Rekindling that flame
What’s your passion? Passion — it’s one of the strangest words in the English language. When understood thoroughly and used properly, the word carries with it an undertone of suffering. That’s because the word passion is derived from the Greek word, pathos. Pathos is also the root of the English word pathology, meaning a sickness or other source of suffering. When we experience sympathy and empathy which both reference pathos, we feel some of the pain that others feel. Another related word, compassion, describes the same phenomenon. In a Christian context, we know of The Passion of Christ, which literally means the time He suffered on the Cross.
Yet we most often use the word passion to describe steamy sex. Aye! There may or may not be pain involved, but most often the intensity which accompanies erotic passion is not without some degree of conflict and tears, because passion is not vanilla. And yet the other meanings of passion are even more intriguing. If you are passionate about something, it keeps you up at night. It may give you a headache, even though it feeds your blood, makes your heart beat a little faster, and gives you a reason to get up in the morning, even if you did have yet another sleepless night! A true passion may make you feel a little crazy. It may hurt to care about something so much. That is what we mean by passion in our pages.
A woman who has brought herself up through the challenges and rewards of youth into the full power of age at 50 years plus has more of a capacity for a life-passion than she did at 20. It may be argued that we have more raw energy in our earlier decades, but at the half-century mark and beyond, our energy is distilled, concentrated, and so powerful. A friend of ours describes this distillation as “heartbeats”: how many heartbeats are you willing to invest in something, spend on something? Often, as young women, we chased a lot of butterflies. A fantasy career. A fantasy lover. A fantasy life. Many of us spent a lot of heartbeats in trifling or fickle places where we won’t spend them now. This is not to call those young heartbeats wasted; we simply choose differently now. Choosing our battles more carefully is just the beginning.
Some of us still have fantasies at 50, 60, 70, and that’s all good. However, many of us have been tempered by the inevitable losses and disappointments that are a major part of lived experience. Not every dream comes true, and not every prayer is answered, and yet here we are. We move on. What arises in our spirits after we stop chasing butterflies is a source of true power, and true passion in a mature and deepened sense.
Often, women at the mid-century mark receive a surprise visitor in the form of creativity — a creativity which we may have overlooked while we were growing up, getting an education, finding love, raising our families, competing, excelling, achieving, acquiring, making a living, and dreaming of the future, maybe even planning for it. Ask yourself: did you get the future you thought you wanted? Few of us can say that we did. But the fact is, it was really that creativity that sustained us all along. With the passage of time, our lives often become less cluttered with daily responsibilities. And as we blow out more candles on the birthday cake year after year, one thing becomes clear: we are “makers,” creators, born to create, and we’ve been creating all along. We did it by stretching a budget to somehow be enough each month, or whipping up a child’s Halloween costume at midnight when we were dead-tired, or summoning the stone-cold strength to finally leave a toxic relationship or a dead-end job without so much as a fare-the-well.
Time sharpens the blade of life. And we find that women past 50 are on fire with passion, sometimes surprising passions, passions that were kept dormant out of necessity when life made so many other demands upon us. Perhaps this sharpening is only possible because we know that we are now closer to the end than the beginning. Sure, we deny it at first. But there comes a point when we know in our bones that there is far less time to waste, and there is no turning back. So at last, our love of an art form, poetry, piano, design, rises to the top of our consciousness. An avocation may call to us, too loudly to be ignored, finally audible now that the din of the young years has quieted down.
We may become outspoken activists because our passion to serve justice in our communities has grown from a little-light-of-mine into a blazing torch to expose truth in dark places and light the world. We may re-dedicate ourselves to teaching, or serving people in great need, because knowing about that great need gnaws at us and we can no longer turn away.
Or maybe you simply can’t get enough sunsets, knowing that there will be fewer and fewer, so you become a woman possessed by sunsets. As women in this elevated state, we often shock our families and others who have known us all these years. When someone admires something in our house, we may say, “Take it. Just take it.” We may decide to sell the big house, sell the big car, lose the weave, buzz-cut our tresses down close to the head, buy a convertible, and drive off into a hundred more sunsets with the top down. We may realize that we no longer need certain things, and want other things (and non-things) much more.
We want to know about that road trip, that adventure, that journey. Sing it to us, your song. Tell us about the passion, the smiles, the tears, the bumps in the road, the rain and the rainbows. We want to hear it from you, because our passions are on the move, too. In fact, we’re right there with you.