Early on the future seemed eternal. Summers held the world in endless, sun drenched glory. Possibilities fell like autumn leaves on a windy day, dancing and beckoning in the brilliant blue sky. Winter came on like a white Christmas coupled with anticipation of the new year to come. We were forever young. Untouchable. Unbreakable.
Along the way we unknowingly passed a milestone. It laid at the side of the path covered in moss and shrouded in vines. Something had changed, not for better or worse, but for the fact that life can be no other way. The time had come to leave the world of endless summers behind, whether reluctantly, or otherwise.
With each milestone passed, the world has changed little, yet looks very different as we ramble on. The paths we walk began from an infinite number of starting points and scatter hither and yon on the wind of randomness. Free will plays its part, but is no match for the unseen forces that command the unexpected taking of one path over another.
With many mile markers behind us we may now find the same autumn leaves to be the clear and present harbinger of coming winter. Each year has it’s four seasons and they are not shy about the play they are acting in honor of the cycle of life. As we journey from year to year that cycle becomes ever clearer in our own reflections.
Milestones passed mean we leave some things behind, and if we are lucky, take new treasures with us. Though some would beg to differ, there is no more true beauty in youth than in old age; for not all that is beautiful manifests in a looking glass. In passing the stones, walking the road, we make trades of old thoughts that no longer serve us for new ones we can carry as a guiding light. A light that becomes ever more comforting as true winter approaches. We have no choice but to continue the journey. Knowing the way is not an option. Knowing ourselves is.
Being single at 50 something on the dating scene is like jumping off the high dive aiming for a glass of water.
Divorce is fun…for masochists. It’s that moment when you realize everything you promised will end up broken. You may be an angry narcissist, in denial of course, or you may just be angry…no judgment. You may be a giver; give, give, give never take. You may be afraid of conflict. You may be a bully. You may be a nice, well-balanced person who made a bad choice in the partnership department. Whatever your position on the spectrum of coping mechanisms, behavior patterns or denial, divorce is the shits.
Will it be hard to start over? Maybe. Are there fish in the sea? Plenty. Will any of them appeal to you? Absolutely! Will those who do appeal to you be age appropriate? Highly unlikely! Online dating: Men with their bare-chested, or fish holding pix, rock on you silly geese! Women with their rudimentary photoshop skills shouting out “look at me” from the polished profile pic saying, “no really…I’m young” looking for a second chance. How could that pool have gotten so small?
It’s not easy to find what you had looked for so many years ago. You may have kids now. If you don’t want more kids the pool narrows. You may want dogs or cats in your life, you may not. The pool narrows. You may have voted red state, you may have voted blue. The pool narrows. You may like hiking or kayaking, or wine tasting, cooking classes, running, volunteering or even knitting/gunplay…the pool narrows. The pool narrows until you look between your two big toes and see that the pool has shrunk to the size of a glass of water. Should you jump?
Are you willing to come to grips with why your marriage/relationship ended? It’s easy during a divorce to cast oneself as the hero. I was exceptionally good at it. The facts more likely point to two sides of the story, and I bring this up for a reason. If we don’t at least attempt to understand our contribution to the chaos then we will visit that same ill fate on whatever poor soul awaits us in that tiny glass of water below.
So what positives can we pull; what gems can we glean from the denouement of a primary relationship, and ensuing diminished chance of future relational bliss? What understanding can we assimilate as we stand on the platform poised to dive into the narrow cup of opportunity that awaits us? An insight gained in the sleepless hours before dawn perhaps? Appreciation for the now not so rare moments of silence afforded to one who has no other? Pausing long enough to hear a truth about ourselves whether we want to or not? If we learn anything…it is everything in that moment. A moment of victory!
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”
“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.
“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend. I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life. The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”
I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”
Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life. Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us. This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet. He had supported me every step of the way. He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive. He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.
“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.
He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.
“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured. May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you. May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.” He held his glass and my gaze.
Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up. I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.
“How long?” I asked.
“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random. Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live. I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this? I’m just a doctor.” James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.
