Friday, May 30, 2014

43 Years Old

I'm not sure if it's a function of being 43 years old, or if it's a function of having brothers and sisters-in-law who are in their 60's, or if it's a function of spending time with our godson* Axel, who is not yet one year old, but I'm finding myself thinking about the spectrum of life these days.

When I was little, I thought things were stagnant.  I thought if things were a certain way one day, they would be that way every day.  My mother and grandmother would always look the same.  My school would always stand right where it was when I attended it... I might change (I tracked my own growth by periodically inspecting my opened-flat hand and noticing it was larger than the last time I'd looked), but my experience with life was too short to see how everything around me was changing too.

My 20's and a certain amount of my 30's were spent frantically trying to keep things still.  I could see the houses and resorts being built all over Carmel Valley where nothing but wilderness and ranches had been when I was little - the most painful example of change for me at the time.  I constantly felt this breathless, tight, desperate drive to gather up everything about which I cared and put it some place where it could not be moved.  I wanted to protect everything from alteration - either by natural deterioration or some other person's idea of "progress" with which I did not agree (tacky people with money - a terrible blight).

I can't say that I've overcome this feeling of desperation yet, although I'm actively working on it.  I now see myself within that ever-changing span of time, and I've come more and more to see my time as limited - sometimes inspirationally, motivationally so, but sometimes limited in a way that leads through hopelessness to eventual quiet acceptance.

We live in a 100+ year old house.  One can say that I own it, but I know enough to know that I truly only steward this house and hope to treat it well enough so that its next residents (perhaps after Cindy and I have ended our days) might rest a little bit - not have so much to repair or restore as I have had.  But, of course, life teaches me that this house's next owners might not care about my handy-work.  They might, in fact, tear the whole thing down and do something else with this postage stamp piece of Brooklyn.

Everything changes.

Lately, I've begun to notice that the crook of my arm, when I bend my elbow, is starting to look like my grandmother's did when I was little.  I'm getting a farmer's tan - not as dark as hers, but similar.  And the skin on my arms is getting just a little more delicate, a tiny bit wrinkled.  I don't care too much about wrinkles.  If anything, they sort of fascinate me - the way time and my frequented expressions make their permanent marks on me.  I'm pretty proud of my laugh lines, come to think of it.  I see them as a sign of a life well lived and something to which everyone should aspire.  But beyond those things, I recognize myself anew by my wrinkles.  I see my grandmother when I was a little girl.

And I occasionally do math problems to orient and place myself in the spectrum of my mother's life.  She had me a couple of months before her 25th birthday.  I was 15 years old when I tee-pee'd her house in Phoenix for her 40th birthday.  I'm 43 now.  If I had lived my mom's life, I'd have an 18 year old daughter.  Etcetera.

It seems cliche to think some of the thoughts I've started thinking.  I'm noticing things about "kids today".  Large groups of college aged people seem to expect privilege, be shockingly wasteful, or to preen and display themselves in a manner that assumes everyone cares.  I'd like to go on a rant about new adults who don't see the value in real work, but that would be self-indulgent and inaccurate; I also see lots of people making innovations with next to nothing - the maker crowd is surging, and boutique businesses teaching people how to use materials to make things (nearly-forgotten arts like woodworking, boat building, sewing, leather tooling, welding, glass blowing, weaving, gardening) are growing in popularity.

So it seems once again that the best course is the middle path.  I must recognize the fact of my own aging, the fact that I and everything else around me changes (either quickly or slowly or both).  And I must remember that things (and people) are rarely all-good or all-bad, and if they are, of course, they won't always be so.  That is the truth of the matter.

That is the truth.

Sage blossoms.

*I only use "godson" as a shorthand term to convey our special relationship to Axel - there's not really a god involved, since I'm a Buddhist and Axel's father, Arsenio in particular is an atheist.  Cindy and Axel's mother, Bernadette, have more of a take-it-as-it-comes approach.

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