The Beat Goes On
By Lauren Green
Unless I live to be 104, I am well into my second half of life. This reality first popped into my head the year I turned 50. Some days, I don’t give it a second thought; other days, I cry. Either way, it’s high time I get comfortable with my place on the timeline. Ready or not, the ticktock of my internal clock is getting louder.
The beat is not always like a funeral dirge. On the contrary, sometimes it’s an electrical current, comparable to the surge you feel when a crazy wedding DJ really gets going. It prompts a hand-pulling, get-your-booty-out-here, nobody-cares-what-you-look-like rush to the dance floor of life. It’s a blast to find ourselves in sync with the crowd, all of us energized and moving to a shared rhythm. But nowadays, the beat I’m most curious about is one only I can hear.
Recently, I went to my first SEC football game. It was nuts. I’ve never seen such a color-coordinated mass of humanity, and this was at 9 in the morning. But even with the pageantry of fans marching into the stadium, the roving TV cameras and game-day hysteria, the experience felt incomplete. You see, as a former Dragon band mom, it’s not football until I hear the beat of the drum line. I remember picking up my daughter from her first day of band camp at the high school. I had arrived a few minutes early, so I rolled down my window and listened to the distant dut-dut-dut of snares and quads wafting over the parking lot.
Right there in the carpool line, I teared up. I’m not sure why I got so emotional, other than it was a rare moment when I ignored my to-do list as I followed that sound to an unexpected place of alignment. Back in that sold-out college stadium, I experienced a similar reaction when I finally heard the familiar rhythm of the home-team band. There it was: the beat I was looking for in order to authenticate the game.
Fortunately, a friend of mine is teaching me that I don’t need a marching band soundtrack to feel my inner groove. She was once a nun and then she met her husband, so she obviously knows a bit about marching to her own drummer. Now in her mid-70s, she is deeply engaged in our community. But ask her to plan a holiday party or join a neighborhood GroupMe and she will more than likely tell you no. If she’s feeling especially feisty, she might tack on a lighthearted “because I don’t give a (bleep)” to her answer.
Before you write her off as a crotchety septuagenarian, consider this: We all have a finite number of days on this planet. While young, we enjoy glorious wiggle room; we have lots of space to decide what we care about in this world and how we show it. And thank goodness. We need this first half of life to explore, experiment and discover all the things that make us tick.
Now in my second half, I find that my internal clock is adjusting its rhythm. It’s telling me the time has come to make some choices. Judging by the way my friend prioritizes her schedule, I suspect she is hearing the same thing. We all want to keep space open for the people and experiences that move us and help us grow. For my friend, there’s no open space for the neighborhood party committee, but sign me up, as party planning is music to my ears. Different beats keep each of us moving and shaking, right?
Our individual rhythm can be drowned out by the cacophony of worldly expectations, especially now, when the volume is reaching its holiday crescendo. I admit it’s tempting to do what everyone is doing, say what everyone is saying and believe what everyone is believing. But the second-half clock is loud, and it is reminding many of us that the game is really getting interesting.
As we enter into the final weeks of 2022, consider how your own game is going. Find a dance floor, join a committee or be confident in not giving a (bleep). Whatever choices you make, confidently groove to your unique tempo and claim the rhythm that’s all your own.