From five years ago, if I could have looked through a crack in the door to see my life today, what would I have seen? What would I have felt? What would I have advised or said to my current self?
Five years ago, I planned to retire the following spring and I did. I expected that I had enough money to live comfortably, so I was not concerned about finances. Now, however, I have far more appreciation, even gratitude, for my reality than I expected to experience. Perhaps that’s because I have far greater awareness of my privilege now than I recognized five years ago.
I was ready to stop working for money and was not certain how my time would be filled. I anticipated the pleasure of having lots of free time. A recently retired friend had advised me to say ‘no’ to all volunteer requests for the first year, as a way to insure free time on my calendar. I didn’t heed her advise. Perhaps that was a mistake, but I don’t think so. My experience throughout my life has been that there has never been enough time for everything I want to do. Surprisingly, that remains true. I’ve never understood how someone can be bored.
I had thought that I might want to get a part-time job, something fun, like working in a bookshop, but, there’s no time for that. There is still not enough time to read everything I want to read or go out to lunch with everyone I want to have lunch with. This sounds as if I’m grumbling, but I don’t mean to. I love my life completely and certainly make time for activities and people who are most important to me.
Something that would have seemed impossible and even undesirable to me five years ago has become a sparkling part of my life: a weekly Bible study group. The group includes Protestant ministers, Jewish scholars, and other students of the Bible, all far more knowledgeable than I. They are all accepting of both my extremely basic questions and my Quaker-based interpretations. Recently, they have also been appreciative (I don’t think they’re simply being polite) of my sharing of a new Gospels translation by a Quaker scholar.
During the past five years, my activism has increased far beyond anything I would have predicted. Of course, in hindsight, it completely makes sense, given the time I have available and the absence of work-related arrest concerns. I would not have predicted either my arrest or my willingness to proceed toward a full jury trial. Similarly, I could not have predicted being asked to preach about my activism from the lofty pulpit of a UU church!
Of course, Covid has changed many of my routine activities. Now, instead of live music and theater, there are zoom meetings and speakers. I loved seeing Anita Hill live on zoom last week, but not as much as I enjoyed James and the Giant Peach at a local theater recently. Sure, we were all masked, performers and audience, but the musical, enacted mostly by children as young as four, was pure delight. When the little actors, performing as seagulls, entered the stage wearing their white feathers and watching each other, making sure they were making the right moves, there was no space in any of us for anything except pleasure and delight.
Then, last week, nine neighbors gathered at another neighbor’s home for our bimonthly dinner and Kiva contributions. We were doing this five years ago and I might not have predicted that it would still be continuing. What I certainly could not have predicted is that after multiple Covid-induced postponements, joining each other again was so joyous!
So, I’m supposed to be offering advice from myself five years ago. I don’t need to be advised to fully appreciate and treasure these ordinary moments and occasions and people. The combination of my heart attack four years ago and Covid during the past three years has removed all subtlety from my appreciation.
Every morning, waking up in our comfortable bed with flannel sheets, next to the man I love in our beautiful attic room, covered with a down comforter — I don’t need to be reminded to appreciate that moment, the morning, the day. Then, I get to choose how to spend the day — reading, writing, working on my 1000-piece puzzle, dancing online with Emily or Nancy, many zoom meetings, and watching Netflix. Oh, don’t forget my activist activities, which don’t occur daily, but frequently.
Five years ago, would I have predicted that these would be the activities to fill my day? Would I have approved? Yes, most of them are not a surprise. The biggest surprise, for sure, is that I watch so much Netflix. Interestingly, I subscribed in January of 2019, before I’d heard of Covid, thinking I would use it for a month or two, during the winter. Needless to say, I remain a subscriber. Yes, I feel a little guilty, but not enough to end that relationship!
So, I don’t have much good advice from myself five years ago to myself today, viewed through a crack in the door. Just enjoy each moment, each season, each dear friend, and each event in my life for each day that it continues to bless me. Nothing lasts forever. I understand that now in a way that, five years ago, I did not.
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