(73) For All My Midlife Friends


Today I read this poem on the Year of Being Here website.  Below are my answers to the poem’s questions.

Calling by Nancy Shaffer

When you heard that voice and 
knew finally it called for you
and what it was saying—where
were you? Were you in the shower,
wet and soapy, or chopping cabbage
late for dinner? Were you planting radish
seeds or seeking one lost sock? Maybe
wiping handprints off a window
or coaxing words into a sentence.
Or coming upon a hyacinth or one last No.
Where were you when you heard that ancient
voice, and did Yes get born right then
and did you weep? Had it called you since
before you even were, and when you
knew that, did your joy escape all holding?
Where were you when you heard that
calling voice, and how, in that moment,
did you mark it? How, ever after,
are you changed?
Tell us, please, all you can about that voice.
Teach us how to listen, how to hear.                                           
Teach us all you can of saying Yes.
It had been a long haul to get there — to the place I heard My Calling. I had struggled for years to hear the voice, to find out just what it was I was supposed to do.  I had started and stopped many things in that process, always learning more, but always disappointed.
I still remember the day in December that it happened, so close to Christmas.  I had been feeling pretty down, and figured I was in some kind of midlife crisis.  I found a book at the library called Listening to Midlife by Mark Gerzon. The day I went to the library, I also remember that I was playing Martina McBride’s Evolution cassette in my car, and I had stopped at the music store as well to sign up for guitar lessons.
I came home and read the first chapter in the book.  This is what I recall: Midlife is a transition to the second half of life.  Act Two, if you will. And that whatever dreams we had when we were teenagers, the dreams that got left behind — well, those are coming to the forefront.  They won’t be ignored any more.
This idea captured my seeking soul.  Act Two.  What will mine be?  I thought it would be a process of discovery, but no.  I laid back on the couch with the question: What is my second half of life supposed to look like?  What dreams did I leave behind?  The answer surprised me in its immediacy — to be a 7th grade English teacher.  That was it.  Clear as a bell.
Having never even been to college, this dream terrified me.  I held it close to me for a few hours.  The discover was made around 2:20 in the afternoon.  I was afraid to tell my husband in a way.  Our finances were unsteady to say the least, and I could not even begin to imagine how I would ever go to college and make this happen.
It was a long road with many ups and downs, but with my husband’s undying support I did become a teacher.  It is only in the last couple years that it was in 7th grade, but that’s okay. It has changed me in a thousand ways, starting with the incredible act of being a college student later in life. I dove in and got confirmation that I am a writer and a thinker and a scholar. That was all new to me. Teaching has also been a way of change, as I learned and grew with my students, became a better listener, became wiser about our education system, and seek constantly to improve my art.
In Shaffer’s poem she asks that I tell all I can about the voice. What I can say is that the voice is very deep inside, and that it does take a long time and a lot of steps to hear it. I venture to say for me it was probably ten years of fits and starts, and only the last four years of that ten I was questing in earnest to know the answer. The answer surfaced when I got to the exact right question.  I was also rather beaten down emotionally and spiritually at this point, so I think that had something to do with it, too.  No ego in the way.  Just pure openness.
For the record — I did weep.
And as far as saying Yes…it means knowing that when you say yes, the universe really does open up a path.  That’s not just some New-Agey Wavy Gravy thing. Maybe not immediately, but eventually the way shows up, like the fog burned off by the sun. It wasn’t until the autumn of the following year that I went to the local community college to take the entrance exams and get the information I needed.  In the meantime, I just nurtured the dream, knowing that it was a Yes, and the rest would have to show up in its own time.
I entitled this “for my midlife friends” because I hear and see the struggles you go through.  I cannot believe I am on the other side of that midlife crisis, now nearly 18 years ago.  What I can say is that it is worth it.  Keep asking the questions. Don’t give up, even when it seems bleak. Eventually you hit the right one, and the answer will be so clear you will not be able to do anything but say Yes.

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