Today is my 53rd birthday. I remember thinking not so many years ago when I was a young kid that anything over 40 was old, and anything over 50 was pretty near dead. I have since changed my perception.
Looking forward to growing up, it seems life passes at a snail’s pace. From birth to about 4, you are learning about yourself and investigating the tiny environment of your own parent-controlled world. Dad is many times that shadowy figure that goes to work, whatever the heck that is, and comes home to grumpily read the paper before dinner, eat and retire to the recliner for a night of viewing TV you can’t participate in. Mom’s lap is soft and safe, and any boo-boo gets fixed by simply climbing up and cuddling as she wipes tears, coos, and pats your cheek. Siblings start out ok, but somehow they turn into those grabbing little annoyances you wished would run off and join the Foreign Legion.
Then you are 5. Still prone to temper tantrums, crying jags over being sent to bed earlier than you want, and avoidance of baths are somewhat of a mainstay of your everyday life. You have begun to learn the world doesn’t revolve around you, sharing is not an option, and other kids are first a friend, then can get kind of stinky if something goes awry during playtime at their house. You turn 6, 8, 10 and begin to huddle up with gossipy friends and they enlighten you to the reality that one day you get to be the decision maker for your own life, and suddenly you can hardly wait to “get out of this house and away from THOSE people”. Teenage years and rebellion, even to a small degree, are indicative of raging hormones mixed with individualism that raises its monstrous head and flings all your decent upbringing to the curb. Some kids sneak out at night, others form bad habits that stay with them a lifetime, then a golden few seem to escape this stretch of black holes and go through those years unscathed and are deemed the “good kids”.
High school rolls by, acne starts out as your biggest concern, then gets trumped by wearing the wrong kind of make up or dress and finding yourself an outcast with no invite to prom or months without a date because you are not thought popular. Somehow you limp through and the day you walk the graduation aisle, you become, at least chronologically, an adult and capable of making your own decisions for your own life. You are at that place you dreamed of. You have left home, you no longer have school to attend, the friends that abandoned you or made you feel creepy have gone off to college, and it is you…just you…in charge of your next step. And you start thinking you want your mama’s lap back…
Each age and phase of life comes with its own adjectives, adverbs, twists and turns but they all have one thing in common…they are marks of the passage of time.
Passing time…what does that really mean? Today I have thought about several moments and segments of my life and there are frankly many I wish I could forget. I made poor choices, hurt people, left myself open to devaluation of personal principles and became some kind of two-headed monster for a while. It’s a wonder I didn’t lose the total respect of my family during that period of time. I lost so much respect for myself. Consequences of those poor choices caused me a lot of anguish and heartbreak and the passage of time to move through that and toward a clean and free life was slow and unyielding for many years. I wanted to break away from those situations and those people, but I was stuck in that time of my life and unable to claw my way out until one day I stepped back from my own life and took a look at the time passing. I realized it wasn’t my choice IF it would pass; that was inevitable. But it was my choice HOW it would pass.
Two steps forward, one back was the dance for several years after this revelation, but eventually I started making progress. I began to look for places and people, like mama’s lap, that were safe and protecting. Either something or someone was nurturing me or it/they were not…plain and simple. I decided to pass the time, and pass my life, in a manner that would build me up and inspire those around me.
I am not always perfect, not do I have pipe dreams that I will be perfect this side of heaven. My body aches and my eyes are growing dim. I don’t hear as well as I used to and gaps in memory are becoming more frequent. But I ain’t dead yet.
In this autumn part of my journey, rather than standing idly by watching the passage of time, I want to time my passage. This day, this moment… I choose to go to a wide field full of dandelions in my mind. I reach down, pluck one from the center, squeeze my eyes tightly shut and make a hundred wishes…one for every seed attached to the dandelion’s bloom. I blow gently and watch as those seeds of promise take flight and carry with them all the dark moments of the past and faltering steps of the present. Funny thing is, there are a hundred wishes, but each one is the same…don’t waste my time, by letting it waste me.