collect friends in this same stage of life, and even a few years ahead of you. When you’re a new mother, it’s vital to be in community with other young moms; whether to encourage or advise or just listen, having others going through this same life stage is sanity-saving. It’s equally important, if not more so, to have women who can speak life and experience into this new season of Empty Nesting. What you’ll learn soon enough is, at this age, it’s not one thing going on (kids all leaving), it’s many things (aging parents, health issues, sickness among friends, marriages falling apart, career issues, financial pressures, etc. etc. ETC.) and you NEED others who understand from living it that you CAN get through it. It makes a huge difference and I’m so thankful for those in my life who continue to encourage, champion and challenge me…and even let me be sad.

To be continued…this is at all what I intended to write about when I started. Oh, the mind of my fingers sometimes… 🙂 

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The Wedding Gift and Mr. Housman

Aug

11

Posted by on Aug 11, 2015 | 8 comments

Toulouse from Reed and Barton Select

Mr. Housman was a crusty old man with gravel in his voice.

 

A stubble of white dusted the sides of his head. His skin was a map of liver spots and blotches. When he stood his tallest I could look him square, and his belly looked like he had swallowed a watermelon whole.

Mr. Housman was never in a hurry. Even if those stubby legs could’ve shuttled him faster, he wouldn’t have bothered. He had lived long enough to learn that getting there quicker wasn’t always better. Better than most, he knew life was less a straight shot and more a tangled road.

If Mr. Housman were a book, you’d do yourself wrong to judge him by the cover. He was much, much more than meets the eye.  Slipping out in a wink or slight nod, mischievousness might’ve been his superpower.

He had been with the company longer than I had been alive.

When I first met him, I was intimidated. I was fresh out of school and he was a walking institution. I thought I knew something until I was around people like him. When in the presence of a sage, I became aware of how little I knew, how brief my life had been in comparison. People like Mr. Housman had trudged the history I had only read about in school.

My perception started shifting as soon as the stories began. His prickly veneer masked satin.

Mr. Housman had one son and one wife. He’d say he got it right the first time. Among a pile of surprises I’d learn about Mr. Housman was finding out he and his missus fostered children. More than you can count on your fingers and toes. That’s something.

That’s great love.

 

When I got engaged, the company I worked for hosted a bridal luncheon a few weeks before I left to start my new life. I remember sitting around a long table full of people, most of whom probably came for the good eats more than the good-byes. Mr. Housman wasn’t among them.

A few days later he stopped me in the hall and squired me to a quieter spot. He handed me a beautifully wrapped gift, heavy and easy enough to guess what was inside–a set of flatware. Though I would never admit it to him, I knew we weren’t going to use it. I had bought a good set of stainless when I moved out on my own a year earlier and I had registered for “nice” silverware when we engaged.

Soon enough, however, I would discover Mr. Housman’s gift was a seed for a dream…

 

…but that’s another story for another time.

When he handed me the gift, he winked and said something like, “This is just a cover…” and I was confused as he reached to shake my hand, an odd gesture even for an odd man. He withdrew his own hand leaving a small slip of paper in my palm, or at least that’s what it felt like until I looked down.

It was a yellow post-it note with three words in his familiar script. One of those surprises about Mr. Housman you wouldn’t have anticipated was his beautiful penmanship.

“Go, and quietly.”

I turned it over and it was stuck tight to a neatly folded $100 bill. (In today’s dollars, about $212, a very nice gift.) I quickly glanced up to challenge him – it was much too lavish a gift – and, without a word, he dismissed me with a wave of his hand as he turned to walk away.

Twenty-eight years later, the flatware is still unopened in its original box, still a dream’s seed.

Twenty-eight years later, Mr. Housman’s wedding gift is the one I remember best.

 

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The Wonderful Thing About Growing Up

Jul

16

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 | 11 comments

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Jump - Renaissance Park in Chattanooga

I’ve arrived at that ambiguous age where people tack on a little qualifier when they say something about you, to you–

You look good for your age

Your wrinkles aren’t bad for your age…

You’re exercising as well as you can for your age

A lot of people have insomnia at your age

At your age, just about everyone looks all over the house for their glasses and finds them on their head.

There are certain things cliched by age and I’ve noticed myself snarling more than just a little sometimes when I slip my foot into that tattered shoe and it fits. One morning you wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and the next day you feel like someone took a bat to your spine while you slept.

A big wallop of What the heck?

But here’s the thing I’m happy to share when your body begins to betray you and you feel the weight of your years:

Age is gain and not loss.

 

Age is gain and not loss.

Repeat this phrase until you believe it.

I love how Jean Fleming in her fantastical little book Pursue the Intentional Life altered the way I view my own body’s betrayals: they’re a reminder this world is only temporary. Signs of aging point to eternity in that my current body is perishable but the one to come is not.

It blows my mind and I can’t think about it too much, the same way I can’t look at the sun for long. Its incendiary.

The Wonderful Thing About Growing Up - Robin Dance

Don’t fall into the sinkhole that believes already having lived more years than you have remaining is “less than.” Instead consider the accumulation of those years and all they represent. Value your experience and experiences as wisdom builders and memory makers. 

Look back at 30 and acknowledge all you learned since 20. Think about 40 and all the milestones realized since 30. Celebrate 50 by regarding the highs, and yes, even the lows, of your 40s. Consider the relationships you’ve made during each decade, the people you’ve met and your mutual impact to one another.

I’ve said it before and I believe it with all my heart:

Age is the price we pay for life and it’s not a privilege everyone has.

 

I love how Madeleine L’Engle says it–

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”

She gets it. Age is gain and not loss…not in the ways that matter most, anyway.

Which, at my age, is important to remember.

 

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