Thursday, February 19, 2009

Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

I am a bit of an overachiever. By the time I was 25, I had my bachelors, husband, first child, real job and owned my home. Everything was at least a few years ahead of most people's schedule.

I am not entirely lacking in judgment. I had acceptances to both law and business schools when I graduated from college and began law school when I was 19. Because that's what I was supposed to do. But of course it wasn't. It took one tepid cautionary tale to make me realize two months into the program that it just wasn't my path- or passion.

I don't miss the things I didn't "get" to do, like drinking, drugging or partying hard. Well, maybe a little more dancing, that might have been fun. I must have been the one person who took "just say no" seriously- probably more to do with my parents, particularly my father, than anything else. I see my body as a bit of temple, and while I may not always have respected it, putting substances into it seemed to be beyond the pale.

I have, however, craved rewards. In the back of my mind, I've always thought that if I barreled through something, I would deserve to be rewarded. Let's say that high school was one big trial, and I felt entitled after that. I think many people do, which might explain the first few months of college. As for me, I worked pretty hard for two years- no semesters off, almost always overloading on classes- while being with the wrong guy. Of course.

Free of the guy, then free of law school, I decided that I was going to reward myself. I went on a trip with a good friend to the Bahamas in the middle of January. The most relaxing three days of my life. The last six years had been worth it. Except that I came back to find that my sister had given my room over to a girl from work who was having roommate problems, and then about a week later that development precipitated a blowout with my sister's boyfriend, our other roommate. At least I remembered what relaxation felt like.

As lives go, I've had less to whine about than others. I've had my share of tragedies- my childhood- but I've also had a bunch of lucky breaks that I was able to hop on quickly. I've been stressed out- oh well. There are worse things. I've learned to stop looking for fairy tale respites, because those usually turn out badly. (Mental note: the story about my trip to New York in late August/early September- of 2001.) I've been deeply dissatisfied and disappointed, but I still have my family and I've weathered this downturn better than many others.

In fact, as scheduled, the next few days are supposed to be great. I'll be done with my apprenticeship hours in two days, maybe one. I don't think I'll be charging out immediately, but at least a large amount of time will be freed up. So I can finally return to writing- yay :-). As a bonus, I'm taking a workshop on qigong that I'm looking forward to and that will help all of my classes. Best of all, I'll be celebrating my oldest child's fifteenth birthday, which is as wonderful for me as it is for her.

Great on paper.

I found out on Monday that the child of two of my friends died. I am not too close to these two, and I regret that. However, they generously helped me get a job teaching yoga at the studio right down the street from me, and I am in their debt. And they're just very nice people.

It is only in the last few days that I learned that the child died of the flu. The flu. Not an accident, not an accidental or intentional overdose, but the flu. And I am reminded of the other senseless deaths I have marked with my friends: my friend's younger brother, handsome and a freshly minted lawyer, who died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his sleep in the house that his father had bought for him and his siblings to vacation in; and then the younger sister of my friend who died of an asthma attack despite the fact that her roommates immediately called 911.

All of this falls into the category of senseless because there is no logical progression. You take a risk on something dangerous- pick your poison- and while the odds are good that you'll survive most things (and I'm glad), it's understood you might not. But what is the risk in sleep? Inhalation? Being with your family and friends? It's beyond unfair- it's unfathomable.

All of that isn't what compelled me to stay up writing into my Blackberry on my couch past midnight. I was looking at an old friends old pictures and I saw one with an old classmate of ours. Her tag was RIP. But that couldn't be, because I remembered seeing her in one of my classes five years ago. I remember talking to her and laughing about old times. And there she was, smiling in this picture eighteen years ago. Then I remembered talking to her by the lockers, then later in a friend's bedroom. It couldn't be true, but an internet search confirmed that this person had indeed died over a year ago, outlived by her parents, her child, her siblings and friends. And me.

I'm not one of those people that wishes I could be younger. I had parents like that, and it seemed undignified and immature. Plus adulthood and maturity are so much safer and stabler than my youth. I'm happy to be at this stage in my life. I don't feel mortality upon me. But I just feel so sad and lonely now, even though all of the dead I've mentioned are people I didn't really know. Why? Why so young? Why when they were loved and cared for? Why when they all wanted to do more and should have had the time?

I don't know why this bothers me so much. Perhaps because I have not always been loved and cared for, but here I am. (Where is that again?) Perhaps because there are people whom I love, but I am now reminded that that won't protect them. Perhaps because all of this seems bundled into a question that I want to answer. I don't think I know what the question is, but it's something like: What do we do now, with those people with whom we may only have today, towards those goals we may not have long to accomplish? Should our lives be our goals that we've predetermined, or should it be the journey we let unfold? Maybe what frightens me, what's keeping me up, is that at this point I still have to ask. I don't crave youth, I crave wisdom- I want the answers, and I am tormented by the thought that there are none.

Deb in the City


Odessa said...

"Life is a journey, not a destination." -Emerson
At least that's the theory I'm going with. :)

Flyinlion said...

I like what you wrote and how you wrote it, Deb. Years ago I read a book called "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" by Harold Kushner. I also got to meet and interview the author on video! It addresses the very issue you're talking about here. The gist of its message is that there is a randomness in the Universe and despite the fact that we, as human beings crave order and a reason for everything, the fact of the matter is there simply isn't. When people pray, they generally pray for results, help me with this, protect me from that, whereas what they should be praying for is the inner strength to deal with the bad things that do happen. I don't know if that helps at all. If it interests you, it's never been out of print. I hope you can come to terms with all this somehow, Deb. Take care.

Sue said...

Thanks Deb, you just gave me some much needed perspective on something.