Astonishment…

tumblr_nj9hfaTnL71rqpa8po1_500   I LOVE this  quote from Milton Glaser. He is a graphic designer (he designed the iconic “I heart NY” ).

I am taking this idea to heart these days, that “capacity for astonishment”. He is right in saying that not one of us is able to understand our lives until it is over. I have always thought of that idea as the old trope of seeing “our lives flash before our eyes”. Maybe that is exactly what happens; a flash and a sudden knowing what it all meant. Of course that is conjecture too, there is no one who has come back and told about it. But I like the idea.

But I also like the idea of maintaining the sense of what is possible in life until well into our later years. What’s the alternative..lose all interest and die? I remember one day sitting and talking with my mother, years ago. And she said words that chilled me then, but I have been guilty of using them myself. She would say ” I might as well give up”; and she said it with clarity each time, like it was a choice, her choice. And I didn’t see it like that, I felt that she might be forced to give up by illness or whatever, but that she couldn’t and shouldn’t choose it. And one day I was proven wrong. Almost literally overnight she gave up on life with  a stark surety that was breathtaking. She just gave up, stopped caring. And we watched it, saw her slowly and silently shutting the world out. Now, I know that is not a choice for everyone, but I am clear that it was with her, and also clear that I could make that same choice at any point.

And I admit that in the last few years there were times that I felt warranted that letting go and going under. Hell, I did it when I started backing out of life with my drinking, as it got easier and easier to stay at home, alone. But I’m lucky. I have friends and people that care about me, and who I cared enough about to at least feign interest in life, and then, suddenly I was interested again. I stopped drinking. I started volunteering. My relationship with my son shifted and I began to make new friends and explore different areas of life, all the while holding on to and cherishing those long-term relationships.

There are days even still when I sink into the abyss of self…I’m human. But I have also rediscovered my capacity for curiosity (my word of the year) and astonishment, like Glaser says.

Mary Oliver says it too, and so beautifully:

“Instructions for living a life:

Pay attention.

Be astonished.

Tell about it.”

Milton Glaser is 85 years old, and still designing

Mary Oliver is 79 years old, and writing some of her, arguably, best poetry.

I’m not that old, but I’m on my way, and there is nothing more I want now than to continue to grow and risk and try new things and behave as if I don’t care what others are thinking…all of which I am working hard on

Tomorrow I have my first date in months, actually close to a year. I updated my online profile and, not counting all the ridiculous, shirtless 25 year olds, there seem to be a few interesting men out there. God !! it’s hard for me to write that with any enthusiasm, but I have been seriously giving the idea of “being through”; being alone for the rest of my life, a resting place in my mind and it nags at me…it doesn’t feel completely wrong OR right and so I think it warrants a mustering of some more curiosity, at least  for a little while longer.

And then this was handed to me today after yoga : IMG_3595I’m not sure what I’m going to DO with that yet, but it would be a shame to let it go to waste, to ignore the possibilities and to relegate that accomplishment to the scrapheap of things I have done before. If  nothing else it should serve as a constant reminder of the life I have left in me , my abilities, and the opportunities I have to grow and learn and astonish myself, even still.

And here I am telling about it.  I haven’t been writing a lot; not sure why, but when I do I find relief and happiness and I need to remember that too.

And when it’s over? Well, I hope I understand it, I hope that clarity is out there, somewhere. But it’s not over yet, not today. Hopefully not tomorrow.. The grief, the fear that are my constant companions, ebb and flow and I will always have to surf that. But I want to live at this intersection of joy and possibility that I am discovering for as long as I am able.

I’m not giving up any time soon, and I find even that, astonishing.

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18 Comments

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  1. I hope you do write more often! Yours is one of the blogs that makes my heart dance a little when you post. At 51 with boys 13 & 15, I have given up on dating. The men want someone to play with (ie no kids) and I am loving where I am in mommy mode for these last 6 years. I have those same thoughts that I will end up alone. I forget what we sober people are supposed to do with our thoughts? Put them on a leaf and watch them float down a river or something? 🙂

    • Thanks for those kind words.
      we sober people are supposed to remember that thoughts, and feelings, are not facts..LOL!
      And then live each day, right?
      Hard to do but necessary!

