You are what you do
The kids are gone now. They’re focusing on kids of their own. We’ve both finished our rewarding careers and now live in a different stage. Like all stages, there are down days. With few ladders to climb, no more wrestling with adolescent, teen, and college kid problems; after building the company and selling it, questions arise. “What the hell am I doing? What am I worth? Will my significance shrink down to nil? Similar questions came up before I had all these years of experience, but now I seek better answers.
Where do you find the answers?
Looking for answers in the grandiose, looking to emulate celebrities with their glitz and fortune has not been productive. I’ve turned to French philosopher and Best Seller, Muriel Barbery. According to Muriel, enduring answers,
“..aren’t found in great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, but in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?”
Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog
My moment of infinity arrived. Twice
The philosopher’s remedy had a nice ring to it but seemed too elusive as a path to significance. Then my own “moment that aspired to nothing” arrived. My wife had some unmentionable ailment, not exactly life-threading, but sufficiently annoying that she just didn’t want to endure it any longer. She caught me in the middle of an NFL game. She came up with the exact words I didn’t want to hear…. but they came anyway. She asked, “Would you go to the pharmacy and get me (some intimate feminine) medication now!” Emphasis was on the “Now!!”
Her timing was terrible. The football game was in the last quarter and tied. Instead of lounging on the sofa eating chips, now I had to go out in the rain and careen down the highway to reach the pharmacy before it closed. Then there’d be an awkward discussion with a pharmacist, younger than my granddaughter. A medication subject like this is always designed for maximum embarrassment. I’d have to whisper to the little pill girl so other customers lurking near-by wouldn’t hear. There’d be no conclusion to the tied game for me and I was pissed.
But then the French philosopher’s words came to mind. The love of my life badly wanted the medication now. I was the only one on earth ready willing and able to step up. Isn’t that how you get from here to significance? Was the request inconvenient and unwelcome? Yes. It didn’t seem much like an infinity moment at first. But it was an example of our increasing mutual interdependence, and these moments would go on repeating forever or at least for the rest of our lives. We’ve arrived at the point where we rely on each other now. No escaping the fact that every month there will be similar moments of need for all kinds of stuff including unmentionable medications. Time has come to see these events as more than an inconvenience.
Event number two
“Significance Events” arrive in pairs these days. The second arrived in the form of my granddaughter. She arises at 6:30 each morning, dresses and trudges off to school. Nine and a half hours later she arrives back home from a long day. She gets home by way of an hour-long crowded, smelly bus ride. That’s an exhausting schlep each day for a twelve-year-old.
And it takes place each day while grandpa is sitting there on his stump obsessing about his damn significance. Why not bring her a snack at her suburban school and chauffeur her home door to door once a week. I should and I did.
My two-hour effort saves her a long bus trip. What else can a senior do to gain such a pre-teen demonstration of gratitude? She showers me with significance every week. This trip which aspired to nothing was far better than sitting alone on the stump meditating. It makes for one great day once a week and it goes on and on. I get to relive my twelfth year and then go on to delight her with all the shocking stories about her father when he was 12.
The two events are certainly small potatoes, but to me, they’re gems of eternity that make senior life joyful and significant.
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