There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. ~Buddha
I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for years. I am certain there are many who never thought I would. I was one of them.
The thing is, I never wanted to find out that I couldn’t do it, so instead, I thought about it while I wrote stunning essays in my mind – ones that never came out exactly that way on paper. The real ones are infinitely harder to craft.
The blog you never write, the person you never marry, the career you never pursue, all end up as perfect as they are untried. This, wrestling with real life, is messy.
The writing I never get to will always be successful. What I can imagine has so many more perfect possibilities than really doing it. It…I…dwell in possibility to borrow an oxymoronic phrase from Emily Dickinson, if I continue to nurture my pretend blog. In my imagination, that blog will be seamless to write and something that people will clamor to read.
“If your fidelity to perfectionism is too high,” said the late cultural critic and novelist David Foster Wallace, “You never do anything.”
And it wasn’t that I cared too little. I cared too much. And most of it, I admit, was caring too much about what others thought. I didn’t want to commit offense by writing the wrong thing, stepping on anyone’s toes or boring anyone. Mostly, I didn’t want to open myself to criticism. I amuse myself now with that bad advice, as I note that therein lies a recipe for not vibrant, not thought-provoking writing: Stay comfortable. Don’t offend. Write the expected.
But here I am, starting. Because at my stage of life there’s something else tugging, that goes beyond whether I fail miserably or if people like me. It’s hard to explain and I’d like it to be a continuing topic of discussion: What happens in life that drives us to take action when we did not do it earlier? What do we want and what are we waiting for? Part of what moves me brings me to the name of this blog: It’s About Time.
It’s About Time that we just get to it already, that the voice of desire becomes louder than the voice of fear. It’s About Time for those of us in midlife, because we know we’ve lived as much or more of life than we have left. It’s a far different experience than when we were young and the future seemed endless.
When I was young, there was a line of demarcation between adults and kids. Now that line undulates, it’s smeary and inexact. Even in the second half of life, I don’t know nearly all I’d like to know, and, too often, still feel like a kid.
Here, I’ll write about life and change, and my hope is that you’ll write back. I’ll invite guest bloggers, too, and interview people with good ideas and interesting stories. This blog will be nothing if not an improvisation.
Partly, I’m interested in my demographic, midlife, though. It’s particularly interesting to me as a time when people are driven less by the mandates of the ego and more by the mysteries of others and the self. It’s also a time when those so inclined finally figure out who they are, move their lives more in sync with that, do the things that remain undone for them, make peace with that which didn’t turn out as planned – or try again, uncover buried parts of themselves and discover new ones, face old dybbuks, find greater humility, simplify, edit, open themselves to a greater array of others, and please themselves more.
During these years, our kids leave home, we divorce, we stay married – comfortably or not, we struggle with body revolt and illness, aging or dying parents, sick friends or spouses or ones no longer here, ageism, starting over. I often wonder what happens for those who aren’t inclined to take another look. Does that make midlife easier or harder? And what does it portend for old age?
At our stages of life, the future is a foreshortened view to the one we had when we were young and it seemed infinite. It was not about time then because we thought we had all the time in the world. Now it is, and it creates a greater pressure to do the things undone, to correct, repair, see ourselves and the world with fresh eyes.
It’s About Time, too, because with hand smacked on head, we find ourselves saying the phrase often when we finally do things that we feel we should have done a long time ago. For some that might be as simple as letting yourself sing when you’ve had a yen for 30 years, or finally saying no to someone to whom you keep saying yes when you don’t mean it. Or it could be about becoming a pastry chef when you happen to have spent 40 years being a lawyer.
David Brooks, writing for the New York Times, commented on words in 2014 from the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made.”
Brooks interpreted this to mean that “we are, to varying degrees, foolish, weak and often just plain inexplicable – and always will be.” And, he added, “ramshackle and messy.” I love that because it’s true of all of us. And, if we choose, it can be a foundation from which we build.
In It’s About Time, I’d like to tackle the topics that we face from that zigzagged, imperfect, not always certain perspective. No matter how it looks, it’s not always easy for anyone. And then sometimes, it’s darned great. Here, I’d like to connect around the timber we share – crooked, stunning, serious, funny and the rest.
I offer the following, because I thought you might ask:
noun: dybbuk; plural noun: dybbuks; plural noun: dybbukim
(in Jewish folklore) a malevolent wandering spirit that enters and possesses the body of a living person until exorcized.
(Write to me if you already knew it.)