Friday, October 7, 2011

Becoming 60

            I turned 60 in March. Which means I am six months and a week into my 61st year. Which means I should be settled into it by now. Right?
            I wish. I’m still pondering things like: okay, if health continues to be fine and I live to an average age of say, 75 or 80, we’re talking only 15 or 20 Christmases, summers, grandchildren’s birthdays, a finite number of moments to be all that God created me to be…
            It’s sort of paralyzing.
            Turning 30 was cool. I embraced the tiny crow’s feet around the eyes as evidence of now I’m getting down to it. Turning 40 was empowering: yes, I have a voice (this was my early writing days). Turning 50 was a blast. I wore a toy tiara at a fancy restaurant, sitting at a round table with hubby and kiddos and my first grandchild in her mama’s womb: I can be silly and really, what does it matter?
            Turning 60…Lovely weekend with Tim in the desert aside, I was hunched over the laptop, a deadline looming, one that I placed ahead of the publisher’s because I wanted the story off my plate yesterday. It was time to start the rest of my life. It was time to start Writing the Next Chapter!
            Richard Rohr calls it the “second half.” It’s not an age thing per se, but rather a new mindset we enter when it’s time…if we’re paying attention. In short, for me, it means I am freed up from the desire to write the end-all Great American Novel. Hahahaha.
            In his book Falling Upward, Rohr references the “hero’s journey” pattern. Fiction writers will recognize this template used by Joseph Campbell and later Christopher Vogler (in The Hero’s Journey) to describe a hero/heroine’s journey in story and myth.
            Like a hero, we journey through life’s stages (absolutely necessary) and eventually – hopefully – “seize the sword,” the reward of our efforts, the gift or the boon to share with others, wisdom.
            After a couple of months off, I’ve started writing fiction again. I’ve never taken that much time away. Usually after about a week I become cranky, too cranky even for myself. Bleagh. Not this time. Several factors have been at play, but the paralysis probably underlies them all. What now? What next? How do I give out enough hugs in time?
            A quote came the other day in an email. Dear friend Margo always passes along timely words, out of the blue, without even a clue as to what I’m thinking. This one is from writer Henri Nouwen, Beyond the Mirror:
            “I felt a deep, inner urge to tell my story to others. . .out of an awareness that my deepest vocation is to be a witness to the glimpses of God I have been allowed to catch.”
            To witness the glimpses of God that I have been allowed to catch. Amen.
            That says it all. This is what I do, in blogs and fiction. So perhaps it is time. . .

Other Stuff:
            {This part is for you, Cin and Sandy, because it keeps us in touch more than do my philosophical ramblings.}
            I’ve been working again on sewing (by hand) daughter Elizabeth’s old t-shirts together to make a quilt. (A years-long work-in-progress.) While looking at volleyball, soccer, and basketball shirts, I reminisced about her high school days. I remembered the distinct mom emotions, her friends, my friends who were all parents of her friends or teachers.
            And then a new character presented herself. Out of the blue.
            And so I am writing fiction again, lost in the luscious all-consuming fun world of creating names, personalities, situations. I spent hours the other day drawing an apartment complex for the setting. (In another time and place, I really could have been an architect.)
            This morning I walked the pier. It is 1900+ feet long, the longest on the west coast. Charlie, the resident pelican, was there perched on the railing. A friend was with him, a beautiful white-breasted pelican I don’t recall seeing before.
            The Advance Reader Copies of Heart Echoes arrived this week. The way I feel, you’d think it was the final copy ready for distribution. So satisfying, so gratitude-inducing. Anyway, it looks great.
            By the way, if you’d like a copy to review (this means reading a not-final-proofed book and then posting a review online), visit my Facebook page (Sally John Books) and sign up for the drawing. Or email me at and I’ll enter your name.


  1. I'm looking forward to continuing along your journey and am happy that you are back to blogging. Nouwen has many poignant and insightful thoughts in his writings and the quote you posted is another zinger. I think it can apply to even those of us that aren't writing our stories, but are telling them in other ways; this is a challenge to me about whether or not others are witnessing glimpses of God that I have been allowed to catch.

  2. Ya!!! A Blog !!! Now your talkin ' way cuter than Face Book...
    You r making a quilt! Love that...
    60 is the new 40 didn't cha know???

  3. So good to hear from you again, Sally. And I'm always tickled when our paths seem to meander in similar directions. Love the Nouwen quote; I've been pondering 'next steps' myself. And I saved things to make the ultimate quilt for years! One from t-shirts--should be way, way soft and comfy. And the architect-thing. I've often thought that would have been my other career choice--had I pursued math and had an aptitude for geometry. Imagining environments-yeah! Hope you continue to enjoy the new character that came calling.

    Mary Kay

  4. *Squeals with excitement*

    I love reading all that you write. You paint such a pretty picture whenever I read your stories.

    Thank you for sharing.

    <3 you.