The Road Back Down The Mountain
At the moment, I don’t know where this blog or my life is going.
Retiring The Joy Project frees me to write about whatever I want. And right now, I don’t know what that is. What I do know is my days feel cluttered with to-do lists, leaving me yearning for free time.
At the same moment, our apartment is in complete disarray because we had the painters come last week, and Shelley’s been on a redecorating kick that is driving me bananas. She’s throwing out all her accumulated crap, which is fine, but now she wants me to do the same. “We live with all this clutter!” Tonight she explained that when she walks into a less cluttered or simply decorated home, she feels calmer. She’s become completely galvanized by this, and it’s all quite a blessing, really. But she wants me to get involved with her over decisions about colors, furniture new and old, wall decals, pillows, mirrors, rugs, and closets. Not exactly my thing, I tell her.
But she’s observed something about the two of us: “I like change and you don’t!” she said. And she’s right.
And while she’s decluttering our home, I notice that my mind is also cluttered, and that’s where I spend most of my time. Also cluttered are my days, weeks and life.
It’s not all bad by any means. I’m still getting out of debt, and building up my savings and investments, and this gives me a definite sense of direction. I’m working like a dog, but I love it because I love my work.
But I keep falling behind with other things I want to accomplish, like to redo my website and fix up my office at home, which looks like it just dropped in from Joplin, Missouri. Summer’s here and I thought by now I’d have entered more of a relaxed mode, but there’s always so much more to do!
“When you die,” says that book Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, “ Your in-box will still be full.”
I practically missed April-May-June, my favorite months. The year’s half over (do you believe it?). Another two months, and it will start cooling off again. Time slides, and it’s falling like an avalanche down the mountain and taking me with it.
Here in New York City, where workaholism is displayed like a badge of honor, everyone expects that we’ll all keep this (ever accelerating) pace up until we drop, and I for one am starting to resent the expectation.
But this is interesting: As I age, I’ve become in some respects more capable – of synthesizing ideas and experiences and relating them for the benefit of others; of appreciating paradox; of penetrating deeper into the nature of things, and allowing them to penetrate deeper into me. I embrace wider and wider tastes — from a rave to Astaire. I’m proud to competently perform more in a day today than I could or would at 25 or 35 or 45. I’m happy I can keep all the plates in the air, but it’s exhausting.
Plates in the air? If you ask, you’re not a boomer. Everyone I know over 50 has this image embedded deeply in their brain: On Ed Sullivan, the plate spinner trying valiantly to not let any of them fall.
This and “Beat The Clock” did more to prep us for what life had in store than we ever could have known.
But at the same time I also yearn to simplify my life. Pair down. I’m suffering from a chronic case of what the Hopis call Koyaanisqatsi – life out of balance.
Susan and Warren, Shelley’s aunt and uncle, were up from Florida and visiting us for the day last Saturday. They’re in their 70s, and they wanted us to show them Brooklyn. We thought we’d be playing tour guide well into the night. But after visiting DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, Warren grew tired and by 3 was ready to pack it in. And herein lies a warning and challenge for Shelley and I, who love to travel: Do we work hard now and save our pennies and wait till she’s retired and we both have the time, or will waiting be something we live to regret? There’s so much of the world we want to see – but the window of physical ability is slowly and inexorably closing.
But there was more to learn from these two: As we were all walking around, I noticed many stoop sales. “I’m getting rid of everything I can,” Warren told me. And this from a man who lives with his wife in a spacious condo overlooking a marina down there in south Fla. “Less is more,” he said. We passed several stoop sales with some items labeled “Free”, indicating that maybe he’s not alone in his sentiments.
Interesting how, as most of the world is still struggling to get up that big rock candy mountain of consumer goods that we live on, there’s a steady and perhaps growing stream of us walking back down, saying in effect to those we pass, “The view is not what you think.” We boomers, at least many of us from the middle and upper- middle classes, were the first to do this in a major way when we were young. They called us hippies, and as we ran down that mountain, those climbing it looked at us flabbergasted.
Some of us gave up our privileged lives and panhandled for “spare change” down in the East Village. Now, like some kind of existential street freak, I feel like asking passersby for some spare time.
So I’m thinking perhaps my younger self knew a thing or two about what really matters. He was also awash in that free time I now crave. Wealthy, I’d say.
Nowadays people pay for my time, but sometimes I end up feeling like I’m the one who’s paying.
So maybe I need to slow down, before I’m slowed down.