There are days when the words won’t flow. Today appears to be one of those days. Maybe it’s the meds I’ve been taking that creates this feeling as if I’m standing on a dock in a dense fog rolling off the water. I can hear seagulls off in the distance but there’s no point of origin. That’s me, right now.
One of my high school teachers emailed me this weekend to see how things were going in my life. This woman, who is close to seventy now, and I have remained in touch for the past twenty-two years. She helped shape the person I became and was there through some of the most trying and difficult times of my life. M is a feisty Italian with a zest for life that is infectious. It helped that I am also Italian, although my feistiness didn’t show up until long after I met M.
M ran the volunteer organization of my high school. Project Outreach had over eight hundred student volunteers, doing everything from peer counseling to planning senior (as in elderly) dances in the community. I became one of the ten students in a leadership role, mostlye because of M‘s insistence and nagging. Truth be told, it was one of the most fun and rewarding things I did in high school.
She also helped me navigate adolescent love, figuring out friendships, and increasing my vocabulary (for a few months, each day we alternated coming up with a word of the day. Two of the words from that period: juxtapose and cacophony). M also brought me to see the university I ended up going to for Creative Writing. She was a lot like my mother when I was having a hard time with my own.
I write all this to say that I value what this woman has to say. Like I said, she’s helped shape who I am. It’s been lovely to see how our friendship has progressed from that of adult and child to one of mutual friendship. It’s funny to think that in a few years, I will be the age she was when we met. Age and time works in funny ways.
M still tells me I need to find someone, that I need a man—or woman (love is love)—in my life. She tells me life is better with another person. She’s glad I got divorced. She still cheers on my writing, asking to read anything new I’ve got. I almost told her about this site but then I wouldn’t have been able to write today’s entry; I would have been too self-conscious. I aks about her travels, about her husband, about her daughter (who got married last summer, which elated M).
The relationship is still a bit one-sided. I clearly get more out of the friendship than she does. But, I’m okay with that. I’m slowly learning that not everything has to be equal. We play different parts with different people. I feel lucky that she reaches out to me through email since she knows of my hatred toward Facebook (I do not, nor will I ever have, a Facebook account).
During our recent correspondence, I wrote to her about turning forty this year. I wondered if I was wasting my life working instead of being more adventurous. If I should spend these years travelling while I still have my health and physical impairments are non-existence. She wrote back, “Work your ass off until your 55, saving and investing as much as you can. Then retire and travel your ass off.” Perfect advice and one I had been leaning toward.
However, she did write this about getting older:
Listen, 40 doesn’t loom beautiful, it grabs you by the ass and pulls you into the best years of your life. Just go with the flow and before you know it you’ll be pushing 70 like me and wondering where the hell the years went. And at this point you don’t look back along time but down through it, like water, some things come to the surface and you cry, some things come to the surface and you smile. Either way, life continues its beautiful rhythm and you hang on because age is meaningless, it’s what’s in your heart and mind that keeps you going. Unless of course, you look in a mirror and then all bets are off. If I start to think about my age I can get morose thinking about all that could or should have been, all the mistakes I’ve made and that’s a slippery slope. So, I don’t let the colors of my past leach the life out of me.
Isn’t that lovely? I’ve been blessed with having older women in my life share the hard-won wisdom of their years. When I think about when I was younger and how I thought I had so many things figured out, I laugh. Now that I’m approaching middle-age (or maybe I’m already in it…when the hell does it start?), I realize I know next to nothing. And that I will continue to know nothing, no matter how old I get. This happens in the software/tech world I am in. The more knowledge you gain, the more you realize how little you know.
So, I think I just need to be content with living life as it is. Save and invest as much as I can. Take a trip here and there. Maybe I could retire by 50…