Who Invited Father Time?

Hey, there- it’s me, again! I had settled myself into a nice routine of once a week blogging, and then I got really busy with a charity committment I had here in Knoxville. That’s over now, and I am on spring break, loving life, and ready to write. I really should be scrubbing baseboards and cleaning closets- you know the things grown-ups are supposed to do with extra free time, but the thing is, there’s something about spring break that makes me feel very carefree and un-adult (is that even a word?), so I am shaking off responsibility for a little longer and going for this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge.

Here is a direct quote from this week’s challenge and my jumping off point:

“For this week’s writing challenge, we’re asking you to explore what age means to you. Is the the loss of youth, or the cultivation of wisdom? Do things get better as you grow older, or worse? There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.”

I don’t always do the weekly writing challenges nor do I always write the daily prompts I receive. Some speak to me, some don’t. Some I avoid, and some, I feel like, chase me down screaming for me to tackle them. This one, however, tugged at my heart a little, and said, “Awww…come on. This one will be fun.”

It seems a little precocious for me to be writing my deepest thoughts about age when I am only 31. I’m not going to lie…I have lived an exceptionally charmed life. I am not a street smart girl from the school of hard knocks, and I am not wise beyond my years from a lifetime of struggling to get by on my own. I’m your average 31 year old woman living in a condo with a messy closet and a stinky dog. What do I know about the great unknowns of age and aging?

When I decided I wanted to write in response to this topic, this was the line in the challenge post that pulled me in: “There are many ways to interpret age, often depending on your relationship with the passing of time.” It made me stop and question what is my relationship with the passing of time? How do I feel about it? Do I embrace it? Do I pretend it’s not happening while I bathe in wrinkle cream? (Seriously, ya’ll, I’m thirty-flipping-one. Where do those lines come from?!) Do I celebrate my journey and acknowledge 31 is really young, or do I mourn 31 years already gone? I gave it a lot of thought, and, I decided, in the Facebook lingo of my generation, “It’s complicated.”

Age means a lot of things to me both good and bad. 17 is when my parents divorced. 18 was going away to college from the tiny no red light town where I grew up to a place that seemed so far away and so loud and so not home. 19 was the year I wrecked my car twice in one week (whoops!). 20 was the begininng of my struggle with anorexia and serious food issues. At 22, my sweet Papaw went into a nursing home. At 23, I accepted he would never be able to come back home, and I watched the heart of our family start to change. 24 is when my childhood best friend and I had a falling out that permanently altered one of the longest, most valuable relationships I have ever had. The ages 24 and 28 are the years when I lost my Papaw and Mamaw, the two most precious grandparents I could have ever hoped to have. 29 was the worst breakup ever- the one that knocked about 15 pounds and a lot of my sanity off of me.The age 31 is my life now without a husband and kids when all of my friends already have both. 31 is me closely examining my very blonde hair in the mirror trying to decide if that’s a gray hair or one that’s so blonde it just looks gray (seriously, someone with better eyes needs to check that out for me.) 31 is me acting like I have got this whole adult thing figured out then worrying, because I really have no clue how this business of being a grown up works. 31 is me panicking, because I am thirty-freaking-one (have I mentioned that?!), and how did that even happen?! (I know, I know, you people reading this who are much older than 31 are laughing hysterically at my youthful ignorance.) 

I had lunch with a friend yesterday who mentioned that he was 61. Astounded, I said, “61?! Really? Did I know you were 61?” He reminded me that yes, I should know that, but I swear, in my mind, he is frozen in time at 50, because that’s about how old he was when we met, and in my mind, neither of us have aged. He’s 50, and I’m 20, right? No? Oh…well when did all that time go by, and where was I? Where have I been for all of these crazy fast 31 years? Oh…I know. I was living…and loving it.

At 16, I was driving so slow and taking so long on my driver’s test that Daddy was sure I had failed, and I was giggling with delight to tell him I had passed. At 17, I was so joyously, wonderfully carefree headed into my senior year and ready to take on the world. At 18, I was learning how to think for myself and form my own opinions and ideas outside of my tiny hometown, and I am still so grateful for that experience. When I was 21, I was…being 21. Enough said. When I was 22, 23, and 24, I was spending every Saturday morning in the nursing home with my Papaw making the absolute best memories of my life. When I was 22, I put on my “teacher hat” for the very first time, and I welcomed my first group of babies into my classroom, and my heart, and I was forever changed for the better in that moment. At 23, I brought home the horribly rotten dog who stole my heart and keeps me company through life. When I was 27, I got to hold my two best friends’ babies for the first time. When I was 29, I learned that there are way worse things than being single (WAY worse!) At 30, I started this blog with the Single Woman 30 Day challenge, and it was honestly the most liberating, healing thing I have ever done for myself. At 31, I am healthy, strong, and fit and the most in control of my eating issues as I have ever been. I sometimes worry about being single and childless, because holy crap, I am 31! But..sometimes, I am really at peace about it, because for the love of God, I am only 31.