  2. I am going to find a shirt with those instructions for life on them.
    They are exactly perfect. And the reason I blog is really to tell about them. Because some days I am so full of inspiration, passion, joy and enlightenment that it spills out.

    I had given up. In 2013, after years of starving, exercising, trying, drinking and just being unable to make myself behave as I wanted, I gave up. I wished many nights to not wake up the next day. And if I hadn’t been so deeply despondent I may have done something about that. Something bad.
    That is a horrible place to be. Everything is black and hard and it hurts.

    But I didn’t give up. Somewhere I found the energy to put down the bottle. To start paying attention. To let astonishment move me. And to see the endless possibilities of my life roll out in front of me.

    There is always something new to try. Bet your date brings some new idea you have never had. Your yoga training brings yoga to someone who never considered it.

    We are the spark of inspiration in the world. All of us.

    • oh my, how i love this reply…it’s a perfect accompaniment to my post!

      you are inspiring, and i’m grateful for that reminder about endless possibilities!

      The date was horrible btw…but at least i did it.

  3. I love every word you write Mish. I would read them every day but coming “as they come” makes them all the more precious. I very much resonate with most of them and this also is one. Thank you for sharing your heart and your thoughts. You inspire, challenge and remind me of things which are important to keep on the front burner which have sometimes slipped to the back.

  4. Congratulations on your yoga certification and on your first date in months!

    Whenever we encounter a rude driver who turns out to be an octogenarian, my husband says, “It’s not because they’re old. They were an asshole when they were young too.” For me, the lesson I’m learning about aging is that it’s never too late to reap what we sow. There’s so much emphasis put on the first half of our lives that it’s almost easy to arrive at the middle and say, “If I’m lucky, I have another 40+ years ahead of me. Now what?” People used to retire at 55 and it was expected (and even welcomed) that life would wind down from there. Maybe it’s because I had my kids late but I have a sense of urgency and joyful anticipation as I enter my next 40+ years.

    • That’s lovely…that sense of urgency and joyful anticipation…
      i don’t have that, but I do have a sense of peace, finally and anticipation of what’s to come…
      along with a willingness to accept whatever that is.

      Life is life

  5. Every time you write about your experience, I can see that you are paying attention and remaining astonished. You are inspiring to me…so many times in the last weeks (and years, to be honest) I have felt the pull to simply Give Up. But it’s true…just like the urge to drink will indeed pass…so can these defeatist thoughts. If we can just focus on one thing that brings light or hope or beauty, no matter how small, and start to sense that wonder again. Thank you for reminding me of all of this today. ❤

  6. Hi Mish,
    Good to see you again! Congratulations on your yoga training. The possibilities are vast!I am proud of you.
    I am still fighting the good fight. Never seems to be much time for dull moments.
    My son got divorced. I moved to another part of
    Appleton.
    Keep working on your clarity.
    Big ol cheese head hugs Tina~

  7. Instructions for living a life: Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
    Gorgeous passage, Michele. I felt my blood pressure fall peacefully as I read each line.

    Mary’s note sits front and center on my bulletin board. I look at it every day and it might be the only mantra I’ve been able to stick to.
    Congratulations on your yoga certificate (I’m taking a class from you when I come visit!) and I’m eager to hear about the date (plllleeeeease??)
    I came over here expecting to see a different post (?) One that showed up in my e-mail – a title that spoke to me in more ways than I’d ever like to admit 😉

    Hope you’re doing well, sister. Some days I just ache to meet you and visit over something other than a keyboard! xo

    • You now…that was my”holding title”…the post was maybe a little different when it started!
      I went back and edited or tried to edit the title and it wouldn’t let me…oh well.
      That will wait for another day.

      the date is NOTHING to write about, a one and out!
      And yes, a yoga class! get out here!!!!

      Loved your post today, laughed so hard…perfect!
      xoox

  8. Beautiful and inspiring. Congratulations on your yoga certification. Hope the date went well…blog update?

    • no blog about the date…disaster!
      I guess the update is that I actually joined another site because I realized I need to give it one last push.
      There might be a blog in the future, who knows!

  9. Congratulations on your yoga training. I finished mine on the 4th. What an amazing experience! I’m in awe of the courage it takes to date again. 🙂

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