My birthday falls between Christmas and New Year's, so I get a double-dose of this each year...the passing of time, and my own personal passing of time. Buy a new calendar. Remember I can no longer say "I'm 51."
This existential awareness began after my mother died in 1994. Being the oldest generation in my immediate family of origin makes a huge difference, I think. No longer is there that 'buffer' between me and death ~ plus, as friends correctly predicted, once past 50 my body just feels older.
Several people I trust have told me that I have a gift for knowing, for recognizing, what is constructive and what is destructive in life. I can often intuit that kind of thing, which at times is complicated or hidden, fairly well. So, I don't know, it occurs to me to try to think through my existential awareness from within that context. At this moment in my life it seems that, yes, while the end of my life is out there, threatening as always in its non-being, there are also, in tension with this destructive force, constructive aspects that are as strong as they have ever been in my life.
Constructive is my potent and heartfelt yearning to see my three children-by-marriage continue becoming adults. I can see certain challenges ahead for each of them and sometimes that frightens me, but each of them also has many gifts and talents to sustain them. I wonder intensely how my relationship with them will blossom, what form it will take, and what kind of sacrificial work will be asked of me for them. Perhaps not much. Perhaps the relational-way forward will be mostly smooth and easy, as it has been so far.
Constructive is my marriage. I post about all the good things in my relationship with D, but we have our share of challenges, too. Our spirituality is quite different and that often tempts me to want him to change, and change in specific "Katherine-directed" ways, as if I actually know who God intends for him to become! Well, after dreaming of "Mr. Right" for so many decades (!!), I often forget the absolute necessity of allowing him to be who he is, and celebrating who he is as the man I love with all my heart. During the last few years of my life as a single person, my fervent prayer always involved a yearning to share my life and a longing for that sharing to help me grow and become the person God intends for me to be. I had a deep desire for my marriage, if it ever happened, to be a spiritual discipline for me. As is the case with spiritual disciplines in general, the powerful blessing that my marriage is has taken shape through pain as well as true joy. I'm learning so much about the nature ~ the depth, the utter complexity, the mystery ~ of love.
D and the kids are gone for a short while, off to visit his parents while I remain here to work. I'm okay with them being gone. There's something good about having the house to myelf for a bit, and I'm looking forward to some long overdue lunches and dinners with friends around town. And yet there are moments--just moments, but oh, such powerful openings--when I feel the horror of: what if they don't return? It feels important to let myself experience such horror for these fleeting moments. Somehow it provides a potent sprinkle of fuel in the constructive aspects of living my life, and my life together with my family.
Vocationally, constructive is my change in churches. This is difficult for me to acknowledge here while I'm still in the midst of grieving, but preaching yesterday did help me feel more connected to the new congregation, as I thought it might. It's possible, perhaps even probable, that my continued presence at my previous church might have become an 'enabling' kind of thing. And there is much to eagerly anticipate in my vocation in 2008 ~ coming quickly to mind are two things: becoming a better pastoral counselor and spiritual director, and contributing to some growth in my new church. Plus, I received a call last week that might lead to some part-time hospice work, a prospect that really excites me. Hope that works out.
Death awaits. But in the meantime there is LIFE!, and for that I am truly truly grateful. Thank you, gracious God.