I have listened to a lot of people these last months, because I needed guidance through the morass of life.
Many friends recently have expressed regret about not having visited so-and-so and spent more time with great aunt [fill in the blank].
I have lived almost two years in the eye of family death and destruction, some of which I have not shared on the blog out of respect for others.
In the last few months I haven’t had so much to blog — I have been so overcome by illness, loss and regret.
I have come to a conclusion.
And the snail shell is the guide.
See how it moves out from a tight center and gets larger?
The ones we hold very close are at the center. If everything is all right with them, then we move on out along the spiral to others or adventures — we become expansive and welcoming. We reach out and explore. We are intrepid.
But, like a snail, if we or those who are close are threatened, we recede to the recesses of our shell.
We, humans, prioritize expenses, resources and goals. And that affects the people in our lives — those immediate and far flung. There is no shame in that. But there are regrets.
Sometimes we prioritize out of selfishness, fear, worry, competing needs, inability to cope. Name the issue or “ism”. At some point, I think we mature toward a more stable and responsible and loving set of criteria for the core and then the outer spokes of the snail’s — or, rather, our — shell.
So, AROB’s nephew needs to be ok with not visiting with ULOB in the few months before he died following AROB’s death. CLSFOB needs to be ok with not visiting her childhood neighbor in the years before he died. Both had loving families, watching over them.
And I have to be ok with so many, many, things I didn’t do in my life when it mattered most.
There is a life lesson that sticks with me from 2007. My beloved cousin, Ricky (z”l), knew he had little time left. But he believed that he had enough time to reach out to, and settle issues with, those whom I would view as on the outer spokes of his life. Time is not something we can control. He ran out of it — time — and had to skip over people who were meaningful to him and whom felt his impending loss acutely, when saying his final goodbyes.
My cousin was unique in so many loving (ok, and controlling) ways, that he was true to the person he was, in reaching out to those “outer spoke people”. Over the course of time, “his way” gave comfort to those, like me, who didn’t enough time to say, “I love you and, if we are lucky, we will all be on the same rung of hell together.”
SIDEBAR: Because who, really WHO, makes it to Heaven? And, for what, a tuna on rye because G-d and you are the only ones who made it? SOB says she doesn’t want to go to Heaven because she will miss me. So, HOSOB and she have made that eternal sacrifice to go to Hell. SOB will follow me, and well, HOSOB will follow her. HOSOB is such a wonderful human that he may, in due course, get promoted to Heaven and have to live off of tuna sandwiches. Poor, poor, man. And then SOB will be really pissed at me for keeping her in Hell. I will let her go, but she lied to get into Hell, which is a problem for Heaven, so you see the eternal issues that could go on if there is an afterlife. I am really hoping that Mom (z”l) has serious yechas (Yiddish for influence) in the hereafter. Otherwise . . . . well, I will be in the worst shit because I actually will be in Hell and there ain’t no getting lower.
But that is where my cousin and I are different. I need to start from the core and travel outward because life can be cut short — as his was. He remains a force in my life — a measuring stick for my accomplishments and failings — but I have come to some different conclusions.
Because I am getting older, too.
I am starting to understand that, if you have young children and an aging elder generation and a stagnant economy, life is about running from responsibility to tragedy to work and back again. If, you are lucky, you have the time to spend with people outside of your core group and grow from the experience.
So, if you don’t have time — or simply don’t have the physical or psychic energy — to visit with those on the outer rung of the shell, forgive yourself. If it were your responsibility, these people would be in the inner part of your shell. The hard and important truth is that these kind people who helped along the way in life were not in your inner shell when they were sick and dying. Maybe ten years earlier. But not now.
Mourn these people, because you loved them and they touched your lives in meaningful ways — even if only for a short time, a long time ago. But not because you should have been more attentive. They may never have expected that from you. Or have been comfortable with your seeing them in diminished capacity.
Forgive yourself. And focus on the core people and move outward from there.
SIDEBAR: And, if your core group is 50 or more (counting Wingate), you will get in shape just by running. But you will have a smile on your face.