Monday, July 20, 2009

Time Is Flying--So Are We Having Fun Yet?

This morning I took my Toyota Corolla to a mechanic. “It’s overheating,” I told him.Well, a few hours later I received the sad, though not completely surprising news, that at 295,000 miles my 17-year-old car is ready to be retired and putter comfortably around town – but no further. I was hoping to eke a few more months out of it until I can replace it but I’ll deal with it.

We’re all dealing with tough situations of one kind of another. And I feel comforted that getting older, I’m smarter than I was when I was younger. Smarter and tougher. I’ve made it through some tough times and learned some things, like how much of a pound bag of Peanut M&Ms I can eat before getting sick of them, or how much sleep I can get without feeling even more exhausted. And though I haven’t learned exactly how long it takes to get over heartbreak or discouragement, I know time is a healer, or at least a “numb-er.” I can look at painful situations from my younger years and shrug; I know they happened but it seems more like a book I read than something that I lived. And yet I can still take comfort that I lived it and learned and gained strength from those experiences.

I turned 50 a few months ago and I’m still trying to figure my life out, without becoming too utterly self-absorbed, so I hope you’ll forgive this attempt to pull some ideas together. Last semester one of my students, a young mother who was coming back to school, said she was 30 but still felt 19. I think I still feel 25 or so. If I had to choose, that was a good time. I was in school, active in my BYU branch, busy with school and dating, enjoying my roommates.

It just strikes me as strange that the 25 years since then seems to have completely evaporated, particularly the last 15 or so. Suddenly my car is old. My food storage is all out of date. The new nonfiction books I bought meaning to read and get informed are suddenly old and no longer relevant. Boxes of stuff that I meant to sort and toss are now mildewing, so I can skip the sort part completely. Articles I kept because they were interesting are now pathetically out-of-date. Where did those years go? I feel baffled, like when I was trying to find the $100 I decided to tuck away in a book so I’d have it when I needed it. Why did I think I would remember what book I put it in when I have 10-plus shelves of books, not counting the books I’ve since put in storage just to have space to move through my house. That’s like the time I decided to use the name of one of my cats as a password thinking I’d remember it because he was such a great cat and it was a great name. Well, all 12 of them are great cats and have, I think, great names. I finally had to give up and create a new password–my rule, no more cats’ names.

And my sweet my cats are all getting “up there,” meaning in years not in proximity to heaven although that too. I love older cats. Kittens are cute but older cats have “presence,” maturity, that wisdom and personality that come with age. I’ve heard of cats living to the ripe old age of 35 (Cat Fancy magazine reported the oldest living ones). Personally I’ve only known of cats getting to age 20, which means only four or five more years with my old guys, which makes me sad because they’ve been a part of my life for those “lost” 15 years that seem to have disappeared. But as with all lost things, it doesn’t do any good to mourn them for an overly long period of time. Some mourning is understandable but after a while it’s served its purpose.

I think I’m making my way through the grief/denial stages of those lost years, trying to look ahead and make plans for the future. I tell myself my goal is to make the next 25-50 years as interesting as the last, although I don’t know quite how – yet. But we live in an age where if we don’t have great role models nearby – and I do – the Internet and the news occasionally points out people who are busy with the business of living. Reading about Frank McCourt’s death reminds me that he wrote his first book – or at least published it – in his 60s. The book Defying Gravity describes a 70-year-old flight attendant; she was able to achieve her dream job when the airlines relaxed their rules for age. Some of you are familiar with Lucille Johnson, who came late to her career in counseling but was able to help many, many people and then her new career led to many public speaking engagements.

For the last few years I’ve thought about returning to school for a Ph.D. or changing careers, but so far nothing has really jumped out at me. So I’m still looking. In the meantime, I just take each day and do what there is to be done – or at least put it on my list. I have faith in the future.

1 comment:

Cheri J. Crane said...

Wonderful post, Val. I'm still trying to decide what I'm going to be when I grow up. ;) At one time I was planning on becoming an RN. Funny how life rarely turns out the way we envision. =)But as my kids say, "It's all good." And while I wouldn't want to relive some events in my life, I'm grateful for what I've learned as a result.