18 December 2014

One Life

And so it's over
or it's begun

I am 60 years old.

Someone is dying to ask me "How's it feel to be 60?" but if I'm lucky they'll call while I'm in the shower or stop by when I'm away from home.

Eleven hours into the experience I am no less bewildered to find myself here. Words fail. I'm sorta stunned.

"Why stunned?" you might ask (a much more interesting question in my opinion). Like I said, words fail, so bear with me as I explore the question. I'm feeling my way, teasing strands of meaning from a foggy-night-cobweb sector of my mind.

Tonight I confront a mostly unchallenged assumption that has hummed along in the background of my life for....wow, I think maybe "forever" is the word I'm looking for. I have assumed that by age 60 (or thereabouts) some "main thing" that I was born to do would be completed or well on its way to completion. 

The "plan" seems to have been to live as fully as possible, saying "yes" and "yes" some more to ideas and experiences, leaning always toward Truth and Freedom and, somewhere along the way I would stumble upon (and recognize) the "main thing" and be irresistibly drawn to commit my talents and attention to it.

Sometimes complimenting and sometimes subverting this plan was the idea that 


and the main thing of my life was to live it.

I crossed a line when I turned 50. A niggling little equation I'd considered since around age 12 was:  if I live as long again as I have  already lived, how old will I be? I did the calculation, now and then, for years. It was an intellectual tic. I was amused and excited to imagine being 24 when I was 12 years old!

At 50, for the first time, when I made the computation, the result was large enough to trigger a footnote:  Two times 50 is 100. I might be dead. My grandmother, and both her sisters, lived past 100 years. The number gave me pause. It was a sobering moment; and I moved on.

There's no way to think about reaching 60 and not appreciate that my life is more than half over.       Do the math...      I am closer to The End than The Beginning. The main thing remains elusive and the show is almost over.   

Has making my life's work Living been enough? Have I gotten it done in my life (and what is the "it" I speak of it)?

I have collected and celebrated true stories that illustrate the hopeful adage "it's not over till it's over"  at least since 1982 when 89-year-old Helen Hooven Santmyer's novel "...And Ladies of the Club" became a best seller (she submitted it for publication at age 81). 

It's never too late -- how many times have I offered that counsel? Good heavens! I believe I've used it in my ads for piano lessons!

I believe it. But I am living it now. I am 60 years on this Earth.  

I was thinking the other night about "regret." What do I regret?

If I think of "regret" as a desire to go back and change something about my experience, I have no regrets. There's no way to go back.

If I think of regret as pain, whether mild or acute, that arises when I remember a time or a place or a person, "Yes" I have regret. I remember an almost-finished musical I composed but was never paid for...and I job I lost when a supervisor accused me of taking money from the petty cash box. Still hurts when those memories come round. But there are no do-overs for most life events. And reincarnation...well, maybe.


 And I am not dead.

I have exactly THIS LIFE in which to do everything. What do I want to do? Is wanting even required? Can living be enough?