Having grown up in 1960’s Alabama, it seemed everyday I witnessed the distance between people; the void between have’s and have not’s and between races. I was blessed to grow up poor in a family that believed all people should be treated with kindness and respect. Trials and difficulty is a great equalizer of people.
By sixteen I had long hair and the south generally did not like “my kind”. I learned first hand what it is like to be refused service in a restaurant and repeatedly heard “is it a boy or girl?”. While tame compared to what many went thought, it was one of the early great lessons of my life. At eighteen I left the deep south to finish my growing up in Colorado with a vow never again make my “down there” and I haven’t (yet, anyway).
Leaving Alabama and Mississippi (where I graduated high school) behind was the first major permanent detour in the life planned as a teenager. I left behind the dream of a scholarship and advanced education at the University of Alabama and of even finishing a college degree. I left behind the first true love of my life, the first girl/woman I cried over. And ever since life has been ever leading me where it does; not necessarily in the direction I imagine.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us” (credited to both E.M. Forster and Joseph Campbell) sums up what living has shown me over and over: have a general idea of where I’d like life to take me, but be flexible knowing most of it will turn out differently than I imagine. Aging has helped me become more readily adaptable. Now in middle age and having swallowed scores of “never’s” from my teens, gads of “not me’s” from my 20s and baskets of “won’t happen’s” from my 30’s, my view of life is pliable and malleable, and becoming more so.
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could. From “The Painted Drum” LP by Louise Erdrich
There have been times I could not see forward. All ahead looked black and bleak. There was little imagination for the future. I’ve lost people I couldn’t for a time live without, but learned to anyway. Professionally I have been blessed with more success than I would have ever dared imagine when younger, but my work has broken my heart far more than romance ever did.
These days there is more hope within me than I previously have ever known. The storm of youth has subsided and I am enjoying the beauty of the late fall of life. The cold of winter is a page or two back on my life calendar, but I am hopeful to live it well. Within love penetrates me as never before with a depth of joy I could not have appreciated when I was younger. I am grateful for the steadfast belief that the best of my life is ahead and that the greatest period of personal development lies there. My instinct tells me not to worry; those good things will be mine, but only time will tell.
How terribly sad it is
that people are made in such a way
that they get used to something
as extraordinary as living.