There's an old saying to the effect that "Ever since I gave up hope, I feel much better." As with most old sayings, there's a smidgen of truth behind it: if your hopes have been repeatedly dashed, it might well be less painful to shove them back into the background somewhere and concentrate on something else entirely. But the element of surrender still makes me a tad squeamish, even if it's somebody else's surrender:
Thanks to those few of you who read and responded to what I posted yesterday. At the time I hit "publish" it seemed like the right thing to do. This morning at 3:30 a.m., I was experiencing 'blogger's remorse' and saved it back to drafts instead. That way, it's not gone and everyone's kind comments aren't either. If you missed it, permit me to sum up:
I missed the original and therefore didn't respond to it, and I didn't add this to her executive summary either, inasmuch as I'm going to get both tedious and verbose in the next few paragraphs.
The fact is, everybody misses out on some opportunities in life; so long as your time is limited, and most assuredly it is, there's no possible way to cram in every last experience you'd like to have. It's possible to say that no, you have no regrets, or even that you've had a few, but then again, too few to mention, but it's not because you've experienced everything: it's because you've done what you could to live your life to the fullest, and more or less calmly, you accept your fate. (I have always believed that this process is inextricably intertwined with the classic "deathbed confession," though I'm in no position to verify this premise just now.)
It is likewise true that raising a family does get in the way of some sorts of "adventures" one might aspire to have someday; it's tricky to fly off to Gstaad for a ski trip if you've got to arrange for sitters, and most of the moms I know, even if afforded the opportunity, will spend more time checking in with the kids than they'll spend on the actual slopes.
But this merely restates the obvious. What's really scary about this "remorseful" statement is its sheer finality. One might expect this from someone my age I'm fifty-four or beyond, but at thirty-five? The future may seem to be a long way off, but eventually it does arrive, and most of us, I think, are something less than resoundingly accurate in our predictions. I know I am. In fact, once I decided, rather rashly, that waiting around for this mortal coil to shuffle off by itself wasn't worth the bother, and that it would be in my best interests to speed up the process considerably. This decision left me with a punchline ("I called up the Suicide Hotline; they put me on hold"), which was marginally amusing, and an extended stay in the Home for the Bewildered, which definitely wasn't. By some strange coincidence, this happened the year I turned thirty-five.
There are some dreams, yes, I've had to abandon: I'll probably never get completely out of debt, unless someone out of the blue sends me an awful lot of money, and I'm expecting my dance card to remain empty forevermore. (These two functions are slightly interrelated: it costs money to date, more to get married, and a whole lot more to get divorced.) But neither of these, separately or together, is enough to make me want to say "Aw, screw this" and lock myself away for the years I have left. Things are going to happen during those years. I was forty-seven when I took the first of the World Tours; I bought a house when I turned fifty. I refuse to believe that my story ends here, or that her story ends there. Dealing with things on occasion can, and will, suck; but not dealing with them is saying to the Grim Reaper, "Okay, I'm ready." So long as I have any choice in the matter, no way am I giving that scythe-wielding son of a bitch the last word.
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Copyright © 2008 by Charles G. Hill