Surveying the past and future

“I went home and sulked on the couch for a week, surveying my lengthening past and shortening future.”  Helen Garner Author of The Spare Room and other books and short stories   (pulled from a post on Facebook from Coastal Women’s Counselling)

As I read a piece by Helen this morning this line jumped out at me. It made me stop and sit down to think. There comes a time in each of our lives when we realize that our future is shorter than our past. We know that our time on this lovely planet is short. Not that we are expecting death or that we don’t have another 20 or 30 years to explore but that time is short compared to the 65 or 70 years that are behind us. It can be a startling realization.

As Mary Oliver has said:

“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

Well, there was that first 60 some years where I was a child, a student, a teacher, a mother, a wife. I was, during those years, the person who followed all the rule, did always what others asked of me and was very good with the please and thank you. I worked hard to fit in. I worried that I was no doing the right thing always. I was a good girl, and a dutiful woman.

Now – maybe I can let go of some of that. Just maybe in these next years I can let go and explore a new way of being. Not that please and thank you are not important – they are but I am wondering about the fitting in part, the always following the “rules” society as set up for us.

How many time have I not curled up with a good fiction book during the day because the “day time hours are meant to be productive” – one would not want to be found sitting and reading during the day, especially fiction. (I always wondered who thought reading of any kind not productive. But here I am in my late 60’s still working to give myself permission to read fiction in the middle of the day.)

Or when sitting in a restaurant  I say “thank you the meal was great and smile” even though the meal was not what I ordered and it was awful.

Or I let the guy push ahead of me in line – “he must have some place important to be” even though I also was on my way to work or a meeting which was also important.

So here I sit on a cold, dark January night wondering what does life look like after mid 60’s. What can I give myself permission to do, to enjoy to let go off?

What is it I want to plan for the rest of this wild and precious life?

In honesty it isn’t a bunch of big things – it isn’t traveling to far off corners, or buying fancy clothes or eating at fancy places or wearing cool hats. (Although I like the idea of a fun hat.) Really what I think I want is to give myself permission to just slow down and enjoy the little things.

Things like:

  • really look at the snow covered maple trees and how their branches reach to the sky with cherry red buds on them even on a cold winters day
  • move slowly and see what is around me – instead of charging down the street in a hurry running into people
  • listen to the sounds around me – tonight it is the sound of winter wind and shovels scraping against the frozen cement, or the spin of tires as the neighbors car climbs the snow cover driveway to her house
  • say what I am thinking – Like saying no when I really can’t or don’t want to do something. I have always said yes and made things work. Maybe now is the time to use that two letter word – It is time to say  “no – thanks not this time”
  • Be joyful – I have been a worrier all my life. I guess I use to think it would help. If I just thought about it long enough, worried over it (what ever it was) I would find the way to help and solve the problem. It is hard to be joyful when always stressing over little things. Time to let go!

The thinking for me is If Not Now – When?!! When will I step into the one wild and precious life?

I think it is time! How about you?

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in Reflection. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Surveying the past and future

  1. arjeha says:

    I think that the nice thing about being older is that we can give ourselves permission to do what we want when we want and not worry about what others think. It is freeing. Good luck on thing that leap.

  2. Terje says:

    You can be who you are and do what brings you joy.

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