December 17, 2009
A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell. - George Bernard Shaw
I know, it seems counterintuitive. But when you are used to responding to life, to the everyday crises, to the demands from bosses, clients, traffic, kids, whatever, the sudden void of an enforced perpetual holiday is quite amazing. Not only do you have to motivate yourself to move every day, you also have to find a reason for getting up in the morning, for doing the basic things like showering, eating, speaking to others.
It's all okay for a while, but when you find yourself longing for a pussycat to mew for food, you just know hell has intruded into your life.
We all want meaning in our lives. We want to think that what we do matters, that we have a reason for being here. But when you are suddenly disabled, what is your reason? What are you doing, save using up resources? Oh, I know the voices that will rumble in from the edges - "of course you are important - your kids need you!" or "Of course you have value, you have so much you have already done - you can just relax now..."
I imagine this is why the retired are so busy - to quell that little voice within themselves that they don't really matter anymore, that they could be spit off the globe like a watermelon seed and although people would grieve, the world would not be perceptibly worse for their absence. This is, I think, what Shaw was referring to in the quote above...
In the quiet of a less busy world, you have to face yourself more in the mirror. Instead of a flight by on the way to activity, you have time to look deep deep into your eyes and see the balance of your life - the good, the bad, the places where you have missed the chance to act, the places where you've acted where you shouldn't have, the people you've helped, the people you've hurt. It's not always comfortable. It can be hellish...it can freeze you into immobility, or propel you into frantic distractions.
And then you realize that you still have many many years left on the planet, and you need to make them worthy of the gifts you've received.
Just surviving is not enough.
At least, not for me.