Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Aging: Is The Glass Almost Empty Or Half Full?

Just This
When I think of the patience I have had
back in the dark before I remember
or knew it was night until the light came
all at once at the speed it was born to
with all the time in the world to fly through
not concerned about ever arriving
and then the gathering of the first stars
unhurried in their flowering spaces
and far into the story the planets
cooling slowly and the ages of rain
then the seas starting to bear memory
the gaze of the first cell at its waking
how did this haste begin this little time
at any time this reading by lightning
scarcely a word this nothing this heaven.
-- W.S. Merwin

Where did the time go? Why didn’t somebody tell me that this is all there is? All my life, I played with time like a child sifting through sand on the beach. I didn’t waste it as much as I didn’t use it, really use it. I thought there was plenty of time, plenty of days, years, relationships, in order to get it all right, to finally do something with my life, to be somebody.
And even when I tried; mistakes, petty angers and false starts weren’t teaching tools but became false justifications for an untested life slowly sifting away. I had plenty of time to get it all together, didn’t I? But then middle age came and left like a furtive acquaintance, not yet a friend. New careers, new hopes, new small successes but no sense of achievement, still not knowing who I am or why am I here.
Then slowly, the intimations of wisdom came along with my aging, shuffling into my life on little furtive feet of northwestern morning fog, along with their partner, the first intimations of death, finally creating a real and more satisfying denouement to my minor, mortal play. And it was only then, thanks to a new, tentative career of caring for the terminally ill, the actively dying, the true heroes of the hospice movement, I found the teachers who knew what living was all about in the drama of their own dying.
When one can count the number of sand particles in one’s hand and know there are no longer the world’s beaches to squander, reality sets in and wisdom arrives. My patients’ stories, both of lives invested with heart and soul, or lives squandered with “might haves” and “should ofs”, made me realize how potentially beautiful, enriching, and short all of our lives are.
And the most wonderful lesson in their stories was the fact that we all can have a wonderful life, a worthy and fulfilled life, either if we begin to act on this innate wisdom of how to conduct every day as if it were our last early in our youth, or if we can at least realize the transformative possibilities and act on that newfound wisdom in those last moments, hours, days, or years, that we still have left on this good, green earth.


Lasting Legacies said...

Great to read another "pearl of wisdom" from you, Richard. You write like a poet! Loved the Merwin poem as well. Keep 'em coming!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sending the link so we could read this.
I look forward to your next one.

of amber and carol