Often I am bursting with ideas and inspiration for my writing. I have scraps of paper everywhere with words and phrases that I can’t forget before they can come spilling out when I sit down to write. I tell myself when inspiration sneaks away that writers write, so I get my ass in the chair and write. Usually this discipline will allow me to listen to myself and ideas will come. Then there are times when the words slow to a trickle or just drips. It’s that annoying drip that you hear at night when it is quiet. Eventually it becomes like the sound of a jet engine. The drip is eroding my peace, the hard water is creating a rust stain, and I am not writing. I am not in the flow of ideas.
What goes up, must come down. Gravity. Waves hit the shore reaching farther onto the beach, and then the waves slowly recede. Tides. The ebb and flow of water, ideas, and life is simply how the world works. There is a Buddhist tenet that says “This too shall pass.” I know that change is certain, but I am still surprised by it. Life doesn’t make any promises. I make plans to go from point A to point B and arrive at point Z! There is no forever. The skies cloud over and it rains and then the sun comes out. I am sick and I get better. How can I keep my balance? I fall down a lot and get back up a lot. How’s that for balance?
I don’t like to be tossed around, so when change inevitably comes I need an anchor.
There is good change and bad change, or at least that is how my limited mind views it. I admit what seems like a negative experience can morph into a monumental and necessary learning experience. Damn it! So life is uncertain and constantly changing and there is really nothing I can do about this. Whatever is happening– is what is happening in this moment. If I take one moment at a time I become aware of the nuances of my emotions. When I thought I could not handle my grief for one more moment, I noticed that in the next moment there was a change, however slight, in my experience of grief. “This too shall pass” works both ways. Sadness and happiness will pass and come around again. The constant is me and even I am changing. I have tried to fight change and hold tightly to the status quo and to my dismay, life still slipped through my barricades.
Denial is always an option but seems less attractive to me as I age. Wasting any moment by resisting what is just means one less moment of life for me. Happiness, anger, or sadness come and go and I am the vessel . So if resistance and denial are no match for the relentless cycle of change should I concede, just give up? I know that the answer is yes, give up, accept and say yes to every moment. It will change.
I wasn’t born yesterday, or the day before yesterday, or the day before …. Am I not young or am I old? I would rather be old than a negative young. My quibbling over word choice prompts a memory of my college days. A bunch of us are sitting on the dorms’ hall floor with an over- flowing ashtray in the center of the circle and a bottle of cheap wine being passed around. We are discussing “the meaning of life ” and being very profound. Before too long several of us will think of a boyfriend we are fighting with or missing a lot and (under the influence), tears will come. The group will break up as members slip away to make that important phone call to reconnect. But before this happens we are very profound. I can’t remember any of the conclusions we reached, but the comraderie was great and the wine was bad. Thank god we were not being filmed or we would have made a very bad film. Listen and learn as the college girls discover the meaning of life, blah,blah….blah.
These days I don’t smoke or drink and getting up off the floor would be a question mark. Of course, I am still profound! As I started writing today I was headed towards the ” leave the world a better place, find your purpose” noble hypothesis for the meaning of life, but I am taking a big U turn. Life is lived hiking in the mountains, on dorm floors, in a hospital room and around the table playing a silly game. There’s laughter, tears, giggles, fears, rants and the triumphant fist in the air “Yes!”. So my new hypothesis is: the moments of life that we are present for and experience fully are the “meaning” of life. That’s it! So there we were, a bunch of college girls laughing and crying, smoking and drinking and thinking very hard about the meaning of life when all around us and within us life was shouting “Pay attention. This is the meaning of life. This moment is all there is!”
I have written about being with Roger as his dementia slowly claimed his mind and body. He was only in the moment, and when he invited me to share that moment with him I was honored to accept his invitation. Listening to the birds, feeling the sun on our faces, looking at books, playing games and going on walks were just a few of the life moments we shared. One of my fondest memories of healthy Roger was his singing the theme from “Rocky” as I finished an hour run and raised my fist and shouted “Yes!” It was a beautiful Sunday morning, warm, sunny and clear blue skies and I was alive and Roger was alive. We were the meaning of life in that moment.
In the movie “Shawshank Redemption”, Red (Morgan Freedman) says:
I guess it all comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.
Last Saturday, my best bud Susan and I were driving to Estes Park to snowshoe. We drove past a sign that said “cemetery”. I started to giggle and pointed out those who ended up at this destination couldn’t read! Susan and I spontaneously and simultaneously began to sing “And the sign said long-haired freaky people need not apply, so I tucked my hair up under my hat and went in to ask him why. He said you look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do. So I took off my hat and said “Imagine that , me working for you.” By Five Man Electrical Band I am sure everyone in my generation remembers these lyrics! I am going to take a little liberty …. stay with me.
And the sign said nasty women need not apply. So I put on my nice and went in to ask him why. He said you look like a nice young woman, I think you’ll do. So I took off my nice and said imagine that, me working for a son of a bitch.
And the sign said “No homosexuals allowed” So I put on my straight and went in to ask why. He said you look straight, I’ll think you’ll do. I said imagine that! You are very cute, but so not my type. Look there’s my boyfriend!
And the sign said Muslims need not apply. So I took off my hijab and went in to ask why. And he said I can see you are not a Muslim, I think you’ll do. So I put on my hijab and said imagine that me working for a bigot.
Signs, signs, lots of signs! Keep out, Do not Enter, Yield, Road Closed, Stop. With all these signs to follow how can I determine what is me, what I want, and which direction to take? I know I need to stop at the red stop sign on the street, but do I need to let every fear stop me? Where were all the signs that said “Road closed” when I tried to find love from hearts that were closed? If signs at the Y in the road had said “Heartbreak This Way” or “Love This Way” I might have taken the road less travelled for me and chose love. Or maybe not.
As the years pass, I need fewer signs to direct me. I don’t ignore a road closed sign, instead I look for the detour. It’s not personal, the road is just closed. The sign says “Yield” and I do yield more often. Some things are just not that important so I go with the flow. When the sign says sharp curves ahead I don’t assume that I can ignore centrifugal force and go faster. Currently, there are lots of signs carried by protesters on both sides of the political divide, I pick up my sign and respectfully protest. Signs can be inclusive or exclusive, but either way those based on respect and tolerance are signs we need to see more of. From the moment we are born all signs point to our final destination, Death. We will all arrive at the end of the road, but life is all about which signs we choose to follow.