I often think life should be lived backwards. I’m not thinking of Youth is Wasted on the Young, or Everyone Should Get a Divorce Before They Get Married, although both those ideas can be true.
No, I’m starting to wonder whether everyone should retire before they start their career.
One morning during my quarterly Privilege blog break, I picked up my lined yellow pad, crossed out To Do, and wrote instead, Things I Might Choose To Do. Then all day I tried to ask myself before everything, “This?”
I’ve been planning and resulting my entire life. My work motto was, “Always Be Closing,” taken from David Mamet’s play, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” I can’t tell you how many outfits, trips, and Thanksgiving dinners I’ve planned, down to the 15-minute increments required for making of mashed potatoes and gravy.
This last week, with no blog posts to write and, for a few nights, not even a husband to feed, I was clearly in a position of choice. And yet I made lists. I wrote down things like Clean The Kitchen and Return Levis. Finally I tried to plan my children’s lives. Luckily they are considerate and loving people who know how to accept an apology.
So at last, one day, it might have been Wednesday, I put aside the list. And found myself outside, in my side yard, taking the time to hand water a few new plants. I looked up. It was a beautiful California morning, the sky blue like it had melted to the color, the sun warm on cooler air. A breeze at the edges. Awe, joy, wonder, bliss, all of it swelled in what I have to call my heart because I cannot locate another source.
Even though it’s just a corner of my house – with regular telephone lines, sky, and trees – when I subtitle this blog, “The raptures of living” that’s what I mean.
Technically, when I was a young woman in Manhattan, I could have looked up from, say, Central Park. I had received my initial inheritance. I wanted for nothing. But back then anxiety would have overshadowed rapture. I must be a data point in someone’s experiment about self-created fears.
How much of the anxiety endured when young do we create for ourselves? Maybe unavoidable? Maybe – in privilege at least – the unknown bears as much responsibility as much as the exigencies of survival? We have to build constructs about the world then hustle forward towards self-taped finish lines. Out of breath.
If I could bottle up how I felt in my back yard this week, and give it away at street fairs, I would. It’s not surprising that one can enjoy retirement. “News flash! Middle-aged woman feels happy in garden!” But the only material difference between now and Central Park is a bunch of stuff I know. Stiffer joints. And peace in my relationships.
I’m not yet the Buddha, trailing inner peace. My To Do has outlived its usefulness by years. But the impetus is shifting.
What might I have done without self-created anxieties, when young? I admit, some worries are real. Life requires work, and failure is scary, and all that warrants nervousness. But the stuff I made up? My To Do lists based largely on imagination?
Ah well. Regret nothing. Only resolve to recognize the privilege of the moment. Only resolve to start afresh from the authentic. Only resolve to say, “Hey life, thanks for the raptures. You did good.”
Only resolve to make sure you know what is the point of you when there’s nothing To Do. Then, probably, go Do something.