Thursday, April 07, 2011

On turning 50

Standing at the dawn of my second half-century of life, the words of Mother Superior echo in my head. No, I’m not considering joining a convent and picking up a new habit, but I am hearing a song over and over. The song is “Climb Every Mountain” from The Sound of Music because I’m coming to realize that’s what it’s been about for my first fifty years.

Over the years I have climbed mountains: Education mountains. Marriage mountains. Parenting mountians. Career Mountains. Some have assured me after days or weeks or years of climbing, that I have indeed, climbed the right mountain. And yet, my victory dance of completion is always interrupted by a metaphorical sign that tells me, “But wait… there’s more…keeping climbing.”

Still others, have been in vain; a realization I find only after laboring away for long periods of time to find it was the wrong mountain --- the sign this time tells me the mountain I have spent my time on wasn’t my mountain at all.

Of course, there have been mountains in my life where I have begun to climb, but backed down. Tired, discouraged, distracted, bored, there were many excuses I found for ending the climbs prematurely. But today, they still remain mysteries to me –my what ifs, would-a beens, could-a-beens and should-a-beens.

There’s something about a milestone birthday that calls us to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are going. There’s also something about it that forces us to acknowledge we are getting old. Would I like to look younger? Sure. Would I like to see better, move better, remember better? Okay, I’ll give you that. But would I like to be younger? Absolutely not. Because being younger would mean taking away the experience of one of those mountains I spent my time climbing. Even the ones that didn’t turn out to be meant for me, taught me something along the way. And the ones that were mine to climb? Which one would I give up? I can’t part with any of them. They are mine. They are my yesterdays that guided me into my today that point me to my tomorrow.

So I kick off my next 50 years, grateful for the steps I took before and excited for the steps to come. I pray for the strength to keep climbing and the discernment to pick the right mountains. Of course, these days I also pray for some soft spots to rest along the way; and when I get to the top, I’m hoping those metaphorical signs will be in large, bold print. But whatever my next years hold for me, I never want to stop climbing those mountains. Who knows? I might also start fording streams and following rainbows. There’s no guarantee I’ll find my dream, but it’s a chance of a lifetime to try.

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