When I was having high school angst in the late '60s and early '70s, to cheer me up my mom would occasionally say, "These are the best years of your life!" Of course, I had such a horrible time in high school (not at home) in many ways that that saying only depressed me. I thought, These are the best days and things will go downhill from here??!! I hated the way I looked, hated to be told what to read and write, hated my shyness, and wished I could sing better, play piano better, write better, look better, and interact better with my peers.
Here I am in 2011 to again refute my mom's premise. I still look back on high school with distaste. However, it tempted me to ask myself this week, What are the best years of my life? Are they in the past, or are they yet to come, or are they both?
This is one of the perils of growing older and having completed over half one's life. Nostalgia mixed with regret mixed with disappointment mixed with elation mixed with fear - the latter being mainly that I fear The Glory Days are over.
In my one year of college, I learned how to play the pipe organ. I was fortunate enough to attend a church in Memphis that had a beautiful pipe organ and I got to play it many times, even substituting for services. What an experience on a magnificent machine! Both hands, both feet going different directions, changing stops and volume, sometimes having to direct a choir at the same time - man, that was exhilarating! I haven't touched a pipe organ in over a decade. Many churches nowadays are moving away from pipe organs, as they are expensive to buy and maintain. I also have been working on Sundays for years now, so I haven't even heard a pipe organ in a long time. I fear my pipe organ Glory Days are gone.
The picture above was taken at a dinner theater at that church when I was playing Fanny Brice. This was probably the time I was more comfortable in my own skin. I was certainly brave enough to go on stage and sing in front of audiences. It's one thing to be comfortable growing up singing in church, straightforward music with which I was familiar in an equally familiar setting, but wearing that flapper dress, singing a torch song like "My Man" was a different story. One of the hardest things in life is to put oneself out there to be watched and judged - but to try it and be successful is euphoric.
I don't sing much anymore, certainly not publicly. I'll sing for family funerals, but that's about it. I miss it. My singing Glory Days appear to be gone.
I have other hobbies - quilting and sewing, for instance - in which I used to be prolific and now it seems I have the will and desire, but just don't have the energy I used to have in order to create the countless number of items I want and need to make. Are my quilting and sewing Glory Days over?
Of course, needless to say, age and gravity takes it toll on the appearance in every way possible. I'm pretty much assured my appearance Glory Days are over! I've never known women to look better in their 50s than in their 30s, LOL, but hey, that's just the natural way of things.
I constantly reassure myself that I have grown since that picture was taken. I may not be playing organ and singing in shows, but I have made a few beautiful quilts and a few pieces of clothing. I have written many off-the-wall poems and some pretty serious blogs. I overcame a paralyzing fear of flying and I learned medical transcription and even passed the certification test. In the process of my living my life since 1954, I have also helped raise two compassionate, intelligent, talented, productive, mannerly children who are now raising their own kids. They are adults now and on their own, though. I still wonder, Are my Glory Days as mother over?
This introspection has taken over my life this week. I guess at a certain age, one looks backwards more than forwards. One sees the hourglass with more sand on the bottom than the top, and can't help but wonder if any Glory Days lie ahead, or if instead, the Glory Days fell to the bottom with the sand and now just serve as warm memories.
Oh, I've read that list of how so many famous people "came into their own" at an older age - and that can be quite inspirational - but still the doubt is there. As I think about my almost 88-year-old mom, who, having lived a good life raising her family with love and care, now spends all her time sitting watching TV, so bored, surviving on hearing about the grandkids/greatgrandkids, talking about the weather and what's for supper - I question my own existence and future. My mission is not just to survive, but to thrive until my very last breath. I want to always have a vision, a purpose, a guiding drive to make the years to come ones of satisfaction, joy, creation, learning, and teaching. I refuse to accept the fact that my Glory Days are behind me. Glory Days are part luck, part work, part talent, part vision, and just part of the evolution of life. They have no time limit and no expiration date. There is still, I hope, plenty of sand in the top of the hourglass, and I vow to make the best of it. Rejoicing in the blessings of the past, delighting in the blessings of the present, and looking forward to the blessings of the future - that's my vision for the old Glory Days and the Glory Days yet to come.