Looking back…living with option b.

A few years ago in one of my blog posts, I suggested that I had my own personal sword of Damocles, as I did my best to prepare for the passing of my life partner. At the time I identified very much with, and felt for the first time that I truly kgard4understood, the ineffable nuance buried in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.  It has taken literally years for me to look back and give thought to the “wait”– whether things could or should have been done differently, more thoughtfully or better. I waited nearly two years for the moment when I could write about my personal Monday-morning-quarterbacking and first person second-guessing. Today, for not completely inexplicable reasons–that day arrived.  As you might surmise from this lead in, “underestimated” best describes my level of emotional preparedness for the loneliness that lie ahead.  The impression that as one reaches a certain age you necessarily start to come to terms with the probability of loss, is– misguided.  Most startling? How common the really shattering experience of losing a life partner is (50 percent of all partnered couples experience it) is  and at the same time, how utterly unprepared one is, for it . After months of reading Cheryl Sandburg’s #optionb and following her  #optionb facebook group, I’m fairly certain that we humans have done a poor job of reconciling ourselves to that which is an integral and inescapable part of life.

My student years were filled with the study of philosophy. According to Plato, the best form of government was one ruled by the philosopher, the “philosopher king” he termed it–governing a world guided by a love of wisdom, intelligence, reliability and willingness to live a simple life. Were our world ruled by philosopher kings, no doubt in my mind but that we would be more mindful of Mr. Sagan’s blue dot concept, without having voyage into outer space to embrace it. The philosopher king would cross-fertilize with the scientist, confront the inescapable realities that permeate human existence, and perhaps for the first time, devote thoughtful resources to helping mankind identify and develop better loss-coping mechanisms.

Among the few conclusions I’m willing to publicly share are these two…
1) As inhabitants of this universe, who have managed to rule out the comfort provided by the many deities that previous civilizations relied upon, we need to apply our collective societal intelligence to identify and develop better loss-coping mechanisms.

2) On the positive side, there is one truth that I have found reaffirming–modern civilization’s evolution, anchored in the family construct, offers extraordinary relief, albeit palliative, to intercept the pain of loss in a meaningful way.

On this not-so-upbeat note you have now reached the part where you google images for “inspiring quotes” and/or, slightly sensing the vacuum, invite me to dinner. As for the inspiration and strength, well I find that Winston Churchill is always a good place to start.

optimist

Waiting and waiting…. for Godot and the future to unfold.

It’s been six or seven years since I saw Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen  in Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot in London. I don’t quite remember now what I thought of the play at the time (though I did like it). As I skim and review its lines for this post, it occurs to me that much of the double-entendre may have been missed in the viewing, now caught in the reading. For sure, there is one thing that I did not seize upon when I saw the play–the singular concept of waiting. Recent events have me thinking about how much of the present is lost to waiting for some event yet to occur. And, with that thought, I returned to the play script to see if there was a message there missed by me during my first exposure to it.

In the last 24 hours,  during  conversations with a handful of people fairly close to me, the following were being awaited:   word from a college admissions office, commitment from a venture capitalist, a reply a text after a first date, bar exam results, a grant award, a layoff notice and the arrival of a newborn. But what really struck me was how the present was being forfeited to the wait. In the words of Estragon, recoiling before Pozzo,  “That’s to say . . . you understand . . . the dusk . . . the strain . . . waiting . . .” Every person, without exception,  was straining under the pressure of the wait.

Where there was once capacity in “slower moving times” to enjoy the present, knowing the future would unfold in the eventuality, the present seems to have been lost to anticipation, forfeited to the wait. My grandmother used to say: “Everything comes to those who wait.” We were conditioned to think of waiting as something possibly to be valued. But now,  like Estragon and Vladimir,  people are waiting–day after day,  with blind obedience to some messenger from the future, that commands, it will come and they should agonizingly wait for it.

Please don’t think that this perspective comes from some Polly Anna of a writer who herself has nothing looming in the future. Indeed my future holds a ball that will drop, which while not my own, is nevertheless heavy and sad and will affect me deeply. But living in the present, for me means not waiting agonizingly for Godot to come by the tree near where I reside–but to go out and about, living  life.  Perhaps I will bump into my Godot as I bumble along –and by bumble I mean take it by the tail and whirl it as hard and fast as I can.  As for waiting for this or that, I will deal with whatever it is…no sooner than I have to, no later than I am required to.

And, yes there I go ending another sentence with a preposition.