Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Time flies, whether you're having fun or not

As if it wasn't enough to perform "Steel Magnolias" five times a week, I watched the movie yesterday. I have always loved that movie. Even though I knew what was coming, I sobbed anyway.

But since we're well into production, I wanted to see how the six women stars played their characters. It'd been a long time since I watched it. And it holds up well.

One of the things that touched me greatly, though, was in the features section of the DVD, seeing playwright Robert Harling speak about why he wrote the play in the first place. I knew it was a form of grief therapy for him when his beloved sister Susan died, much the same way that Shelby does. But he elaborates some, and I could feel the anguish of the brother at losing her at such a young age. He wanted his nephew to know a little more about his mother, to understand what she did in choosing to have him.

That, and seeing all those actresses 20 years younger, made me think of my own age, my own stage in life now, and all the things I missed out on as a younger person -- all the wasted time, the ill-thought choices.

Not that there weren't some great times and some good choices, mind you. And I wouldn't go back and do it again, not really.

But for some reason seeing the movie made me aware -- again -- of how brief our life here really is, and how unaware we are of that when we are young(er).

In our 20s and 30s, and yes, even the 40s, the awareness of our own mortality is usually non-existent, barring life-threatening illness, accident, or the early deaths of those we love. I, at least, plowed through any number of days without appreciating what I had, even squandering them by not taking care of myself physically (or mentally), just sort of meandering through years without a lot of focus on who I am and what I wanted.

I was a "good" girl, pretty much doing what others expected me to do and be, with a few stubborn streaks thrown in and a couple of fairly bad habits, including smoking and drinking to excess. It wasn't until I was into my 30s that I began to cut those out of my life and to think about what I really wanted and to discover who I really was. And it took another 13-14 or so years to be able to decide what I wanted to do about it.

And while I don't spend time mulling over my past mistakes, I am aware now of how unaware I was -- how unaware my friends and acquaintances were -- of how precious time is. How you can not get back one single day, no matter how much money or love or wishing.

The conundrum, of course, is that you have to get older to really understand this. And then it's too late.

Not that life is over, mind you! No, as Shelby tells Clairee in the play, "There are still good times to be had!" And I do believe that. Life is what you choose to make of it, every day, one day at a time.

But my prime time is over. The 40-something generation is in the power years now -- this is their time now, their time to make the world different, to change their lives, to realize their potential. And the 30s are right on their heels.

I remember those years so clearly that it feels very odd to realize they are over and that part of my life is finished. It still startles me sometimes to catch a glimpse of myself in a window or a mirror and see the mantel of age draped over my hair and my skin and my posture. It's not unattractive, just not always in sync with how I think of myself.

But what really resonates is time: how quickly it goes, what I do with it. There is not a day that I don't say gratitude prayers -- many times a day -- for my husband, our home and friends, for my life as it is and the opportunities that I have and that present themselves so frequently. I didn't do that when I was younger, at least not often. I didn't cherish each day. I wasn't aware that I didn't have all the time I needed to effect whatever change I wanted to make.

I wasn't aware.

I don't know how to help my children understand that, if indeed it is even possible to make them understand it. Perhaps it takes age and perspective.

I can only hope that they will live long enough to see and to understand. I'm grateful that I have and do now.

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~Carl Sandburg

Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it, and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires. ~Charles Caleb Colton

Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst. ~William Penn

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can't buy more hours. Scientists can't invent new minutes. And you can't save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow. ~Denis Waitely

1 comment:

Patti J said...

Well said and beautifully written.