Published in The Ferndale Record, October 12, 2011
Sometimes people ask me why this column is called “Gravy Days.” If they’ve never read it, it’s often assumed to be a collection of recipes or tips on how to make, well, gravy.
Recently I explained my rationale for the title to a group of people like this:
I always suspected if I could get past that “meat and potatoes” part of my life, you know what I mean—(the bearing and raising of small children, carving out a career, making a living, trying to be everybody’s everything and rarely succeeding, making sure everyone else’s life was taken care of)—that I might discover some nuggets of goodness as a result. After the hearty meal that was my young life, I might find bits of truth that could be scraped together, and with a dash of experience, and a handful of wisdom it might create rich, creamy gravy.
Someone raised a good point: Many of us are still in the middle of what we thought we’d be through with by now. Still raising children (or grandchildren), still worrying about money, still as engaged (albeit with different activities) as we were when younger.
Here’s where the wisdom part comes in. Very few of us are living the lives we once imagined. Personally, I don’t know anyone over 50 who’s living on a beach and sucking on sweet drinks all day. I know they’re out there—I’m just not acquainted with them.
What we do have is the benefit of years, experience, trial and error, faith and hope. We’ve learned a few things along the way, and it only makes life richer—usually figuratively, not literally.
We’ve discovered that change, even when it feels looming and monstrous, is not really the worst thing that can happen. That worse case scenario list gets shorter all the time. We’ve discovered we can make it through things we never thought, and then some, and thrive on the other side.
We’ve realized that money is important, but it doesn’t determine the worth of our lives. Really. And sometimes it shows up in unexpected ways, and when it doesn’t appear at all, we become more creative—and that’s not a bad thing.
In my gravy days I’ve found it a little harder to be brave, but increasingly necessary to try things that make me squirm, to push my limits. Not anything that requires leaving my conscience behind, but rather to stretch my soul. Being a little scared can raise a staid, dusty life to the surface again.
I’ve learned to rediscover the sense of wonder that’s often buried in jaded adults. Children posses it until cares of the world bear down on them. We can have it, too. We just have to find it, let it flourish, and not be afraid to share it—that’s the key, the sharing.
Letting go has new meaning. I can detach from physical items I thought I’d have forever—I can hold onto the memory instead. I can also let go of old forms of relationships that have been awkward or unfulfilling. They can be restructured and as a result be more luminous than ever.
In these seasoned days, we know that the words “tragedy” and “entitlement” are used too casually, and the word “gratitude” is often overlooked, but may be the most crucial word of all.
There’s no recipe for a holiday meal here, only the opinion that considerable perks, clarity, and joy, can and do accompany age.