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

What’s it all about Alfie?

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I never paid much attention to the lyrics of this song past the second line, but find myself on not infrequent occasions muttering or humming the tune’s first lines. If you need a refresher…here’s how it starts:

What’s it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give…

There are those among us who have a difficult time giving ourselves permission to become completely absorbed in the day to day trivialities of life. You know who you are. You’re the ones who when you leave work, joining the throngs of people in mass exit heading home towards parking lots or public transit, wonder if it isn’t reminiscent of the ants we marvel at in summer, all marching along in concert to support the colony.

You are the ones who have conversations with yourself, while trying to convince a colleague, group or client of the value of a particular course of action and the long and short term beneficial consequences.

You are the one who, while walking down the street curiously observing your fellow man, queries yourself if you are indeed the only one thinking about, “what its all about,”– for you are sure everyone seems quite absorbed in the task of getting somewhere, going somewhere, doing something, none of which  include being perplexed about their state of being.

Do you sometimes think, in 50 years most of the people I’m looking at will not be on this planet and wonder if this thought has occurred to them? I do, with more regularity than I’d like to admit, and in those moments, this e e cummings’ quote comes to mind:

little man
(in a hurry
full of an
important worry)
halt stop forget relax

wait

How apropos is it then, that as I write, this ad appears in my inbox, imploring me to get the “big picture” into my life. I chuckle. For some the “big picture” refers to a  large screen TV, nothing more, nothing less.

big picture2So today, I leave you with this: try a little Socratic scrutiny in your life. What’s your deal?  How do you see “the big picture?”  If it is true that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and I do believe that is the case, then consider  periodically pressing your personal pause button.  Purvey the landscape of your life, the people in it that you value, the values that you espouse and consider whether they are all in sync.

If after reading this you happen to pass me on the street, no need to say hello, just nod. I’ll get it. Despite all the warnings my kids give me about not making eye contact with strangers, I’m likely to return the nod with a deeply satisfying, but polite and appropriately reserved smile.    So, go ahead, make my day.