Is life short or long?

I’m thinking about time today.  Or maybe its the time line.  My monkey brain is inclined to think mathematically about where I am in this moment, and draw a business-style graphic of all the key milestones that got me here.  And pepper it with people, of course.  I want to contemplate whether each of those milestones/people/turning point moments were planned and carefully executed, pure serendipity, or some sublime combination of longing for something and then being willing to grab it by its heals and hold on when it happenened by.  I knew the day I met my husband that he was my husband. How it unfolded felt less important; we were in our twenties and it felt like we had forever. He was older though, and always expressed an impatience and a reluctance to dally.  Conversely, my career haphazardly landed in my lap 13 years ago and expanded into my identity entirely unplanned.  My children, an accident and an intention, were exactly what I was supposed to do regardless of the timeline.

I saw a TedTalk by the guy who oversees video analytics at YouTube. That double rainbow video lounged around on YouTube for months and months until some pinnacle thing happened, one thought leader picked it up, and then suddently it was the NEW thing everyone was talking about. How many life plans, ideas, pieces of self are like that… in there sitting quietly on the thought clound until it is time for them to expand out from their starting place into the physical universe? And is there anything you can do to accelerate that incubation period?

I’m starting to expect that with big life changes — you know, the things you absolutely know in your soul need to happen, but they rely on other elements of the universe coming into alignment for them to actually manifest? — well those changes are something you can dawdle about, but you can’t rush.  Healing from grief. That just takes time. You can wallow for a few extra years or months, but you can’t expeditite the order beyond a certain critical time period.  Maturing too. There is NOTHING you can do to make your four year old a five year old, other than being sure you maximize the opportunities to relish all 365 precious days.

A woman I deeply admire for both her patience and the rich way she lives her life and relationships told me a story about her divorce. She came out as gay in rural Alabama, a stepping into the truth of herself that, for a time, cost her the relationship she had with her sixteen year old daughter. For a year, her daughter refused her.  You can’t get that year back. The thought of that makes me ache in organs I can’t even name.  How did she get through that? At the time, her therapist told her to remember that life is long, that things have a way of righting themselves. That story came to me at a good time.  I’ve carried it with me into my saddest moments, the ones where I’m inclined to spin out of control trying to manipulate an uncomfortable situation to force an outcome that isn’t really mine to make happen. 

But also, the truth is, we have precious few days. This stirs impatience in me.

I feel the clock ticking, menopause looming, the reality that I’m never going to be this young again.  I look at the pictures when I was younger and thought I was fat and old, and admire how young and healthy I looked. I remember that girl, how she imagined out loud that some day she’d live in a brownstone and walk home from the store in her flowy skirt with her groceries in her hemp bag. 

Then that girl got busy becoming a mom and wife, building a career, obsessing about fixing up the house, chasing some illusive perfection as if stepping into those roles were somehow what we had intended all along.  Mind you, those things I did accomplish were profoundly worthy things, but in so many ways, I lost touch with my own guiding spirit, the one that knows what the flowy skirt represents.  But I never lost the brownstone fantasy.  Something like that sticks around for 20 years, its something you are really supposed to do, and I know I will. But here’s the rub: I miscalculated. That girl knew she was putting a bookmark in that chapter, but she didn’t realize that when she got back to it, she’d have to have that experience as a woman in her 50s, not as that girl.  How could I have missed that?

And so it is with dating in my forties. I love that I know who I am, what I don’t want, and am learning not to take rejection personally.  I have an understanding of being at peace with whatever happens that I couldn’t possibly have mastered when I was just a girl.  I’m learning to step away slowly from the drama. But that girl was hot. This woman, well it takes a little more work.  And, dash it all, becoming the person worthy of attracting the right dating constellation, and worth of participating in a healthy manner, well that takes, you guessed it… time.  Time that drips by all too slowly for my taste.

Today, at a work conference, someone admired my ability to sit lotus style on the chair with my laptop on my lap. She said she heard that the way to get good at that posture is to sit on a phone book every day, but each day to remove a single page. What a good, exhausting, irksome metaphor. 

So I’m probably half way now, in the middle, right? Have I appreciated each day — absolutely not!  But I’m certain I will spend a larger proportion of my future days getting better at this.  In tiny paper thin steps.  Like today.  I love today.  Today is not my turn to suffer. Or work hard. Or be in the very necessary dark places we all must enter in order to see our own light. Today, I’m out in the light. Healthy kids, good job, bills caught up, extremely worthy friends. Still a few iterative enhancements I am working towards, but those will manifest in their due time.


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