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A Few Thoughtful (and Candid) Observations On My 55th Birthday

Mini-timeline_randyMy mom (who is 73 years young) gleefully informed me yesterday that I now qualify for senior citizen discounts.

I don’t even know what to think about that.

If I truly still live the way Shaun Groves described me in this blog post a few days ago—and I’d like to think I do—then I’m really only 37.

I do know what to think about that. I like it.

I’ve always been the youngest team member, the youngest board member, youngest staff member—always the young kid on the block.

So today seems a little weird. Maybe that’s why I’m up early writing these spontaneous words.

Some observations after 55 years of life:

My second half of life could be longer than my first. The average life expectancy of an American male during my grandfather’s era was 46.3 years. Yep, you’re reading it correctly. 46.3 years. This second half of life stuff is primarily untouched ground. Not many of us have walked it. There is not a lot of history from which to learn.

I realize I could die today, but the genes I’ve inherited give me a possible life expectancy of over 90 years of age. My Dad is a very young, very healthy 72. Two of my grandparents, who were given 46 years of average life, blew the curve and lived well into their eighties.

If that holds true for me, my second career running a non-profit could be longer than my first 30 year career as a musician and minister. Longer. And my second marriage could be longer than my first one of 32 years—which, by the way, totally obliterated the average length (7.8 years) of current first marriages in the U.S.

I am still the same person. Regardless of my many successes and failures in life, I am still Randy. I love life, love people, and love to mentor and encourage them. Especially creatives. That is who I am. My mistakes (and perhaps even more importantly—my successes) do not and will not define me. My legacy is, first and foremost, my two beautiful girls, my little grandson, and the hundreds, if not thousands of people I have loved, mentored and encouraged over the past half century. I can not change or destroy that legacy. No matter how much I try.

The social networks provide a beautiful timeline of one’s legacy. This blog post about my daughter Lauren and son-in-law Matt written by my friend Ken Davis brought me great joy and tears of thankfulness.

Seeing myriad young men and women I have mentored and encouraged over the years, now actively mentoring and encouraging others is a legacy no one can take away. They are ministers, musicians, performers, counselors, actors, social workers—leading corporations, blazing new trails, wowing Broadway, and so much more…and I get to see their lives unfold through the miracle of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, websites and blogs.

My first priority now is finding meaning in life. For the first 55 years of life, I was involved in first half stuff. Starting a family, providing for them, nurturing them, finishing college, finding a career, pleasing my boss, pleasing my religion, pleasing my parents, pleasing my children—but now all that is done. It is time for me to find meaning in my life. Why am I here?

I have to evaluate what gods, what forces, what family, what social environment framed my reality; which supported it and which constricted it. I have to ask the question, “Who’s life have I been living?” I must ask myself “Why does so much of life seem a disappointment, a betrayal, a bankruptcy of expectations?” “Why have I served the collective for 55 years at the expense of my soul?” “Is this erosion of my self, this self-imposed suffering, necessary for my second half of life quest—that of finding meaning in life?”

What, indeed, does it profit me to have encouraged the whole world, and find the price is loss of relationship to my own soul?

I do not have to hide anything from others or myself. The not so beautiful side of social networking is being naked in front of God…and everybody. This facet of life is also unprecedented. You cannot run, you cannot hide.

But…at last, over the past two years with the weekly help of a caring and trained therapist, I’ve found the deep suffering (self-inflicted or not) liberating.

We all learn to conceal at an early age, having learned that to reveal is to risk. And, it is certainly true. In this “image is everything” society, living life free and clear comes at too high a price. So we protect ourselves. We medicate ourselves in secret.

I hope I have finally come to realize I am a truth. A truth meant to be lived, a truth the denial of which harms not only myself, but others as well. Now, finally, at age 55, with everything (and I mean everything) in the open, I am much more inclined to speak and live directly and candidly. I cannot tell you the freedom that comes with this simple but profound revelation.

I have decided to embrace my long-lost companion—my soul. The soul is the archetype of meaning and the agent of organic wholeness. Unfortunately, we are intimidated by our own soul because it asks so much of us. The soul asks us to a larger frame of reference, to an eternal perspective amid our time-bound egos and our reductive, fear-driven agendas.

I have discovered that when I ask myself the meaning of a mood, reflect upon my history, inquire into the layers of my latest painting, ponder a dream; I am in dialogue with my soul.

When I am wrung by life, flung into dismal depths, and then lifted higher by the suffering than I thought possible, transformed from what I was to what I become, then I am in the presence of my long—lost companion. My soul.

Rilke says it so well,

And still there is one who in his hands gently
Holds this falling endlessly.

18 Responses to “A Few Thoughtful (and Candid) Observations On My 55th Birthday”

  1. Ok, I’m two miles up the road from ya doing nearly 57. It aint a new car, but it’s my car and I understand all the little mechanical quirks. Ya, it could use some cosmetics but no wax job.
    Randy, precious story on your daughter… and, Finding meaning in the second half… was all over your words…. and it’s good… and I’m right next to you 1,000 miles north.. smiling, with expresso, paper & pencil and an old chewed up cigar. Sitting in the rain looking for todays secret combination of words.
    craig t´s last blog post ..Boston

  2. Happy Birthday Randy! You are now the age I was when we first met…….. YOUNG!
    ken davis´s last blog post ..What Really Defines You?

    • Thanks, Ken. I guess we both blinked…again. And now…here we are.
      You are still YOUNG in my book.

  3. Happy Birthday! Thanks for putting out the wonderful stuff that you put out there.

    • Thanks so much, Brett. Thanks for taking time not only to read it, but for joining the conversation.

  4. Randy, I hope I read this as well as you wrote it. There are so many things I have yet to figure out but I am more inclined these days to let them come to me rather than join the hurried rush toward THAT finish line. I still have doubts (daily) whether or not I will ever see that line, but if I do it won’t be because I “nailed” that sermon or made my boss happy for the day…or even (dare I say) because I lived up to all my responsibilities, some of which given by God himself.

    Thanks for the new reminders of things I had no idea I needed reminding about.

    Shanon

  5. Happy Birthday Randy. Great post! hope you are having a great day!
    Spence Smith´s last blog post ..The New American Airlines And Their Merger With US Airways

  6. I am still in that first half of life, but creeping up on the second half. This post gives me a lot to think about.

  7. Randy words can not express how much I have miss you.But life goes on . Happy birthday to one of the best choir director we ever had. I wish you the next 55 years will be even better. I am still in the choir.Sister in CHRIST.

    • Thanks, Lena!! Your words mean so much. I miss you too! Glad you are still in the choir!! Keep singing!!

  8. Wow – 55! There’s no way!

    I am blessed to call you friend and thankful that God put you in my life. You are definitely still YOUNG (I LOVE the pictures)! Here’s to 55 more!

    Happy birthday!

  9. Randy,
    I often read in amazement that one who is a stranger to me can so eloquently lay open the very anguish, the searching, the ponderings, and reflections of my own soul. You help to validate what I may have otherwise thought crazy or at the very least, sacreligious (in myself). Thank you, and happy birthday. Here’s to second-half life.

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