If I had gone to our state capitol today, in the hopes of addressing the membership of one of the various legislative committees who are considering bills which — in my self-esteemed wisdom — deserve critical attention, then I would not have shared breakfast and conversation with my daughter. Reason enough, it could rightly be said, for not going. But the issue to me is bigger than that.
Today, I am 62.
Thus, in my self-esteemed wisdom applied to me, I have arrived at a new benchmark. The beginning of a time in space where I get to more freely choose those things that will fill my present moments. And, with my children now predominately at the helms fo their own lives, my business obligations all satisfied, a comfortable roof over my head, a reliable vehicle to drive and the benevolence of a tidy Social Security pension, the expanses of what I may if I wish to do with my time are, perhaps for the first real time since I was twelve, seemingly limitless.
This is an odd and wonderous place to be, the liberating sensations of which wash over me like warm effervescent tides of sunshine and smiles. It is a lovely place of mind to simply be. No ‘pressure’ of any great magnitude to ‘get things done’. Not that there isn’t a ‘to-do’ list — which I know is a double negative, but serves the point well. Because there is and will always be a to-do list. Its rigors, whether consciously chosen or memetically engendered, are assigned from our first breath of life.
Knowing this, when posed with a meaningful and substantive equation to resolve — such as ‘what do I want to do with the rest of my life?’ — my solution is simple. I ask myself “What will I be doing the day after all the ‘problems’ are resolved?” And of course the operative ‘problems’, generally speaking, constiute a whole lot of different things and are usually respective of the circumstances immersing my moment-to-moment reality.
At one time in my life, for about ten years, the ‘problem’ was how to steward our family resources to make sure all the bills got paid, that we had a comfortable home, reliable transportation, nutritious food and suitable clothing while homeschooling four children and being the (hopefully) loving spouse of a disabled person. That decade resounded with a series of life-quaking problems, such as arriving home from work one day to find all four of our children (then ages 9, 7, 5 and 3) ‘missing’ from our home and yard while their dad slept on the couch and, when awakened, had no idea where they were.
It was a revelation for me to come to grips at that moment with the inhibiting constraints of my husband’s disablilty. The ‘problem’ was real and huge. That instant of cognition added a heaping of ‘new tasks’ to my to-do list, some immediate and many long-term.
Thankfully, the children were quickly found playing at a neighbor’s. And I resolved in that moment for everyone’s sake that my husband — whose dysfunction is predominantly cognitive — must never be left alone with reponsibility for our children ever again. Thus, until we divorced some years later (by that time our eldest was 18 and our youngest was 12) I was effectively a single-parent ‘head of household’ for a family of six. And trust me, there were many problems.
But always there was this vision of what life would be like ‘after’ all the problems were resolved, and a yearning for some sort of blissful meadow of contentment to prevail in my life and, to whatever degree it is in my power to affect it, in the lives of all others… all of which comes with its own set of problems. Such as, for example, the crossroads I am camped at now: Taking stock. Inventorying my ‘to do’ list. Assessing what is (and what is not) truly important to me… Asking myself, somewhat obsessively, ‘what do I want to do with my time now that I am more free than I have ever been as an adult to make the choice…???
And the truth of the matter is that I just don’t know yet…
What I do know is that I don’t want the rest of my life to be a recurring processional of things I have already done, which brings me back to the legislative hearings I did not attend. For better or worse I have been doing my bit as a ‘good citizen’ to uphold my civic duties for over forty years. And, respectfully, over the passage of time I have done this with increasing vigor. But now I have arrived at a break-point and before I take another step forward I need to assimilate, digest and ponder which direction I really want to go…
Which is exactly what I am doing and, as with the choice I made this morning, this path of ‘not’ doing is feeling pretty good…. except for the part of me that still feels a duty to share what I’ve learned about all of this stuff over the course of the last 62 years, in the hopes of making life better, easier, simpler and more satisfying for everyone, every day. So I’ll have to see what I can do about that… (((hugs)))