“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said. “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”
“Are you coming on to me?” My super thin, false bravado wavering.
“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.” Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.
“Thanks?” I had to laugh. Hiking would be good!
Have thoughts on the subject? Please comment. Life is bigger and better with shared experience!
Oh, millennials, how you see things for what they appear to be…to you! The exact exchange went something like this.
Millennial: “Aren’t you too old to wear a Fireball Whiskey T-shirt? As they say, If you’re old enough to buy Fireball, you’re too old to drink Fireball.”
Good point though in some respects. That cinnamon-laced antifreeze is probably not a good nutritional choice at any age. What struck me as funny was that until that moment ageism had gone missing in my world. I, no longer being concerned with “fitting in” in the same way that most of us were so obsessed with in high school, didn’t register the ‘age issue’ as it related to “the shirt.” Whatever…really, again with the “whatever?” Joking aside, the reality of the conversation ran deeper than cotton. People divide the value of another individual’s input into categories. If you’re too old, or too young, too Red or too Blue, to this ethnic background or too that, male or female, you may not be able to connect with an alternate demographic. To that, I say…maybe.
Seems to me that we as humans have the option to transcend all manner of barriers; be they related to race, socio-economic status, age, gender, etc. The question is, will we? If we are willing to open our minds to the circumstances of others can we not then remain pertinent and more importantly in ‘learning mode’ until the day we clock out? Even if those with whom we attempt to connect are as yet unable to open their minds to our way of thinking? I’d like to think so.
Pre-industrial revolution cultures valued the accumulation of wisdom. Hence the term “wise men…and women.” That wisdom was acquired most commonly by those who had lived long enough, and processed enough life experience to know more than the average sixteen-year-old. Nowadays said sixteen-year-old can web surf their way to information over the course of a summer that would have formerly taken a lifetime to gather. Knowledge is power…but is it wisdom?
Back to the ‘Fireball Whiskey T-shirt.” Yes, I get that the shirt is a marketing tool used by the creators of said elixir, but I really liked the art on the “T” so I bought it. A fire-breathing lion-ish creature in a majestic, upright pose appealed to me at the moment. Art, be it’s simple, or rich in complexity is just that…art. All art is timeless if we, the viewers allow ourselves to join in the concept of timelessness. We don’t have to love it. We can even hate it. Either way, we can choose to allow it. We can choose to coexist with it without feeling threatened.
I started going grey around the time of my fortieth birthday. As a lifetime wannabe rock star that did not sit well. Enter my hair salon phase. As a fortieth birthday self-gifting experiment I saloned up and had my hair dyed. I liked it! So much so that I continued the practice for over a decade. I didn’t want to be judged by my age; not by peers, not by clients, not by me. Of course, I realize that my reaction is unique and that everyone else wants to become and, more importantly, look older…ha! Age is wisdom after all so who doesn’t want to look wise right?
Nowadays I have let nature take its course with my physical being. Long silver hair spills over my shoulders and as a result, I garner an equal dose of both disapproving looks, and comments along the lines of “I love your hair, do you hear that a lot?” I do. But I’ve also heard from colleagues, “Hey, have you ever thought about cutting your hair man” and/or aren’t you too old to be wearing that shirt?” Whatever, part three!
With any luck, you find being yourself fun. I know I do. With the end game in mind, I no longer concern myself with being accessed from afar. I know that within a few minutes of conversation, value can be transmitted, established, and solidified. It’s conversation, honest interaction, that allows a person’s value to be understood. It is connection, human, face to face, that creates the opportunity for transcendence. It’s the combined powers of wisdom and patience that allow any ‘shirt’ to bear no weight in the outcome of one’s ability to bring gifts to the world. Going softly into that dark night… in my opinion is a “no.” “Roar till the end like the lion guy on my T-shirt,” say I.
So I’ll wear that dumb shirt, not cut the hair, give at every opportunity and smile on my way out! Oh millennials, how our conversations will be different a decade or two from now; when life has had it’s way with you. And so, with a grin, I raise a shot of fireball to you all while wishing you the absolute best of times!
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