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Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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December 28th, 2017
Of weeping and platitudes
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
1969. Just a wee one.

1969. Just a wee one.

Circa 1975? Grade four or so. All kinds of awkward.

Circa 1975? Grade four or so. All kinds of awkward.

My Dad and I, Camping on the Nepisiguit River. Circa 1980, around grade nine.

My Dad and I, Camping on the Nepisiguit River. Circa 1980, around grade nine.

I am 50 years old today, and despite the good wishes of many—and the efforts of my sweet family—the cold, wintry day matches my mood.

1987, age 19. graduation from technical school. Less awkward.

1987, age 19. graduation from technical school. Less awkward.

October 5, 1991. I was 23.

October 5, 1991. I was 23.

1997, with friends in Scotland.

1997, with friends in Scotland.

In Ecuador in 2004. I was 36.

In Ecuador in 2004. I was 36.

Ecuador, 2004. Posing on the Pan-American highway.

Ecuador, 2004. Posing on the Pan-American highway.

2009, age 41. with the family

2009, age 41. with the family

Fifty. When did that happen? It’s all going too fast.

Here are a few options:

1. Cry.

There’s quite a lot of that going on. It’s hard to say the number f-f-f-fifty out loud. And to look in the mirror and wonder when my face drooped. It seems only yesterday I turned 20, when I marveled that my adolescence was gone forever, and then 30, when I was in a similar black mood, because I mourned leaving my youth behind. (I think I cried then, too.) When I turned 40, I was filled with resolve, because I was sure I’d be published by the time I turned 50. I put all my energy and desire into it.

2011, age 44

2011, age 44

But aside from some self-publishing, I have not achieved my goal. Hence the weeping.

2. Recite the following platitudes. These have been occasionally delivered by cheerful folk who don’t tolerate nonsense:

A. There’s only one alternative.
B. Lots of people don’t reach 50, so be thankful.
C. Someday you’ll look back and wish you were 50 again, so enjoy today.
D. Count your blessings, because loads of people wish they were in your position.

All true. But the truth doesn’t erase the heaviness in my heart.

3. Write out my feelings until I understand them.

I’ve been preparing myself all year for this day. When I turned 49, a giant countdown clock was erected in the back of my mind and panic rose with each passing day. I knew the personal goals I’d carried around with me were no closer to being accomplished than they were ten years ago, and I have been filled with self-doubt. Maybe they never will?
My writing projects have been continually rejected, and the ones I’m currently working on have been waylaid by family and personal circumstances. I have had to sacrifice the last two years of personal time to meet some unavoidable needs.

In addition, it is difficult to watch my father languish in a hospital bed. In the last two months, he has skated close to the brink numerous times, and each time we’ve armed ourselves for the big moment. But still my family waits, adjusting each time to lower levels of brokenness. He is not in pain, but it is hard to watch the powerful figure you used to know disintegrate into a shadow, thin and dry and wispy.

Part of the grief is guilt. I’m still relatively young and healthy and living my life, when he desperately wants to be in my place.

And part of the grief is knowing that I too, one day, will be in the bed. My loved ones will gather round me, sit and whisper for a few moments, squeeze my hands, and then go on with their day.

I’ll manage to wave a weak goodbye as they go out the door, like my father did on his last lucid day.

So I look in the mirror and obsess over every sag and wrinkle. I dwell on every ache and pain and worry that the occasional gas pain—caused by stress—is a heart attack.

4. After I understand them, sit with them until we’re friends. (Or at least civil.)

And when I’ve reasoned out my feelings on paper, what do I do with them?

In the early days of our marriage, my husband and I listened to teaching tapes delivered by a preacher and marriage counselor who believed that feelings are a result of our thoughts, words and actions, not the other way round. Therefore, if you wanted to nurture love for your spouse, you should choose to think loving thoughts, speak loving words and perform loving actions. Love was a verb, not an uncontrollable romantic urge.

After 26 successful years in marriage, I can attest to the success of this idea. So how can I apply it today?

November 2017. My daughters and I at the new IKEA in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

November 2017. My daughters and I at the new IKEA in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

I realize my current feelings about turning 50 are not just shock about the number. I’m worried about personal issues. I’m grieving. Life has not turned out the way I thought it would. Instead of climbing Kilimanjaro, I’m stranded on a mountain of disappointment.

But I don’t want to die there. In The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, “With mirth and laughter, let old wrinkles come.” I would like to be the person who, despite her circumstances, embraces the day for the sake of all the days that came before, and to embrace change, and to look expectantly toward the future, until the very last moment.

Think Grateful.
Speak Grateful.
Act Grateful.

I will be grateful.

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

2 Responses to “Of weeping and platitudes”

  1. Tania says:

    The older we get, the longer we’ve been friends, and that’s a positive for me :D Love you, friend of 29 years and counting.

  2. Suzanne LeBlanc says:

    Thanks so much for bringing us into your heart!

    I will pray for your Dad on his journey and for you to be able to welcome 51 with absolute joy.

    ♥️

Leave a Reply to Suzanne LeBlanc