We spend our lives growing into ourselves. When we’re 18 we know the answers to everything, oh yes we do.
In our twenties we think we’ve pulled enough life experience together that we are now far wiser versions of our former adolescent selves, not only innately and abundantly gifted with intellect but *also* now immensely wise. The old folks are still clueless as far as we’re concerned – behind the times.
By our sheer force of will (and piss and vinegar), we bend our lives into the shapes we think they should have.
We marry, if we deem that we have met an appropriate partner, otherwise we are busy with the acquisition of the usual accoutrements to ease us through our passage through this mortal coil (all highly subjective upon where our values lie, but still).
Oh you’ve become so responsible; every move is charted, and downright predictable… yours, others’.
Eventually the kids arrive (assuming the first part was taken care of) and then the flailing begins.
We realize that as much as we thought we knew (and we read ALL the books, dammit, and read Dr. So-And-So-Du-Jour’s Blog) these little beings have minds and personalities of their own and they also come equipped with the will to move the world (or at least their highboy dresser, right up to the window ledge so that they can make their midnight escape to the swing set on a moonlit night when you assume they are asleep).
If you’ve been spiritually bereft, suddenly you will find it all-important to show some sort of organized religious structure to those poor li’l souls, even if it’s one you’ve had to newly root out and only half believe in (sort of).
You want to right all of the parental wrongs done to you (you’ll make new and improved ones), and instil in yours all of the principles and values that seem to be lacking these days in most everyone, especially those know-it-all teenagers.
And you succeed – or you suspect you might have – until they hit their preteens. Then you peer closely into their eyes to see whether there is a body snatcher lurking deep inside their stretching form while your precious little angel has been evicted and sent off to some netherworld.
About five years later there are distinct signs of a return of the prodigal child. You are again addressed directly, and they even deign to spend a few moments chatting over the duration of a meal (as long as it doesn’t overly interfere with either the social calendar or the gaming going on).
Your opinion is still not particularly requested but you will not get the “you’ve grown an extra nose on your forehead” look nearly as much.
By this time you are well into middle age (that demographic being a very wide sweep and spanning multiple decades).
Your girth spreads, your follicles revolt (if yours have not staged a massive exodus and manage to hang on, you most likely will start discovering some frosting action happening, and unlike the intentional kind, this merely makes the already mousy look you’ve been sporting even more convincingly so).
Another decade and you don’t really give a shit about all that anymore. Now you’re more concerned about body parts not mutinying and so you redress all of the possible excesses you may have indulged in previously and adapt what is coined as “a healthier lifestyle”. You might take daily prescription pills. You never really totally feel like shit but you aren’t ever feeling great either.
The partner (if he/she stayed the course) more than likely isn’t the stellar perfect human you imagined you’d married (and you’ve hopefully come to realize that neither are you). Maybe you’ve spent some time and money on the couch to unravel some bugs in your personal program. Maybe you’ve started to become more self-aware.
That jaded feeling you had in your twenties about stuff then has nothing on this sinking apathy. You hope, though, that when you retire – when freedom to finally do what you want arrives – that you will still be in some semblance of health to enjoy it. Or with your partner. Or that either or both of you will still be alive to share it together. Or be together at all, because your trials may have made you both run out of steam by then and decide on an upgrade, or a more analog life.
If you’ve had filters in place up to this point, they’re getting mightily flimsy. Crotchety much? But the truth is you are finally coming around to being who you should have been from the start. Following your heart. Listening to your instincts. The weight of responsibility is finally absent from your day-to-day focus and you can finally achieve the sort of freedom you had only heretofore dreamed of.
Now your kids come home with their kids and you see them. You know where they are in their lives because you’ve been there. If they listen, if they let you give them advice, they might make a few improvements but really – life is constructed in such a way as to save us from ourselves, at least through the tough parts. Ignorance is more often bliss than not in many cases or at least it provides enough denial to pull through with some measure of hope (MERELY on the flimsy basis of hope) when the proverbial shit hits the fan and it’s all they can do to keep from sinking.
By the end, though, you can slough off the weight of the heaviness of life that you’ve carried around for most of it and somehow become enlivened, even though you don’t have nearly the strength, energy or nerve you might have when you were young.
Now you just have the knowledge of how precious time is, how numbered and sacred our days, and that so much of what we spend most of our lives worrying about just doesn’t really matter. Didn’t then and sure as hell doesn’t now. But you didn’t know any better.
This lesson can’t seem to be rushed though. It’s only when we are close to having it all taken away that we realize the importance of what we’ve got. Don’t wait ’till the end to see how precious it is, and that the greatest commodity you will ever partake of is that of sharing openly with others, soul-to-soul.