Every decade I seem to come up with a realization of life ... at least my life. While the realization itself may not be a new concept, suddenly it “makes sense” to me in a way that the mere words might not.
Even though I am not celebrating the next decade, as I approach my 62nd birthday I want to review these realizations here so I can share them with you and so I will have them in writing for future reference.
When I was 40 I realized that “life is linear.”
After a birthday party my teaching colleagues gave me at lunchtime, I looked more closely than usual at a group photograph of teachers taken many years earlier before I began teaching.
In that photograph there were people I was teaching with now, older than I, who had just begun their career many years ago as a young man or woman, there were pictures of people I used to teach with who were now dead. There were some pictures of colleagues who, like me, were forty or forty something. Of course there were no “twenty something” new teachers included in these photos. I realized that as life goes on, one cannot go back. Life is linear and it usually goes forward
When I was 50 I realized that “life has a beginning, a middle, and an end.”
With this realization came the idea that life had choices left behind. I still was a person with strong ideals. I still had great wishes, hopes, and aspirations. I still believed that I could accomplish anything I put my mind to. But I realized that having come forward (in a linear fashion) I had left behind some choices on the road of life.
I could not “go back” and take those roads any more. They were too far behind. For example, at 50 I would no longer be able to run away to New York to become a young ingénue actor or dancer (although certainly I could still be an actor and maybe a dancer.) I would no longer be able to experience my early days in college and make choices regarding my future (although certainly I could still make many decisons regarding what I wanted to do with my life.) I would no longer be able to share stories with my Gramma Lindenbaum who had died many years before (although certainly I could still hold her in my heart and talk to her in my memory.)
When I was 60 I realized that “life has a here and a here-after.”
This was a hard one. Marla was sick and dying of cancer. My father had been ill and died a few weeks before my birthday. I had problems of my own at home.
While I still considered myself young, my body does not always cooperate. Once I could push a table until it moved, now I would push it until my arm or back gave out. While I still considered myself young, I wondered what 70 would feel like, and 80? And those 20 years certainly would feel different then 20 to 40 or even 30 to 50. Death certainly became a bigger player in my life, that of others and the impending one of my own.
Meanwhile, life is good. I consider myself fortunate in my friends, my family, and in Gregory (now 37 years together and counting.) I am fortunate in the choices I have made in the past, will be fortunate in the choices I still have to make in the future.
In summary: (40’s) I continue my life in a linear usually forward direction, (50’s) I still have the last part of the middle and the long and healthy end to look forward to, and (60’s) while there is a "here" and a "here-after" I am still here.
I AM POSTING THIS SOME FIVE YEARS AFTER IT WAS WRITTEN AS I APPROACH MY 67th BIRTHDAY. IT STILL HOLDS TRUE SO I AM SHARING IT WITH YOU.
SINCE IT WAS WRITTEN MY MOTHER DIED, OUR PET CAT MARIAH DIED, AND GREGORY CONTINUES TO DECLINE WITH DEMENTIA/ALZHEIMER'S. WE NOW LIVE IN A WONDERFUL CONDO IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN EVANSTON, "MICHAEL'S MUSEUM: A CURIOUS COLLECTION OF TINY TREASURES" OPENED ON MAY 13, 2011 AS A PERMANENT EXHIBT IN THE CHICAGO CHILDREN'S MUSEUM ON NAVY PIER IN CHICAGO. STILL NOT SURE WHAT MY "LESSON AT 70" WILL BE BUT IT MIGHT BE SOMETHING LIKE "I AM STILL HERE."