During my adult working years I was rather busy. I was raising two daughters, caring for my mom when her mental illness flared, teaching thousands of students and maintaining my home along with a loving relationship with my husband. I would arise in the dark to prepare to go to my job and sometimes not arrive back home until the sun had gone down once again. I’d spend time with my family and then grade papers and work on lesson plans after the children were in bed. I enjoyed the usual parental delights of dance recitals, choir performances, swim lessons, church functions, sleepovers, birthday parties and all of those other wonderful things that we take for granted at the time.
Once my daughters went off to college and then on personal journeys to build their own lives, I accepted more and more responsibilities at work and decided to pursue a graduate degree. All the while my husband was going up in the ranks at his own job as well and we would both arrive home later and later. We were more tired than we thought we were, but we cheered ourselves in knowing that we had invested our earnings in launching our girls into adulthood with college degrees and no debts to pay. It was a worthy cause that made us happy even as we had to pull on every physical reserve in our bodies to keep the work cycle going at full force.
Our calendars were always so crowded with things to do, places to go, people to meet that it is a wonder that we did not become confused and miss appointments and gatherings. Back then our minds were sharp and clearer and so we were able to keep going at the rapid pace that our society seems to so admire. Get up early! Go, go, go! Work, work, work! Play a little here and there! Keep up traditions! Climb the ladder of success! Drive, drive, drive across the vast landscape of our big city to get from here to there.
Some might call our adult existence a rat race, but we were happy and energetic and made it all work. We paused each summer to explore the country with our tent, camping in some of the most picturesque spots that the United States has to offer. We hiked to the top of mountains and explored hidden places. Our journeys revitalized us and created memories that are etched in our hearts. We were able to return and begin our routines again.
My husband and I had so many very close friends back then, people with whom we felt comfortable enough to bare our souls. We shared our stories, our joys, our sorrows. We laughed and cried together. Our daughters and their children grew up together and became lifelong friends. It was glorious, but now the numbers of those dear soulmates have dwindled. Far too many have already died. We miss them more than words are able to describe.
I am now retired. I awake when I wish, not when an alarm tells me that I must scurry to start the day. My mornings are quiet and measured. I hear the birds and smile at the sounds of children waiting for the school bus in front of my home. I linger over my morning cup of tea and say my prayers with great thought. I read the morning newspapers and write my blog. I calls friends and members of my family. I teach a dozen students on Tuesdays and Wednesdays but I am never rushed, never pushed to be somewhere doing something every minute of every day. I have time to observe and ponder. My days are mostly lovely.
As each new year comes and goes I have a bit less energy than I once did. I look back now and wonder how I once got by on six hours of sleep each night and went through each day like a firecracker. I’m proud of my legacy as a mom and wife and daughter and friend and teacher but I wonder how much of the world I missed while I was so busy. Now I feel as though scales have been lifted from my eyes. I see so much more clearly, and not because I now wear spectacles. My sight comes from within. I realize that I had been blind to both the glories and the ugliness that has always been around me, simply because I was too busy to notice what was happening beyond the narrow confines of my own little world.
I have learned patience in my silver years. I do not mind waiting anymore. In fact I find the slower times to be refreshing opportunities for taking note of what is challenges not just where I am, but all across the globe. I have broadened my horizons and my views. I have learned to appreciate each tiny moment. I savor all that life sends my way without grand expectations. I am kinder and more understanding. I value what is important knowing that life is uncertain for each of us. I embrace each day, even the ones where nothing new or exciting happens.
There are things that I do not understand, but I have learned not to be too quick to judge. I suppose that I have become more liberal in my thinking, more willing to share my good fortune even with people that I do not know. If I have become quicker about anything, it is to forgive. I dream a great deal these days, but not at night. My hopes come from my thoughts of a time when we stop the bickering and find ways to suspend our preconceived notions and take time to really know one another.
There is still so much to be done but all good things take sacrifice. When I was young I built a good life on a willingness to be my best wherever I was. Somehow I found the inner strength to use all of my talents. I now realize that not everyone has the good fortune in health or opportunity or time or place to live as I did. I have come to believe that the essence of a life well-lived is in sharing each of the gifts that we have been given. In my waning years I hope to work toward making that belief become more real.