This fall I will turn 55, an event that marks a point of sure change in my life. After all, I have evidence–50 years worth–that the mid-decades of my life are far more momentous than any ‘ott’ decade change has ever been.
The rundown? In my first mid-decade of life, my mother died. Mondo change, as you might imagine. In my second, at 15, my teenage life was upended by a forced move from small town Missouri to “big” Tulsa and from living with my aunt to living with my dad plus one jealous stepmother. At 25, the hard work of counseling and sheer will led me to find a long-pursued self-esteem and happiness, and at 34, I answered a surprising call into ministry. At 44, I was ordained and eventually placed in a senior position in a church–again, not where I saw myself–and at 53, as a new empty nester, I embarked on a new set of major changes with a move, sabbatical, and change in career focus.
The last two and half years have been another slow-mo evolution. Even as my life has slowed down, the changes have been moving like a good float on a lazy river. Since moving to Fayetteville, a small college town, I’ve changed jobs and moved a couple of times and now find myself settling in, again, and finding the rhythm of what this decade is going to be. The so-called ‘big’ birthdays–30, 40, 50, 60–don’t mean that much to me. It’s the mid-decade birthdays which portend the most.
As 55 edges closer, I find myself working as a hospice chaplain, with the daily privilege of witnessing the most intimate time of a person’s life. I’m building new friendships while keeping others kindled, not quite sure I’ve found my ‘forever’ community but trying to live as though I have. I revel in seeing my adult children live the lives they choose, with the expected challenges and joys of the 20-somethings they are. As I think back to that first mid-decade challenge of my life, the death of my mother, I can see that with each ten years, my life–improved, happier, more rewarding–has been on that steady lazy river, easing every slowly toward the decades to come.