The other day Nora Ephron was on NPR, touting her new book I Remember Nothing. The host asked her what her advice was for people who were aging, since her book was about the aging process.
She replied ( I am paraphrasing wildly here) that you should do what you want now. Don’t put things off, or keep overly busy with things you don’t really like to do. She used a friend dying of throat cancer as an example. This woman could not eat anymore and she regretted not eating enough hot dogs in her life.
Now I don’t want to eat more hot dogs and I don’t have terminal cancer and by all life expectancy charts I’ve got a ways to go. But there was some truly practical wisdom in what she has to say. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about practical wisdom, way too late into life. So that I’m melting in that direction is certainly a sign of my aging. So I gave the flip-file of my mind a whirl and began looking for those things I’ve been putting off. What do I want of the rest of my life?
More work? More friends? More fun? More sex? More books? More plants?
More time;more sleep, more food; more...?
More. More. More. I was beginning to sound like Ronald Reagan.
Do I really want more out of my life? Do I really want to squeeze harder and see if I can get one more drop or two out of this stone?
I know Mies van der Rohe’s words “Less is more” have been quoted to death. Do I really want to do some conversion mathematics with my life and get more out of less? We’re back to that squeezing again. I’ll save that for yoga class and orange juice.
Since I was driving when Ms. Ephron prompted this rash of thought about the rest of my life--I never would have expected it of her-- I really didn’t stay very focused. There where intersections to maneuver, cops to slow down for and one wildly erratic dog bouncing in and out of traffic as if it were one of the pack.
Maybe I didn’t want to think about the rest of my life just then. Too loaded.
And then just as the flip-file fingering stopped I realized all I really wanted was to appreciate what I had. Really and truly. And then all the rest would fall into place, I am sure.
But that’s getting harder every day. With my cup running over things are getting awfully messy around here. It’s hard to know what to appreciate or how.
When I was a bartender in Cologne, Germany I had that over the top American sense of service that the Germans don’t know how to appreciate. Its just not in their make up. “Just give me the beer, and cut the friendly chatter.” Once I did that my job got a lot easier and, yes, my tips went up. What was harder to get was the filling of a glass. In Cologne the regional beer Koelsch is served in a thin cylindrical glass that is marked a few millimeters from the top with a small white line and the number 0,2 l. Like a test tube in a laboratory. Most Germans didn’t like when I broke this boundary, which I saw as being generous. “Its too full I’m going to spill it.” Besides the beer was suppose to end at that line and the foam begin. It was an exacting art which I eventually became very good at.
I sure don’t want to draw a line on my the glass of my life, or cup as the case may be. I’m not that exacting, and I actually like a half empty glass once in a while as much as I like the messy overwhelmed feeling of over flowing.
I like picking our last zucchini on November 14th. The garden just won’t quit, which is the kind of overflowing I like. But I also don’t know if I want to head to the other side with a suitcase so full its bursting at the seams. Or have to run out to the garbage can more than once a week, or have recycle bins full of junk mail, or try to remember what I have to do for the week. I’m a chronic list maker at this point. I know this all sounds like complaining but I think that is part of this sorting out process. If I’m complaining about something is it something I really want in my life? Is it something I want to put the effort into appreciating? Or just get rid of?
Well, I can’t, for example, stop taking out the garbage. That’s one of the things in life where you just don’t want any overflowing going on. So what do I do? Stop making garbage? That certainly is an option. And I try to re-duce, re-use , re-cycle as much as possible, but that takes time too. So now, this is still in the experimental phase, I try to make the trip to the garbage can an adventure, a little hike through a portion of this magnificent world. I listen for birds, smell the air, gaze off a the mountains. Yes, I am very fortunate to have mountain views on the way to the garbage can.
Then suddenly I am appreciating something that I don’t necessarily like to do.
Now if I can spread this appreciation over everything, like a great blanket of sparkling snow...
Its in the experimental phase, as I said.
But it seems to be working, because now I even appreciate Nora Ephron.
Thanks for the advice.