I can’t believe I’m writing this. It hurts to say that I now know what it means to be disregarded, to be overlooked and ignored. Waitresses don’t see me sitting there alone, waiting, reading –or pretending to be reading– a book. Young people don’t ask me questions or comment or treat me as a person. I’ve been told: “I saw you over there, some old guy. I didn’t know who you were.”
“You ought-a bust his butt,” a five year old challenges his dad, when we nearly bump in an aisle at Walmart. The child sees an older man, not an elder.
What does aging look like socially? When moms pull their children toward themselves in Barnes and Noble as you approach a discount table of books, as if aging were contagious .
Even my friend sheds me like a dead leaf in the fall. Nothing more to contribute to his life.
At least one, I’ve offended by my anger so that even though I told him of my regret and sorrow at my actions, something friendly has disappeared from the warm relationship we once had.
Sometimes, it makes me want to curl up in my room, and avoid everyone, my door closed.
However, I am not dead yet. I know there are friendships still to be made, books and articles still to be written. Paths to be walked in the morning. Things to be seen. Things to be heard. Things to be felt. I’ll be darned if I will let other people’s attitudes toward my aging affect how I live my life. And, hey -maybe a lot of what I have been experiencing is the result of how I present myself. In other words, I’m projecting.
I might not have patience anymore for an extended period of pastoral activity. I know I’m not as fast as I once was. Occasionally, my intellectual process just steps down after a period of intense thought. But, I can still preach, preside at the Eucharist, be useful as a brother in networking, I still love music, classical and, jazz. I still can walk and visit and learn and be in other countries with little fear. In fact, I almost never want to go home. (By the way, another definition of home: “When someone knocks you have to let them in.” (A variation of “Home is where when you go there they have to take you in (Robert Frost?).
I pray differently. I am called to more meditation, centering prayer and adoration but I have to get used to this because for so long there was little time for this in my day and less room in my heart with all its file cabinets full of things to do, things to regret, things I’ve done, things I’ll never do. I’ve got to remember that anytime is a good time for meditation. And, each day, now, it is a must.
I have to have projects. Writing, yes, but also there are other things I can do. Preaching each week is, I must admit, not a joy. I approach each sermon with a sense of dread. My mind says: You’ve got nothing to say. You do believe what you are going to say, right? By the way, why not tell them what you actually believe? I am certain that temptation to evil is also in the midst of this. I am battling myself, the flesh, the devil when I preach. No wonder I’m tired.
I go through this angst each weekend that I preach. Each week, the homily turns out more or less fine. Each week I’m reminded to trust Him. I tell Him: Use me as a channel of your mercy, even if the substance of my conduit is full of cracks, and leaks. He can use anyone, even me.
Yeah, yeah. It’s embarrassing but I have always wanted a quicker mind, an intellect that could find the seed in a mess of leaves, broken branches and fragmented bark. Instead, I see the whole dam
mess and I see it as a whole. When I try to parse it out to its essentials, I lose track of what I am looking for in the first place.
I have wanted a skill at writing that is more facile, that pours out of my heart in logical
constructed sentences and paragraphs. Instead, I write and then perform surgery on my work. Out go extra words, adjectives –plucked, just because as Mark Twain said, they exist.
I have sat in a room with bright guys who speak rapidly, grasp things just as quickly, and move on. I’m lost in their dust. I would love to have that kind of intelligence. But, I am aware that I have ways of knowing that are not necessarily logical but still authentic paths to truth.
I have known brilliant people who really have a tough time relating to the rest of us. I do not want to be like that.
I just have to use the gifts that I have.
I admire the logical progression of paragraphs to support a main theme. I know most writers have an idea, then, make up a beginning, middle and end. Eventually, they build up an outline and stick to it as they write.
My mind works instead, like a sous-chef preparing a salad. I start with ripping up some lettuce –that is the passionate part. No trouble there. Then I cut up some tomatoes for color and add some celery (facts)– as much as I have. And finally, something to cry over, the onions.
I cut all this up, mix it up and hope that I can bring it all together with some palatable dressing. Viola! My salad appears with its unique dressing on life.
What else can I do? Life is what happens when I am planning to do those big things in life that I’m gonna do someday.
I am very happy how the details of the show for Kathryn is working out –far better than I thought possible. It’s because I have people who actually like Kathryn’s art. Bruce, the artist, appreciates her
soulful expression and Susan sees proportion and pattern that perhaps only a designer could appreciate.
There’s a certain whimsy in Ks art that I never really noticed before. Along with the drama of her chronic depression which appears in her paintings, there was always a bit of wow here and there. Adlai Stevenson’s “The life of an egg-head is difficult” shows his head rolling around as a chicken egg would, eccentrically. Her pieces of flotsam and jetsam from the lake and from the sand dunes hang from her banner prints like little jokes, wry comments, happy serendipity.
I want to believe that there is still time to encounter those I would like to know and those who I, if I would let them, could experience me.
I’ve had a few relationships with those people –nothing lasting but with some intimacy.
I think I better make more of this happen.