I have been in a pensive mood this week. A lot has been going on in the world and in my life in the last month. And life moves forward. You have to roll with the punches and embrace change. There is no “pause” button. But I can sometimes find a pause by increasing meditation, getting off social media and listening to my heart. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I’ve been thinking about life… my life specifically and collective life generally.
At one point in my life I used to wonder if this was all there is to life. Those times were hopeless and were empty of connection and purpose. Today, I find myself overwhelmed by all there is. There is so much. There is so much hope and fear and anger and love. It’s hard to process it all. Our culture is changing. And I have to accept that cultures change when they need to change. In my opinion, we’ve screwed it up. The party’s over.
I listened to a podcast this week from Invisibilia, one of my favorite podcasts. The Personality Myth episode is about a man who had been in prison for most of his life after raping a woman. A woman worked with him on a project many years after he was incarcerated and was very impressed with him as a person. When she found out why he was in prison, she struggled with how to rectify the two seemingly different people.
It made me think about how people change. I remember the young woman I was in my 20s fueled by alcohol and ambition. In my 30s, I tumbled into a depressive state that seemed insurmountable. The woman in my 40s had no confidence and swirled in desperation in an abusive relationship. I started to get my mojo back in my late 40s and in my 50s I’ve come into my own. If I woke up in one of those other bodies today, I don’t know if I’d recognize myself. And, yet I know that those women are all part of me.
This morning I read a story about a promising young woman who developed schizophrenia in her 30s. She ended up dying on a street corner in New York after living on the streets for a number of years. The people who knew her and loved her in her highly functioning days struggled with the reality that her life had ended up so destitute. And, yet, there was hope in her life and a connection with others that never ended. She always wrote. She read voraciously. She remembered with astounding accuracy the people who loved her. I imagine if someone had outlined her life’s trajectory to her in her early 30s she would have thought they were insane.
Life does not have a normalcy. There is no real status quo. We are either changing or we’re dying. This idea that things were better in the past is lunacy. Believe me when I say the good old days may have been good for a privileged few, but for most of us the good old days were filled with abuse at the hands of power, discrimination and a hopelessness that things could ever get better. We will look back at this being the good old days.
When I can be objective about what’s going on right now, I am hopeful. I think it’s time for a new generation to take over. The Baby Boomers have made a mess of our world, and my generation was so powerless in its wake that we did nothing to mitigate the damage. My young friends in their 30s have a completely different vision of how the world should operate, and I feel hopeful that they can undo some of the damage we have done. This generation will have their own set of problems to be sure, but maybe at least they’ll do better than we did. I hope one day we look back and say that all of this mess was just one more step in moving forward.