Last week, I did a few appearances on local television to promote the charity event of which I was chair. At one station, the segment before mine featured a group of high school girls modeling the latest in prom fashion. At first glance, I thought “Eh, whatever…hurry it up,” but after I gave them a second look, I couldn’t stop watching them. The girls came off the stage into the room where I was waiting, completely oblivious to me, which I was grateful for, because I was so transfixed by them. They posed for pictures, giggled, talked boys, posed for more pictures, fixed their hair, and giggled some more. Someone asked how old they were, and “17” was the answer. They were so young, so sweet, so innocent, so…17. For one brief moment, I wanted to freeze time for them. It made my heart ache- seriously, my heart was wistful. I wanted to say, from all of my super wise 31 years, “Oh, you sweet things, I hope you love the heck out of being 17, because you are going to blink, and you’ll be 31.” Then, just like that, my name was called for my segment, the moment was over, time was unfrozen, and I was 31 and living my very adult life instead of getting ready for the prom. I blinked…and 17 was gone. So cliche’, and yet so true. 

So, how would I describe my relationship with age? I guess, in one word, bittersweet. I think it’s only human nature to look back at the passing of time with both sadness and rose colored glasses. I think it’s also human nature to look forward to the time that has not yet passed with both hope as well as fear and trepidation. It’s a mixed bag for me, and maybe that will change as I age, or maybe not. I think there are people in our lives who will always, no matter their age, seem frozen in time to us, and the harsh realities of age will hurt when suddenly we realize the ones who are immortal to our hearts aren’t immortal as physical beings. But there will also come those moments when we realize age and the passing of time have their own beauties and joys…new babies, new journeys, new friends, new stories to tell. Being 17 passes as does the youthful innocence of that age, but joy? Joy doesn’t go away with age. It just sheds it’s glittery prom dress and puts on new clothes…and maybe the occasional gray hair and laugh line. 17? You were so good to me. 31? You have been really good to me so far. The many ages yet to come for me? I’m so excited. I’ll try not to blink…I know it will be gone just like that.

             Xoxo,

                 Hayley and Riley (10 year old, white muzzled pal!)     

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Silence is What?!

Before I start this post, let me just say I am not a hermit who spends all of her weekend time blogging about her dog and Diet Coke addiction. I actually have a very busy life, and Fridays are a long day for me as I get to school by 6:15, go straight to the gym to teach a class after school, and return home about 6 PM. After a long day at the end of a long week, I typically choose to be fairly antisocial on Friday nights. Even an extrovert like me needs to recharge my batteries before I hit the ground running again Saturday morning. Just wanted to throw that out there in case you were considering adding me to a prayer list, because you think I need a social life. 🙂

My post this week comes from the Daily Post weekly writing challenge which challenged bloggers this week to “make ‘silence’ a presence” in a post. Now, if you know me well, you probably just snorted your drink out your nose, because “silence” and “Hayley” go together like “Justin Bieber” and “good music.” They don’t. I will be the first to admit that silence is not my nature, and in many instances is not even my preference, but something about this writing challenged intrigued me. How would I, who am so adverse to silence that I talk in my sleep, write about a topic that I seem to know so little about? Silence is golden? Negative, ghost rider. Not buying it. But what is silence to me? What role does silence play in my life? Am I really never silent? Do I even want to be silent? It gave me a lot to ponder.

Before I can really delve deep into silence, I feel like I have to explore and explain why I love noise. Not noise in a negative sense. Noise as in the sounds of life. With noise comes the delightful sound of a 1st grader reading a funny book for the first time. Have you ever heard a child squeal with laughter at just the right moment? It is magic that cannot be found in silence. While I am on the topic of kids, have you ever heard a kid who is a struggling reader finally sound out that really hard word? Or what about that moment when you hear a child speaking kindly to a child no one else has befriended? Silence is what? I don’t know, but I know I would choose noise every time in those moments.

