Travels In Uncharted Lands

I've been reading "The Middle Passage" by James Hollis, the last few evenings. While it is not a Christian book, it is very meaty and fascinating reading. I have not come across any book yet, that delves into the process of getting through middle age so well. Everyone knows of the "midlife crisis" but Hollis prefers to refer to it as a "middle passage". I like that better, as well. As I am tentatively making my way along it as I write, I think of it more as a strange, uncharted land.

   So much thought has gone into what I'm going to do with the years from now, until old age. What kinds of things do I want to do? I want to write books. What kind of person do I want to be when I am old? A content and cheerful person, who praises God for all things. How do I move along this new journey? One step at a time. How do I cope with each new day, and each new problem that may pop up? With much prayer for guidance and peace.

    * For the LORD shall comfort ... all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody. Isa 51:3

   I have spent my life praying for others. The main thing I ever prayed for, concerning my own needs, was for patience, and God's guidance.

   It never occured to me until lately, that I could be praying, "Father, please give me joy today." I thought, in the past, that this would be too selfish. But I have changed my mind. Even if the answer is no, there is nothing wrong with asking. And, going a bit further, I can pray "Father, I praise You and worship You for this day I am still alive; and for any joy You may give me today. Please grant me peace, whatever this day may bring. Thank You, Father."

   Youth, and the busy scramble of raising children as a single mother kept me from even considering how old I was. My birthdays came and went without meaning to me. My life was complete and joyful as I adopted my large family of children. I was the youngest mother of my first children, and the oldest mother of my youngest children. Then suddenly, their childhood years were gone.

   At last I was forced to confront the famous "empty nest syndrome" (though I still had six adult children with disabilities still home). I had never had so much empty time on my hands. I did not like it. I felt utterly lost, and rather useless. I spent much time praying about what God would be able to use me for during the second half of my life.

    * They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Psa 107:4

   Well, I married again, and found I had at least one new mission on my hands. The mission of figuring out how to be a wife, after all the years of single life. And the mission of figuring out what NOT to expect from a husband, being older now, and wiser, I would hope!

   The hopes I had, during my first, very early marriage, were vastly different from those I had at the time of this one, nearly 30 years later. The first marriage was built on too many illusions and too much emotion. The dreams were just too grand. Neither of us could fulfill what each of us anticipated. We were too young to realize that each of us was, indeed, just another incomplete young person, still maturing, with needs of our own. That neither of us was mature enough to be able to give very much at all as of yet. We were ignorant of the fact that one should be a whole, completed adult before entering into marriage with another. One cannot complete the other. Each must complete themselves.

   But the relationship of this marriage, is built on entirely different concepts, hopes, and expectations. My husband and I have the goal to be one another's loving companion throughout the rest of our lives. We are content to continue persuing our separate talents and interests as we have before, only side by side in the same house. We are content in knowing that we are already, two distinct and separate people, hopefully complete, but always still working on that, with God's help.

   We do not expect each other to be able or willing to fill in the gaps of our separate personalities. We do not expect to be able to completely heal each other's old wounds. But we love each other. We care about each other. We listen to each other. We pray for each other.

    * The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. Isa 35:1

   I do not worry about growing older. I feel no need to dye my hair, put on wrinkle cream, or change my style of clothing. I do not wear make-up, and am not about to begin now. But I am certainly beginning to comprehend what older people mean, when they talk about aches and pains. Things that never hurt before, hurt now. The least unusual exertion may make my muscles ache for days. My finger joints are stiff and sore on cold mornings. My knees hurt when I try to crawl. All sorts of peculiar and new sensations have befallen me. I have developed some health problems. Ah, listen to me complain!

   This passage from young, to old, is long, (thank God) and I have only begun it. After all, I felt young until I was fifty, and suddenly besieged by menopause. So it has been very sudden for me, like a train entering a tunnel and plunged instantly into darkness at high speed. I am beginning to realize that these new aches and pains may continue to come and go. That I may never completely achieve my goal of becoming thin again. That I will never have the money to continue repairing my genetically bad teeth, and will have to face losing them one by one, as the years go by. And above all, that I must find a new mission for God - I want to give Him something, and am open, listening for His guidance. I knew what I was giving Him, raising my children for Him. But now what? Surely every Christian mother must go through this. Why is it, that I can find so very little written of it? Does every woman have to stumble along this path alone?

   My mother, who is 83 now, recently asked me if the net has anything to offer someone her age, about how to handle future at the point she has reached. I told her I had not found much at all, on the net, or in books. But she has a good point. Where is the information, in our culture, in our society, to give any older person guidance on living day by day, and possibly still forming goals, or completing them? On keeping hope and cheer in one's life?

   Then it was, that God placed a new mission in front of me; that of writing a book on growing older in this society. At least, I believe that He did. And I am pursuing it.

   How I wish I could leave home long enough to visit places where people live who are still independent, but need some watching over, for their safety. I would talk to each one who was willing to talk to me, and find out what they had to say. Stories, wisdom, insight, hopes, depression, fear, what makes them happy, everything. There needs to be a book in our country, with stories such as these.

    * I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. Isa 41:18

   As a matter of fact, even though I cannot go and search for people, I have found a way to ask them anyway. I am working on creating such a book. I have ads just beginning to run, in papers, hoping that people from 60-110 will be willing to fill out a questionnaire for me, and share their feelings and lives. I intend to make certain that this society, so obsessed with youth, gets a book at last, written primarily by the older people themselves. The ones who know how it feels, and have learned ways to cope. And I feel that the Lord has encouraged me with the following verse, to write this book:

    * Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth ; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert. Isa 43:19

   For if I feel the need for a guide through this new land, so must many. And the secrets lies with the people who have lived long lives. They have so much to offer.

2005 Rosemary Gwaltney