I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on how we change over the years

From Mother Jones interview of Ellar Coltrane
My friend Judy and I went to see the new movie Boyhood yesterday, filmed over a twelve-year period and directed by Richard Linklater. The young man who grew up right in front of my eyes was played by Ellar Coltrane. You can see his evolution from a cute six-year-old to a young man  in that series of shots. The movie is long, almost three hours, but it flew by as I was engrossed in the film and all that it evoked in me.

The link under the picture is an interview with Ellar, and it's very interesting to learn how different the life of Mason (the boy in the movie) was from Ellar's. What got me, however, is how closely the story of Mason's mother followed my own: his mother divorced his dad and then got involved in a series of unfortunate liaisons, as I did. However, the movie ends on a high note, and the sold-out audience applauded as the credits rolled.

Twelve years is both a long time but in the span of an entire life, not all that long. Nonetheless, the period between being a cute kid of six and becoming an adult (if eighteen can be considered adult) is incredibly fraught with change. I have been fortunate to have met young Leo at the coffee shop when he was six months old, and in a few months he will turn six. He's at about the same age that Mason was at the beginning of the movie. I can't help but wonder what kind of an adult he will be, although I probably won't be around him at the time to find out. I might still be alive (and 84), but who knows where he or I will be in twelve years?

It was twelve years ago that my son Chris died in Germany. I could not have anticipated that, or the trajectory my life would take. Outwardly, not that much changed; I continued in the same job and lived in the same town during those years. I was already married to my life partner, and he helped me through that awful period where I would wake every night, crying, unable to believe Chris was gone. That seems a long time ago now, but I still think about him and wonder how he would have matured into a middle-aged man. It's startling to realize how old one's child is getting to be. My sister is going through that now with her son, who just turned 48.

But inside, I've changed a lot in those twelve years. I loved my job and felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to different places and arrange conferences all over the world. There were days when I'd arrive at the office before 7:00am and not leave until ten hours later, and I'd be totally engrossed in my work and not notice the passage of time. And then on the weekends I would dash off to the Drop Zone to teach a First Jump Course and spend that day and the next skydiving with students. I was really, really busy all the time. It was rare for me to take a day off, and I would realize I didn't know what to do with myself if my busy life changed for some reason.

But that frenetic pace began to wear on me as I grew older. It wasn't easy to decide what needed to change, but I was fortunate that my partner and I were able to communicate our wants and needs to each other, and a plan for retirement began to emerge. In 2006, two years before I retired from my job, we took a month-long road trip from Colorado to the west coast, to decide where we might want to live next. We had researched several places on the internet and were curious to see if Bellingham looked as good in real life as it did electronically. And yes, it did. We decided to use it as our "jumping-off place," and once we had actually moved away from Boulder, we could move again if we felt like it, and it wouldn't be nearly as wrenching as the first time.

We are still here, and my life has settled into a very satisfying routine. I have had the chance to slow down, read more, and spend quality time with my friends, much of that outdoors in the very different environment of the Pacific Northwest. I've grown familiar with all the different kinds of rain we have here: from a light mist to a downpour. We don't get a drenching rain often, but it does happen. Moving from the semi-arid landscape of Colorado to the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest has been a delightful learning experience. And it's changed me in some concrete ways, too: I have grown accustomed to milder temperatures, and when it climbs above the high 70s, I begin to feel too hot. I like the indoor temperature to be much cooler than I once did.

I no longer own any dress-up clothes, and the cargo pants look suits me just fine at this phase of my life. When I dress for the day, I realize I've grown fond of vests and wear them year round. Every pair of shoes I own are functional ones with low heels. There was a time when I loved to dress up and apply makeup, giving myself an entirely different look. These days makeup makes my face look a little strange (to me at least), although when I was working I never left the house without it. More habits changed without noticing, and suddenly I'm a different person than I was, much like those pictures of the boy morphing into a man. But it's so imperceptible, day to day, that one doesn't much notice the procession of years. It's usually a picture from the past that will remind me how much change has taken place.

As my outward pace has slowed down, my internal life has grown larger. The time I spend thinking about things, about life, about writing in this blog, for instance, takes more of my focus than it once did. The blogs I follow, with the lives of my virtual friends giving me a different perspective on life, are incredibly important to me. I learn how others are coping with change in their lives, and it gives me ideas and thoughts I would not have had access to otherwise. I am a very plugged-in senior, and I like it very much.