In noise, I have the precious memory of my Papaw’s voice booming, “Hey, Fat Cat!” everytime I walked in the door, and his laugh…oh. my. word…his laugh. I try not to live with regrets, but I do regret not recording Papaw’s voice before he died. I would give up so very many things to be able to hear his voice or his laugh just one more time. Silence doesn’t hold that for me.

Sound delivers me to and motivates me to stay in the moment in the grittiest part of my workouts. Noise is chatting with my best friends on a long run. It’s laughing really hard and loud with my coworkers at lunch. It’s my puppy’s sweet doggy snore. Noise is the soft rhythm of my fan lulling me to sleep at night. It’s how I think out loud when I am alone. It’s the carrier of the Southern accents I love so much. It’s my favorite outlet of praise and worship. Even the Bible tells us to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Seriously, ya’ll, if Jesus is on board with noise, then I am saying LET’S MAKE SOME NOISE! Clearly, silence is not my nature. It’s just not. Silence is what?! Crap. Total crap.

This might have been how I would have directed this entire post if it hadn’t been for a conversation with a dear friend and coworker this week. As we were catching up, I told her some things I had been praying about, and she told me she had really been focusing on not just praying but actually stopping to listen. The verse, “Be still and know that I am God” kept running through her head. Be still. Listen. Know. Rest. Stop. Talking. This conversation with her made me think of this writing challenge, and it really pushed me to think about the beauty of silence. Is there beauty in silence? Can I find beauty in silence? Can I even be silent long enough to do any serious consideration of silence? (I tried timing my silence…8 minutes was all I managed. Total fail). Needless to say, it was hard. Really hard in fact, but here is what I found in the sound of slience.

Silence comes with the look of deep concentration on a child’s face when they are trying so hard to figure out that word or solve that problem. They are silent, because they are so focused on doing their best and making you proud.

Silence is the peace that was in the room after I said my last “I love you” to my Papaw as he was dying. It was so still and so painfully perfect that anything but silence would have ruined that precious moment.

I always smile when my constantly overly excited dog finally stops snoring and settles into a silent slumber. He is never as sweet and restful as he is when he is all snuggled up.

Silence is the reward a teacher or a parent gets when you control your temper when your kids drive you to that point where you just. can’t. take. them. anymore. Can. not. CAN. NOT. But you keep your nuclear meltdown under control until you get to the bathroom. Alone. Where it is silent. So silent, in fact, that when you think, “Thank you, JESUS, for the silence in this bathroom” God says, “SHHHH! This is a silent place.” (If you think a single girl with no kids doesn’t know what this feels like, come spend one day in my classroom. During a full moon, it will only take one hour until you too are sucking your thumb in the faculty bathroom soaking up the silence as long as you can.)

On a cool fall morning in the little valley where I grew up, there is the kind of silence you can only find in the country. Because I am a biased Southern girl, I like to think it’s the kind of silence you can only find in the country in the South…a soothing silence that is so mesmerizing you are almost scared to move, because one false step could ruin it all. The silence of shade trees in autumn colors and farm animals still asleep and farm land before the day’s work has begun is so unique that you just have to experience it to know what I mean. I woke up to the sound of that silence on the mornings when we buried my Mamaw and Papaw. It had been a long time since I had lived in the country, but when I woke up to that sweet, small town, Southern silence, it was like I had never left. I let that silence wash over me, and it was such a comfort to my soul.

Silence is found in the joy of a big bear hug from a friend you are so excited to see that you just don’t know what to say when you see them, so instead you just SQUEEZE them. Silence is the comfort of a friend who knows that sometimes when you are hurt, talking it out DOESN’T always help and just leaves you be. Silence is in the patience of a much more reserved friend who has always lovingly embraced my boisterous nature, and silence is the grace she possesses that would never be genuine in me but is oh so perfectly her. Silence is what? Oh…silence is not so bad after all.

So, there you have it. My take on silence: the good, the bad, and the noisy. I definitely feel like I still stink at the whole “be still and know” part of prayer and meditation. I know there are people who know me who wish I could maybe not be so loud all the time. I also know God loves me and forgives me even when there is more “squirm, talk, and worry” during my time with Him than there is being still and knowing. I also know that I am super blessed to have friends who love me for who I am: loud, talkative, opinionated, and almost never silent. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to try to go appreciate the joyful silence of my cozy Friday night. I will be hiding in the bathroom if you need me. Shhhhhh…

           Xoxo,

              Hayley and Riley (the silent, snoozing pooch)

*This is for my sweet, long time friend who I won’t name, but so she will recognize herself, I will say, “WOO-HOP!” I love you and your peaceful, quiet grace. I need some of that in my life. 🙂