I never did anything in moderation. It was always gung ho with me. I even sucked two fingers when I was a baby, when most kids were plugged in to the dependable thumb or the “nuck, nuck.” As a dreamy adolescent, I wiled away hour after hour of duff time writing poetry or sketching people, often different poses of my beloved Elvis.
When I retired after 34 years of bookkeeping, I experienced an identity crisis and feelings of worthlessness. (I got over it by the end of the week, however.) I continue to have my moments of blissful boredom, but I’ll try to go on. Slowly but surely, mind and body get in sync with one another and find ways to kill time with enjoyable activity, free of guilt. That’s the big hurdle!
Our grandchildren have filled a void in our mid-life slump. Through them, Grandpa and I have learned to set aside whatever we may be doing to give them our full attention during those special times together (in other words we’ve shamefully spoiled them!) We’ve shifted gears to a slower pace and have learned to live in the moment (which is another way of saying, we procrastinate a lot.)
I am no longer zapped by those old-school pangs of guilt – as I sit and daydream, take a nap, read and meditate, when I wear lounging jammies all day, put the laundry on hold, expect Pat, also retired, to do most of the household chores, which he willingly does anyway. (Oh, yeah! Guess again!) I’ve learned to overlook busywork, having discovered that it isn’t important or even necessary (which is another way of saying, let’s get takeout for dinner again tonight.)
The more free time I have to write something, the more tedious it becomes. It is as Carl Jung wrote, “First it was passion, then it became duty, and finally an intolerable burden.” However vexing it can be, writing is a passion satisfied.
Emerson defends pondering and meditating: “We do not know whether today we are busy or idle. I have seemed to myself very indolent at times, when, as it afterward appeared, much was accomplished in me.” Smarty pants!
Reading what others concoct can enliven emotions, and just as swiftly disappear, like shooting stars, as minds become distracted (which is a kind way of saying absent-minded.) The greatest risk in searching and longing to arrive at the absolute or extreme, and most remote truths in space or time, is that one might venture too far, too deep, to return to the place he or she began. As Emerson said, “The mind loves its old home.” (One must take care not to venture too far.)
I’m not afraid of dying or death. I’m more anxious about what life may be putting me through while I’m still here. Is Parkinson’s disease robbing me of my identity? Every day I smile at myself in the mirror to make sure that my face has not turned blank, and lost its ability to say, “I love you,” or to conceal my horror of becoming a stranger to my precious ones, who may not understand that my heart still beats for them (if the words no longer come.)
The late author Anne Morrow Lindbergh once mused, “Why is life speeded up so? Why are things so terribly, unbearably precious that you can’t enjoy them, but can only wait breathless in dread of their going?”
Doesn’t grief loom on the backside of joy? I’ve often thought we may love too much, burdening ourselves with unreasonable fear of losing those we hold most dear, or watching them suffer. I’ve known the fear and dread that come with motherhood, the little prayers tucked away, to be released as shooting stars through the darkest hours.
Never allow the dread of winter to destroy your awe and delight in autumn. Isn’t it also true that joy sparkles on the backside of grief? (Sometimes questions answer themselves.)
Even the most articulate individual is sometimes at a loss for words. Speak with your heart...and in silent prayer.
Janet Burns lives in the heart of the county. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org