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Midlife Contemplation on a Saturday Morning

Take time to think about your life at all stages of it.
Take time to think about your life at all stages of it.

“There’s a continuity at stake here.” A line from a rom-com that just pops in my head multiple times a day. There’s something there. Just like that “somewhere between graves and wedding vows” line that I wrote fifteen years ago and around which I still can’t seem to build up the right lines of verse. 

Some things are so consistent that I often miss the continuity. 

I hear a mourning dove almost everyday now and my heart simultaneously smiles and aches as I remember my sweet Daddy, gone for nearly twenty years now. 

I see my Grandmother in so many facets of my personality and interests. I see her in my ingenuity, my independence, and in the way I nurture others through teaching. 

I feel the weight of the large ceramic bowl I use to make bread, carefully turning it with my floured hands the way Mama did when I was little. 

There are throughlines, if we watch carefully, that hold together our lives with the lives of those who came before us. 

Something I’ve watched recently (though what specifically escapes me now) talked about how philosophers long ago suggested that we don’t experience time linearly… the past is now, the future is now, now is the past, etc. I’m sure I’m vitiating the concept a bit, but it was comforting nonetheless. 

All those favorite memories with Daddy & Grandmother (and Great Aunt Shirley and Grandpa…) are still now. Standing on the Myrtle Beach Pier one cool night with Daddy, Mama, Sister, & Brother and Daddy gave me his coat because I’d left mine back at the campsite… how peaceful and loved I felt. That’s now. The five of us dancing and laughing and playing the piano in that little house in South Hoke… that’s now. Sitting on Grandmother’s bed as she taught me to cross stitch, crochet, sew… all of that is now anytime I pick up a new project. She’s in my hands. 

I do get sentimental and contemplative near my birthday, and writing has always been my favorite method of reflection. Measured sentimentality is okay, and reflection is necessary. Both are a core part of who I am. 

It does seem that Saturday mornings tend to present the best opportunities to write and reflect. The house is quiet, the schedules aren’t rushed. The most pressing engagement is usually switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer or taking my nine-month-old lab out to play frisbee so he can burn off some energy. The ten-year-old lap dog just asked to sit with me like he did when I was remote teaching. I have a second serving of coffee in my delicate little jade mug that belonged to Grandmother. After this I’ll switch out the flag on the front porch, removing the angel flag Mama made thirty years ago and replacing it with the heart flag she made for Valentine’s Day. I’m writing with a disposable fountain pen (all the whimsy of a quill without the mess). 

It’s obvious that I embody the phrase, “There’s a continuity at stake here.” I don’t want certain things to be lost. I also don’t want the memory of my people to be lost. How do we ensure that people live on? Through personalities? Through passing on traditions and methods and processes? But what if I never have, or even get to adopt, kids? Rachel Held Evans, one of my favorite contemporary authors and thinkers, died suddenly at thirty-eight. That English teacher last fall who died in a local car crash was only forty-two. Hitting my thirty-ninth rotation around the sun this month has me contemplative, as most of my birthdays have done. 

I suppose this is just a continuation of my midlife crisis that started with my thirty-seventh birthday. Though it doesn’t feel like a crisis anymore… more like a “midlife contemplation.” I like that. 

I have plenty of hope and expectation that I’m going to live another forty years (though I need to work on my health a bit to ensure that), but the older I’ve gotten the more of a realist I’ve become. Life doesn’t always work out the way we think it will and some people die before their time. 

The best thing we can do, I think, is take time to ground ourselves each day in the moments and ways that matter the most to each of us. To find those who have influenced who we’ve become and honor them by finding ways to pass on what we know and love to the next generation; whether that’s our own progeny, our students, or simply the children in our neighborhoods who stop by to say hi. 


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