Last spring I broke my elbow, which put a damper on a lot of things...like A LOT of things. I slept in a recliner for weeks, because as it turns out, modern treatment of a broken elbow is NO splint, NO cast, and NO stabilizer of any kind. Just time and physical therapy. And it worked. I’m fine. But spring and summer were not what I had planned.
For instance, I had ordered a new bike helmet so that I could get my bicycle out again and ride. No dice. You need both arms to ride a bike. I went on a Mexican vacation but couldn’t swim in the ocean because… turns out you need both arms. For a while, I couldn’t even use my laptop because keyboarding was too painful, and works much better when you have use of BOTH hands.
As I began to slowly heal, I found myself staring into the suddenly unpredictable nature of my summer. There were a few things I didn’t want to miss and I began to think there were things that maybe I could do with one arm. I wanted to use my backyard as a canvas. I wanted to plant my zinnias. I wanted to grow a few tomatoes.
With lots of help from my husband, we whipped the yard into shape. He bought me zinnia seeds from the local home store, and I planted them along the fence line with my one good arm. Zinnias are one of my favorites because you can cut the blooms and pop them into some water for inside display and they just bloom more. I plant them every year. He also bought two tomato starts and planted them for me in the sunniest patch of the yard. And while the zinnias went crazy with wild and colorful blossoms, I sort of forgot about the tomatoes. It had been late in the season. I didn’t expect much, and I just couldn’t keep up with the pruning and care.
Around mid-October I decided to take a closer look at the tomato plants I had left to fend for themselves- and much to my surprise I was harvesting big, beautiful sun-ripened tomatoes. I guess the conditions were just right without my help and the plants flourished, bloomed and bore fruit – a little late, but still. July or August would have been normal. September would have been stretching it. October? Weird.
In my counseling practice I often encounter people who wonder if it is too late in life to make a change. Almost no matter the age, we ask, “Is it too late to change my career path? Get a different degree or certification? Be different? Choose differently?” And I answer, “Never.”
I’m a relative “elder” now. Amongst a bevy of smaller jobs, I’ve been a full-time mom, owned a small decorating business, worked as a server at a restaurant, and spent years in the work of full-time ministry. I am co-founder of a non-profit organization, A Seat at the Table. My most recent significant shift began when I was 54 and entered seminary to earn a master’s in counseling, and then worked for years to complete all the requirements toward full licensure.
The thing about life that you can’t quite understand when you are young is how long it is, but also, how quickly it moves. It’s a little like canoeing. If we are not actively paddling to reach our destination, the river takes us where it wants. We are always moving from one season to the next - with or without our consent. Life is ever evolving, always moving forward, and if we aren’t growing, we’re likely dying.
Aside from some limited circumstances, we have the power to make choices in our lives. The work we choose, the ways in which we spend our energies, and the people with whom we choose to spend time can be life-giving or life-sucking.
How is that working for you? It’s not too late to make some adjustments. It’s not too late to figure out who you want to be. It’s not too late. You just have to start.
Start with something small. Take a risk. Sign up for a class. What are the things that make your heart beat faster or bring tears to your eyes? Where does your heart cry out in protest? Pay attention to those things. What are you doing when you lose track of time because you were so engrossed in the work? That means something.
I think we get clues all along our journeys. When we see them for what they are, they lead us to where we are meant to be – where conditions are right, where we flourish, we bloom and bear fruit, no matter our season.
What clues are begging for your attention? What are some small risks you can take to move in the direction of a flourishing life? Those late tomatoes? They are delicious. Almost more-so as they were unexpected. Don’t let anyone’s expectations of what your life should look like “at your age” keep you from making the changes you need to, want to, and/or have to. It is not too late. Keep growing.