I did it. I jumped off that cliff too. In honor of my quickly approaching birthday. Not that I mentioned that to the rest of the people, but I was thinking it.
Today I am 48. By my family standards, truly, somewhere right around midlife. My grandma made it to 101, and her mother made it to 100. I have a lot of life left to go.
Which causes me to ponder.
At some point in my young adulthood, it occurred to me that my grandma, then 90 or so, was just an older version of me. I wondered to myself what all she had done in her youth, things that of course she didn't do any more. I wondered whether she was ever aware that she was doing things for the last time before they became things she didn't do anymore.
Lately I've been confronted with a few things that I used to do all the time. Things that were on my list of Things That I Haven't Done In a Long Time. Things that, if I didn't do them again soon, would silently move over to the list of Things That I Used to Do When I Was Young.
If it weren't for the fact that my kids are still young, they are things that I might not even consider doing again. But when Ben went skiing for the first time with his class and wanted me to go along, how could I refuse?
This trip to the Boundary Waters was far bigger a challenge than a ski trip. When I was a canoe guide, I would take nine strangers out into the wilderness every week. I could read a map, but pretty soon I didn't need one because I knew all the routes. I could get my group to a portage, make sure every pack, paddle, life jacket and canoe was on its way across, and then pick up my own canoe, flip it onto my shoulders, and carry it to the next lake. I could spot a good campsite a mile away. I could start a fire with wet wood (usually) and cook up some good eats. I didn't let bad weather or mosquitoes or smoke in my eyes or whiny kids get to me.
But that was over 25 years ago. What about now, I had often wondered, perhaps a little intimidated by the younger me.
Could I still find my way, or at least read a map? (Barely, so I wised up and handed the map over to Lee and Joey.) Would my shoulders shrivel up and die after a day of paddling? (No.) Could I carry even a pack over a portage? (Yes, and thankfully the portages were short so I could go back for the pack that Ben couldn't carry all the way.) Could I sleep in a tent and then stand up to get out of said tent in the morning? (Yes. Eventually.) Did I still remember how to cook over a fire? (YES! Especially since Lee and the guys are such great fire builders.) If it rained, would I be able to humor our kids well enough to wait it out? (It only rained a few times for a little while, and never when it mattered. Thank God!) And would we have what it took to pack up in the rain and paddle through windy lakes in order to get out of there if they couldn't make it? (Apparently God knows just how much we can handle.) Would all the little things that I used to endure with grace drive me bonkers? (Really not. I was just so happy to be there.)
I have wondered all these things for quite awhile, and was so happy when Lee suggested that this might be the year. If we had waited five years until the kids could carry their own weight, it might honestly have been too late for me to dare to try it. I'm so thankful that it worked out for Dave and Joey and Jacob to come, because we never could have done it without them. Thankful that, as of now, canoeing in the Boundary Waters is on the list of Things That I Love and Love Sharing With My Family.
There are honestly probably some things that have made the move to the list of Things I Used to Do When I Was Young. After all, I need time to work on the list of Things I Still Want to Do and See. There is so much yet ahead.
So Middle of Life, I embrace you. I plunge into your depths feet first. I may or may not scream on the way down, but I will revel in the moment, knowing it is the only choice I could possibly make. Living well must never find its way to the list of Things I Used to Do When I Was Young.
"Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom."
Psalm 90: 12