I am one of the greediest people I know. I am having just the best time. So much fun, such delight in time spent with loved ones, walking in the woods, on and on it goes. As we are approaching the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, here in the United States, I find myself saying Could I have just ten more of each of these holidays?
I hear myself being my ever-greedy self and try to be a grown-up. Okay, I relent. Maybe nine?
* * *
When, I ask myself, would I ever gladly declare I’ve had enough — of anything I dearly love? When will I be ready to stop? Oh, I do know today could be my last day to live. Of course I’m aware that this could be my last Thanksgiving or Christmas. But, well, I’m greedy (yet one more GR word to add to “grief” and “gratitude”).
The poet Marie Howe nailed it when she said, “We want more and more and then more of it.”
Emily Dickinson has a poem that begins “Because I could not stop for Death / He kindly stopped for me.” Those lines come to me sometimes when I look directly at the truth that in all likelihood (absent terrible pain, likely of the body sort), there will never come the moment when I say, all right, I guess I’ve had enough of life.
Because I could not stop for Death / He kindly stopped for me.
* * *
There simply is no convenient time to die. It is lovely to want ferociously, and to know at the same time that you (that I!) may well not get the desired whatever-it-is. In the department of the things we do not have control over, death is the finest of teachers. That is what dying does for us. It says okay, time to stop, whether or not this is a “good” time for it.
Rigidity never was a friend to anybody. Flexibility is a blessing: the capacity, the willingness, to let go. To relax into the arms of what has turned out to be the inevitable, even if it could not have been imagined ahead of time.
My current body situation is a fabulous teacher in this regard. And what a fine metaphor for what goes on in the interior. As aging proceeds, my physical self grows significantly less flexible. I’m not so steady on my feet as I once was. Sometimes there is pain. More and more my body and its limitations are shaping my days. Life is the teacher of them all.
Well, and also death.
* * *
Sometimes it’s handy to “live in the future” — to look ahead to potential consequences. I want to live a long time, to continue living where I do. But if I don’t take care with my aging body, I could lose my balance and trip, ending it all in a heartbeat.
So I do my exercises every day. And just now, as I was lying on the floor doing reps, I had the radio on, giving me a window into what it’s like in the Middle East this very moment. Talk about privilege: I am so lucky to have only my aging body to try to keep limber and healthy enough. When the “privilege” of them all is having a still-beating heart, our loved ones alive, cradled in our oh-so-mortal arms.
Who is lucky?
There could never be “enough.” But in the end, will I say there’s been plenty? You bet I will.