Thursday, April 06, 2006

Last night's WARM UP
Pat Corrigan gives us the writing suggestion to begin with
"I’m in..." or choose to begin the story with "I’m out."

I’m in the middle of life. Of course I can’t be sure it’s the middle. If I live longer than the average woman in the 21st century, I am still at the beginning. The other side of that coin is living a short, happy life which places me nearer My God to Thee than I really want to admit. I’ve always been average in everything else, height, weight, intelligence, socially, with an average 2.5 children—if you count the miscarriage—so, I have no evidence to support not being in the middle of life. Mid-life.

The only significance to knowing I’m at mid-life is to recognize the mid-life crisis. What would the average mid-life crisis bring? At this moment, I can only think that just knowing my life is half over is crisis enough. There are dreams to live, gardens to step into, trails to hike, oceans to kayak, books to read, to write for that matter, and no time at all for dieting and wasting time on cleaning.

We who have reached the mid-life mark know something about life. It isn’t as long as you think it is. In youth, there is the inflation of time. I remember when every day was long and nights seemed longer still. Naps dragged the day out further—I thought naptime would never end. In one day I could explore the Amazon drainage creek in the woods adjacent to our backyard. Wander through the dark endless tunnels of county sewers that invited us in on long sweltering hot summer days. Called home to safety by mothers who forbid such discoveries, our imaginations exploded in song, dance, dolls, zoo keeping, and roller derby marathons in a basement of unlimited proportions. The hours ticked by and time stood still.

I still don’t want to take a nap, but not because it drags out the day. Inflation of time has ended. Naps shorten the day by half and nothing gets done. Days grow shorter by the year. From birth to 16 takes an interminably long time to pass, and from driving age to drinking age takes even longer. The next day you’re thirty, your children are a starting school.

As the children grow into driving and drinking, time seems to slow down. It seems once again like the days of exploration have returned. The excitement builds, will they return home safely in the family car from the football game? The night is lengthened with worry. Will they get into the college of their choice? The year is drawn out with heavy financial obligations. Will they ever willingly eat salmon and broccoli? But time freezes as we wait for them to get off the phone and come to the table for dinner.

One day, the day near the middle of my life, I looked at the clock as it raced past noon. Last time I looked it was nine in the morning. Where did the day go? A visit from the adorable grandchild is never long enough, and even his naps are over in a blink of time. Already he’s walking and soon he will be two. Yesterday he didn’t exist.

In the checkout line at the s’market, the checker exclaims that she can’t b’lieve “it’s already Easter” to the woman in front of me who is buying chocolate eggs. No one can believe it is true. The date on my check confirms the fact. Tomorrow will be Christmas. All the people in line are living in the middle of their lives or beyond. The line is longer than we have time to live.

Here, in the middle of life, time rushes by like the rain down the gutter in last night’s storm. It’s spring rain, followed by summer draught, fallen leaves, and melting snow. Seasons I know well by now. My own seasons of dry skin, changing hair color, and less energy measure time in the middle of life.

Heads or tails? A friend calls to tell me that another friend, barely forty, has two weeks to live — cancer. The other side of the coin. We don’t know where mid-life begins. We do know for all of us who look to the future that there is not enough time.

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