In my home church in Memphis, Harris Memorial United Methodist, we had what at one time was a slave balcony. Ever since I could remember, it had been long boarded up, and was not even used as a balcony anymore. There was a short set of stairs in the foyer that led up to that balcony, but as I never had a reason for going up there, the balcony remained an unknown, vaguely unsettling area of the church to me.
The old balcony could also be reached from an adjoining second-floor classroom behind a curtain - at least that’s what someone told me. One night the church hosted a Halloween party for the youth. My sister and I knew the adults involved who were trying to scare us, as the congregation was relatively small, but that didn’t stop us from feeling frightened. During the “haunted” part of the tour, someone took us up to the old slave balcony, where in the dark we looked down upon the sanctuary, and watched as the organ played ghostly music, apparently by itself. The fact that we had an idea that Zuleika was crouched on the pedals, playing where we couldn’t see her hands, didn’t make us feel any better. It was truly a scary night, in a scary “room,” with scary things happening around us.
I dream about rooms all the time. Some are in my old church, but most are in a certain house. It’s a big house, bigger than our old 3-story Victorian. It’s not a house I can recognize from real life, but I know enough dream interpretation to realize that the house represents myself, and the rooms represent all the facets of my life. The strange thing is that I’m always “finding” new rooms in that house. Each time in my dreams when I come across a new room, I’m surprised that I didn’t realize it had been there all this time. How could I have lived in this house and never known of this room’s existence? What a waste! I immediately start making plans on what I want to do with the room, how to decorate it, how to use it. Sometimes I’m rather surprised to wake up and find myself in our little 3-bedroom ranch.
As I age, I am discovering more and more about myself, who I am, what I want out of the years I have left. Some of these discoveries truly astound me. I am realizing that my mind is capable of so much more than I give it credit for. I have only scratched the surface of using all my time and energy and mental capacity. I still have gifts and purposes yet to be discovered, just waiting for me to open the doors and start working.
Other discoveries are not so pleasant. I go through a curtain and find myself in a scary place. One of these discoveries is that my body just won’t function the way it used to. I’m making a valiant and largely successful effort to exercise every day, but one day this week I pulled a shoulder muscle, and the very next day I pulled something in the back of my right knee, which required me to hobble around for the rest of the evening. Sometimes after typing all day at work, I come home with shoulders that will hardly move, much less stretch and perform repetitious things with weights.
But it’s all one house, and it’s my house. Some rooms are enlightening, some are peaceful, some are creative, some are energizing, some just draining (I really need to spend less time there) and one or two of them even look like an old abandoned church balcony. It is up to me to sort out the best way to use these rooms in ways that will make the most out of my life. This is one of the hardest parts of aging for me - the acceptance of my “house” and acknowledgment of its strengths and weaknesses, for these are all I have to work with. I will, however, say that on the whole, as I open more and more doors, I continue to find more laughter than tears, more delight than apprehension, and more hope than fear.
My mother used to sing a refrain from a popular song, “Is that all there is?” I thank God every day that I can answer a resounding no. The best is yet to come! And by George, I will try to meet it head on - even if I’m limping all the way!