A Good Life
The elements of a good life. Very personal. To reflect, to assess our life, a life lived well has got to be an individual view to merit the time worth the look. What we think of what we’ve done is all that really matters.
Easier to look around at other people. The panoply of lives displayed before us gone very public because of skill or notoriety for us to ooh, ah, nod, and approve the choices made. Or head shaking NO!! find abhorrent that lad or lassie’s tilt, tinged with insanity or bravado or something we know wrong. What’s the standard, what’s the measure, or is there such a thing. The basic stuff of theatre, of parable, of song. But of ourselves, back to ourselves privately……..
For me, in my life, cataclysma is not long absent. More like the turbulent stream got diverted on a brief tranquil stretch; then round the bend and upheaval encore. Now a recent jarring has set me to evaluating how I have chosen to live. And to look at the benefits and downfalls of my directions, not for a final steely conclusion but to open a train of thought I may revisit and sharpen.
I am, most of all, left to wonder what measuring stick one takes in hand to hold up against such a galactic review.
I had an older brother whose pathway was chosen young, by him and by competitive family pressures. On the other hand, absolutely nothing was expected of me. Not even a good job, good marriage, prosperity, education, or competence. I was a kind of throwaway. It produces a life-long sad longing that nags somewhere along the back between the shoulder blades, up a bit from middle, now lower, yes there that’s it. It also produces, I discovered at long last, a kind of freedom in that whatever choices I made were not likely to bother, irritate, or delight anyone of any immediate importance or with the power to stop me in my tracks. So off I went willy nilly and topsy turvy. And I’ve been at that a long long time.
I have several very early memories, my infancy recalled with clarity even now. One was, I know, prior to attaining one year of life, and I was being driven through the Bronx Botanical Gardens in a little stroller of plaid cloth. I was very close to the ground and upright. The peat and humus of the greenhouse was intoxicating. The warm air of the glass building in contrast with the crisp cold outside. The colors, the weight of the air. The sound of my stroller wheels on the gravel paths. I believe somewhere in me I was struck with knowing that this was all that was necessary for life to be perfect whatever perfect was.
Another crystallized memory when I am perhaps three years old….I am alone and sitting (legs straight out) in a flowered frock and white socks and Mary Janes, on the floor of my upstairs totally unremarkable plain bedroom on the dark wooden floor and there is a window in front of me and light is coming in and I look up. I have in my hands and around me little square wooden blocks with the letters of the alphabet carved on one side and on the other notched parallel lines by which the blocks may be joined for building purposes.
I look ahead, and sort of out of the blue I have the thought that absolutely anything is possible.
Both these early experiences entered me in a kind of weighty truth. It was not with epiphany, shock, hallucination, laughter, tears. I was alone or had no impulse to share the thought with anyone. It was not instruction. It simply was; irrefutable and profound and I knew it.
In the long and current process of growing up I have lost and regained those important minutes a thousand times. And now they come back to me again in this search to understand how to quantify a great span as good or bad. This will have further to go with me, and I hope you think about it too. But at the moment the conclusion I have is this.
If, at the end of a given number of years, we ruffle the record’s pages and inhale the aroma given off and let go into a purely sensory assessment, and judge by this:
Have the years since birth been more than you ever expected for yourself. Has your life been more wonderful and terrible, more horrifying and gratifying, more challenging and thrilling than you ever dared to dream those many years before you even knew how to find your shoes or blow your nose much less see the road with your name writ on it. Has it been more.
Well then. Bravo to that. Mine has by leaps and bounds. I hope yours, too. And if not? Get busy. There’s always time, right to the final breath. I’m sure of that.
A surety which I chalk up to wisdom gained by for sure having done something brilliant once or twice on the long and winding road.