I read The Age of Miracles by Marianne Williamson last week. I have been "embracing the new midlife" for some time now and I was attracted to these words on the back cover: "Midlife is not a crisis; it's a time of rebirth. It's not a time to accept your death; it's a time to accept your life - and to finally, truly live it...as you and you alone know deep in your heart it was meant to be lived." Only a few weeks before, I had the revelation (at the kitchen sink, really) that my life was as perfect as I'd always wished it would be and I had no excuses left. I am now occupying the 'someday' where all my wishes from yesteryear were sent.
Williamson believes that one of the problems of midlife is the temptation to do the same things we've always done, when what's called for is "to let go of what needs to be let go, to disenthrall ourselves of what used to be, and embrace a radically new kind of life." Disenthrall, I love the sound of that word. It's so much more civilized than "forgeddaboutit", which is the more standard comment issued when someone keeps longing for the past. Or worse, what their past could have been.
I did that once. Some years ago, I was sitting at home with my son, appreciating the young man he had become when I recalled the harried life we once had. I caught sight of all of the years I'd spent running from house to house (I was a realtor) and meeting to meeting (I sat on numerous non-profit boards). "I should have just stayed home and taken care of you, helped you more with school work and things...", I said. He looked at me as though I had said the most absurd thing and eloquently uttered, "Forgeddaboutit." So I did. It has saved me from reams of guilt.
I want to be very careful about the way I view my future too. When I was younger, I saw people who were twenty to thirty years older glittering with health and success. They traveled to exotic places, rode on camels and ate and drank whatever they pleased as they cruised the Mediterranean. Graciously, I've done all that too. As I start to look ahead, I'm wondering where all those beautiful people who came before me, have gone. The more important question, do I want to keep following them?
The beauty of midlife is the gravity of the present. At this point in time, there are more years behind me than years ahead of me, I've done the math. In order to live a balanced life in the present, I believe I need to learn from the past and disenthrall what used to be, while being open to and wanting more from my future. Is that simple physics? In essence, I'll have to learn to compare apples and oranges. While juggling them. Joyfully.
This is the age of miracles. The present is the gift.