This is not a paradox. To the contrary, dying well and living well are correlated as tightly as a magical yin and yang amulet.
As I grew older, I came to see how these seemingly contrary energies were complementary and interconnected. Life evolved into an equation: the closer to dying the more precious every hour of living.
It was a no brainer: why concentrate on the inevitable, over which I had no control, when clearly the focus should be aimed at how I wanted to live!
But it wasn’t so easy! I had a difficult time with abandoning the strongly rooted notion that “my truth” was the truth. Which made it difficult to have loving relationships with family members whose lives were on a vastly different path than the one I was walking. Even as I was aware that the sand was piling up at the bottom of the hourglass, I couldn’t quite grasp that it was possible to love someone dear to you even as you disapproved of their behavior.
I set up strong boundaries to protect myself from the pain of promises that were never kept. They protected me from deluding myself into believing that I had the power to change others, and that putting out the fires repeatedly would eventually encourage reform, when in truth, it enabled the offensive behavior to continue.
But the rigid borders created a sterile detachment with no room for accommodating the love that is super glued at birth and remains no matter how punishing the rebuke.
Finally, I realized there was another option: to take responsibility for myself and to allow others to do the same, misgivings aside.
It has become clear that I do not have another minute to waste on waiting for a remorseful “You are right, Howard.” Love can exist in the center of disagreement. I can choose to sniff the roses rather than the formaldehyde.
What I’m doing now is shifting the focus from progeny to posterity.
And it’s been a ball!
I just saw a video of myself swimming with my eight-year old granddaughter. It was like watching beautiful little Nemo frolicking with a hairy walrus. But it sure was fun and behaving like a kid led to being a granddad taking her to the Art Institute where we made pots out of clay and to the Museum of Contemporary Art where we marveled at the wildly imaginative paintings of Takashi Murakami.
Now my heart is open, enabling me after years of sadness, to embrace my teenaged grandson and granddaughter; to shield them from the stress of a complicated homelife; to provide an old-fashioned love they can rely on as their anchor in the center of the stormy sea.
My heart has opened further, reaching out to the city’s many neglected kids in need of someone who believes in them, has faith in their inherent goodness and willingly shares time and experiences to motivate them to shake their victims’ mentality and to face the future with self-assurance and confidence in their ability.
So yes, there is reason to live and to give massive thanks for the blessings that are mine.
And as for the dying part, yes, I still am a little frightened and perhaps not quite comfortable with being a drop off the crest of an ocean wave shining for a moment in the sun before receding back into the cosmic, infinite sea. But I’m getting closer to the idea of energy that simply changes form and to having the courage when it’s time to go to give my granddaughter a smiling hug of love so she can see death as part of life.
I’m just about ‘complete.’ I’ve made my peace. I’ve made amends. I take responsibility for what was; I accept what is; and I am full tilt boogie for what can be in the days that remain.
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