I turned 40 eleven months ago. I've got to admit hitting that number bothered me a little. Partly, I was just in a weird place. I had recently applied for a job that I got turned down for. I felt disappointed and a little lost. It seemed like my life was already half way over and I hadn't even figured out what I wanted to do yet. Lots of good things have happened to me over the past forty years, but there were still many unrealized dreams sitting on my shelf.
Around this time of melancholy, I took a long road trip by myself to attend a yoga conference a few states away. As I drove along listening to my favorite angst-filled albums from college and licking my wounds, I came to a realization.I wasn't dead yet.
It is true that half of my life may be behind me. But the flip side of that realization is I probably (hopefully) still have many more years ahead waiting to be lived. In that moment I did what any person facing middle age would do.
I started my bucket list.
Big plans and ideas started filling my mind. I wanted to learn to surf. I'd love to visit Hawaii. And take my daughter back to China to visit her motherland. As I hummed along to Matthew Kahler who had gone from wailing about being a bitter young man to encouraging me to "try to be happy, H-A-P-P-Y," it hit me what I should do first.
Visit Eddie's Attic.
All through college I listened to the great indie music that came out of Eddie's Attic listening room in Decatur. I had always wanted to go to the Attic to hear a show, but left the Athens/Atlanta area soon after turning 21. After living away for many years, I moved back closer to the Atlanta area only after having kids. Listening to Matthew Kahler, I realized I wanted to ring in my fortieth by finally making it to Eddie's Attic for a show.
My husband, as it turns out, was all about the idea. We looked at the schedule for shows near my birthday and bought tickets to the open mic shootout where the artists who had won the previous six months of open mic nights would compete playoff style until one band was chosen as a winner. Winners of past open mic shootouts include John Mayer and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland, so the shootout it a pretty big deal.
After all the years of waiting, I gotta tell you I was a little bit nervous about finally walking into Eddie's Attic. Would I be too old? Would I stand out as a lame, boring mom type among such an artsy, cool crowd? What in the world would I wear??
Let me just tell you all my worries were for naught because the night was A-MAZING. It turns out as long as you love music, you fit in at Eddie's Attic. All types of people of all ages were there tapping their Birks, Chacos, and stilettos to the beat.
We rode the high of the Eddie's Attic trip for weeks if not months. We discovered all kinds of new music favorites, followed bands on Facebook, and contributed to their kickstarter campaigns for debut albums. When we read on the Attic's e-newsletter that two of our new favorite bands were coming back for a concert together this past weekend, we decided we had to head up 75 for another night of live music.
As we walked up the stairs to the Attic with a family that included an elderly man using a walking stick, it hit me that I was actually glad that I didn't discover Eddie's Attic until I was 40. For one, I now have a new past time to bring me joy in the second act of my life. Hopefully, one I enjoy until I am climbing up those stairs holding my own cane. But also, I honestly don't think I would have appreciated the experience of an Eddie's Attic show as much at twenty. With age has come depth and wisdom. Qualities that allow me to relish an amazing performance of good live music even more so than I did in college.
As I thought over these mysteries of aging and stole glimpses of the elderly gentleman we entered with enjoying the show, I couldn't help but remember a man I had visited in Hospice years ago. He was a church member that I had the privilege of giving pastoral support to during the last weeks of his life. The one thing I remember most about our visits is how he would go on and on about the joys of pear juice. Something about his illness or treatments left him only able to tolerate drinking pear juice and water. Though he had never had pear juice before this time, he absolutely loved it. He would go on in detail about how spectacular it was and wonder why he hadn't ever tried it before these last weeks of life.
But after a while of wondering this, we decided that maybe it was best my friend had never had pear juice before his last days. If he had, he probably wouldn't have loved it quite so much. And isn't it nice to know that life leaves us little surprises and joys to discover right up until our last moments? That even at the end, we might still have a special gift like pear juice that reminds us of the comforts and joys of life.For even though he was dying, my friend was not yet dead. So best that he should live. Yet not just live, but find delight and joy in what was left of even the last moments of his life.
So as I reflect back on my fortieth year, I am so glad for the new joys that have come into my life. Live shows at the Attic, the music of Cicada Rhythm and Barnaby Bright, publishing my advent devotional, teaching the anxiety management class, and writing this blog.
I hope that wherever you are in your number of years on this earth that you are finding new delights in your days. Even more, may you trust in the joy that awaits in your future. For where there is breath there is life, and where there is life, there is hope.
Dena blogs weekly at Centering Down.
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