50 is weird!!!

Today, June 24th, 2010 is my 50th birthday

Today, June 24th, 2010 is my birthday.  That is, I was born on June 24th, 1960.  Since I’ve had so much fun this last year writing my blog, I thought I’d write about this milestone in case it ever actually “matters” to my children… (Also, if I ever teach Psy 111 again, I might show this to my class when we talk about life-cycle development).  Here’s the long and short of it — 50 is weird. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever felt. 

 Somewhere between “the world has changed” and “I’ve changed” is the truth of these feelings.  The world has changed because of Facebook.  I have moved around alot in my life and have friends from all over — close friends, acquaintences, dear friends, fat friends (though none come to mind right now — age changes the definition of “fat” I find), short friends, tall friends, Black friends, White friends, too many different types of Hispanic friends to encapsulate under the word “hispanic”, gay friends, straight friends, bisexual and asexual friends (some by choice, some not so much) old friends, New Hampshire friends, Massachusetts and Vermont, New York and California  friends, and the list goes on.  On Facebook this year, many of them have shared the same space — cyberspace.  This year, for my birthday, it was like they were all in one place.  It touched my heart deeply as I was reminded how fortunate I am. They said wonderful things, shared great advice and were just generally there.  It was great. On Sunday of this week, (in 3 days), my wife is planning a great “old-fashioned” real-time party  — the kind with real humans in attendance. That will be incredible, I’m sure. She’s worked really hard on it. There’s a gift involved and it required some assembly, but I like surprises so I don’t yet know know what it is.

*** NEWS FLASH*** My Dad just called. My mother will get a hospice nurse soon.  This sucks, but it brings me to the the other thing about 50 — It’s not really about me and my generation anymore… It’s about everybody after us.  At 50, there’s a lot less left to life than the part I’ve already seen.  It IS all down hill from here, and that’s not a bad thing –yet.

Before my father called, my daughter wanted a hug and we played on the swing in our front yard. Now my oldest daughter is showing me a slideshow on her phone.  50 means I’m between everything. I’m between the future of my daughters and the end (at some point, but not today) of my parents. I’m between near joy at my daughters’ accomplishments and near tears as I think about my life without my mother. I’m closer to the end of my ministry career, and nearer to the start of some friends’.

 I thought about it the other day, and I don’t have many goals left in life — marraige, kids, a house, some importance to the world, owning and learning to play a guitar are all behind me now, having been accomplished. I’ve even had a new car once or twice! Pretty much the only things left are learning to fly a plane and a trip around the world, maybe a second visit to Hawaii (Michelle, yes, it’s still there — just like I said it would be).  I wonder how many people can say that they have managed that as I think about it, in a world that endures poverty, famine, warfare and god-awful horrible stuff.  It means I’m very blessed. If I died today, I’d be OK, very OK, with my life — except formissing my daughters’ growing up, getting married, etc.  But, no, I’M NOT DEAD YET!!! I still have stuff I want to do and friendships/relationships to enjoy. As long as I do that, life will continue to be really good.  Also, I’d like to see my clients be healed/get happy lives before I die.  The trick, of course, is that I get new clients all the time so I’ll have to live forever 🙂

The one thing I have done that has made a difference, I notice now, is that — since my days on the United Church Youth Council (while the earth was still cooling…),  I have appreciated the opinions of those younger than me.  I have loved the stories of those older than me (my grandfather in real life, heroes in biographies), but I have loved the opinions of those younger than me and the spark that creates it.  Today, while I complained about my paperwork after the school year, my friend Liz knew what I was going through and put it in perspective. She teaches college and once worked “under” me. She is the future in so many ways… smart, caring for her son, caring for her husband, caring for the wider world and undoubtedly changing it as well with whatever research she ends up doing. Also today, my in-care student in ministry called to check in about things. She (Char Corbett, remember that name) will also change the world with her ministry.  My 9 year old daughter can read a thick book in a day and my 11 year old gets all A’s and is a great artist.  More changing/helping the world — not directly from me, but through my work — that’s what 50’s about it seems.  I have also had great students in college begin to become colleagues, old youth group kids become great and wonderful people to know, and so much more as I have mentored them without ever calling it that until recently.  I like that, because it means I get more results with less direct effort.

One last thing, I guess, from age 50 — being born in 1960, I will always consider myself a hippie. I’m not really, being all of 9 when Woodstock happened, but I love the spirit (I would say Spirit) of those times and it has always made more sense to me than the late 70’s or –certainly — the Reagan 80’s. As Bob Dylan turns, what, 70?!!, I would love to think of myself as the tail end of the hippie generation. Not all of my peers would choose that, and that’s their right. But Peter Wells, Bob Kyte, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Martin Luther King, John Lennon, and George Harrison are all my kind of people. If I could be 1% of Martin or Joan and maybe 10% of what Peter and Bob are, with the quiet action of Pete Seeger I would be happy and feel like I did my job in life.  I kind of think of Harry Chapin as the last of the hippies, too, before he died. I can’t imagine what the world would be like if Harry was still making music. And yes, Eric, I’m still jealous because you got to meet the family.  But I still have pictures of Harryand a girl I was sort-of seeing at the time taken with my little Kodak (Kids, that term will be in your history books someday).

So, there it is. I don’t feel old yet, but I’m certainly not young, by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m … well… 50.

Peace,

John

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2 thoughts on “50 is weird!!!

  1. Well, I’ve got my big 5-0 coming up in less than a month, now, and while a lot of what you wrote speaks to me, you’ve left out two things that I’m finding to be unexpected delights in this, the final decade of my middle age:

    Your kids are younger than mine, so of course you focus on them for the most part. With my daughter a college graduate now (Amazing! I know you can remember her as a tiny baby in my arms, John) I am looking up from my own parenting, and seeing more and more clearly the kids of my friends and family. I adore my niece and my nephew, and I’m loving watching them grow…and I take nearly as much joy in watching my friends’ son Indigo growing up as I do in my visits with them. Why did no one ever tell me that watching your friends’ children grow and change would be so rich and good a part of growing older?

    The other thing that is a surprising joy you allude to–I think–in your references to Liz and Char: the strange, tender joy of watching others, younger men and women, making discoveries that we made…and taking them places we never dreamed of taking them. I find it makes my heart very light to have younger friends, and to encourage their talents when I can in even small ways.

    Doesn’t that sound condescending? Or maybe it doesn’t. I know they’re not just younger versions of myself. But I also know how it felt, getting the encouragement I needed once upon a time. I know I’m loving how it feels to pay some of this stuff forward.

    And, well, maybe this is an illusion brought about by the number of gray and even white heads around me among Quakers, but there’s also the feeling that I’m not old…yet! And I’m hoping one day to have some of the substance and weight, spiritually, that I see many older men and women have. Certainly, I still have a lot of goals left. (Why, I haven’t even written a book of my own yet!)

    • My dear friend Cathi:

      Thanks for the note. I think wistful is the feeling I’m feeling– not one I would have associated with any time in my life so far, but here it is.
      Yes, I remember Hillary as a baby, but I don’t want to be that old yet…
      Re: Char and Liz… I also want to give props to my friend Leigh, who reminded me that I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy 🙂 Humor makes it all worth while.
      It’s fun to be 50, but it’s also WEIRD
      to be wistful… May 50 be kind to both of us… And all our friends, too

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