It's almost 7:00am and my tea is gone. Partner still sleeping next to me, and the sun would be up already if it weren't overcast. I hear blue jays scolding outside the window and the occasional call of a crow. All the songbirds I heard earlier in the spring and summer seem to have diminished to just a few now and then. I guess it's getting to be the time when they look towards the cooler weather and find other places to hang out. Today I'll take it slow and easy, and enjoy the book I picked up at the library yesterday. Maybe go out for a walk, or maybe not. I've exercised every day this week and could probably use a break. But I always feel better, more centered, when I've had at least a nice walk. Whatever I decide, it's really nice to know I've got the choice, and that everything in my body still works pretty well, for now at least.

Be well, my dear friends, and I hope you will enjoy your own life as it is right here, right now. For it will definitely change as time goes by. Until next Sunday, then.


Marty said...

It's a sign of the weight of a movie if it can trigger so much thought.
And as you have said of your own exploration of other blogs, yours has caused me to reflect a bit.
Like you, I'm retired also, for three years now, and my days of teaching seem far away indeed. And like you, my working life consumed much of my thought and energy.
My priorities are shifting daily and I find that while I've become more social, my interior life has grown markedly. Maybe it's just a matter of finally having enough time to stop and think.

Teresa Evangeline said...

A very interesting post, which has given me pause for thought about my own life's trajectory. I like your thought about the expansion of the inner life. My own seems to be expanding and I feel more at peace than I ever have. It's good to have the time to let life unfold naturally and gently. Your header image is a nice reflection of your post.

John's Island said...

Good Morning DJan, I wonder if you ever ask yourself how you got everything done back in the days when you were working full time? In relating your story today you mention how busy you were with daily life and how it seemed strange when you took a day off. It’s interesting to me that in your ramblings about life and the meaning of it all, you often mention things that I have noticed as well. I think during those years of work we simply don’t often take the time to contemplate all that is going on around us. One thing I really like about your blog is the way you are able to verbalize all this. By doing so I think you give those of us reading a chance to affirm … “yep, so I’m not the only one”. I also liked your thought today about being a “plugged in senior”. That’s a good way to look at it. I am living in a building that is home to several seniors as well as younger families. Over several years here it has been an eye-opener for me to track other senior’s experiences. So many seniors are technologically handicapped … they find it hard to adapt to change and have resisted becoming internet savvy. Given the convenience of having so much online, it is hard for me to imagine not being able to access it. And enjoy things like EyeOnTheEdge. I am going to check out that film you talked about … sounds interesting! Have a good week and take care. John

Anonymous said...

You rarely write about Smart Guy. Does he have a blog? David wants to write one, called David's World. He likes to joke about it, but who knows, he might actually do it.

Rian said...

Hi DJan, Boyhood sounds like an interesting movie except for the 3 hr part (not sure I can sit still that long). I too believe that being a "plugged in senior" is a good idea. My doctor asked me the other day if I was "internet savy" and I laughed, said that I don't know how savy I was... but I definitely was familiar - as well as fascinated with it - having so much knowledge at your fingertips was not this easily available when I was young.

Stella Jones said...

That film sound very interesting D-jan. Over here in England we have been following a group of children since the 1960's in a similar way and it has been a fascinating journey through the programmes. There have been some surprises. We usually get your films about six months after you so I will look out for it.

Stella Jones said...

That film sound very interesting D-jan. Over here in England we have been following a group of children since the 1960's in a similar way and it has been a fascinating journey through the programmes. There have been some surprises. We usually get your films about six months after you so I will look out for it.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I just read your last four Eye on the Edge posts, and it seems you are especially reflective these days. I like that. I'm just emerging from two months of just doing what's had to be done, and reflection is such a foreign process I haven't managed to post anything significant yet. There will be lots of time for inner thoughts as I clean up the mess from the book-writing and event-planning and media-interviews marathon and then start decluttering the entire house. Soon! Thanks for setting the pace.

Elephant's Child said...

What a beautiful thought-provoking post.
I find myself wondering though whether you have changed as much as you think. Externally yes. But it seems to me that you are exploring, nurturing and allowing a part of you which was always there to see the light of day.
Hugs. You enrich my world.

Gigi said...

I so love your Sunday posts. They always make me stop and think. And I need that every once in a while.

Have a wonderful week, DJan.

Arkansas Patti said...

That movie is on my to see list. Didn't know it was 3 hours though. Guess I'd better not have a coke with my popcorn.
I marveled at the changes in my nieces and nephews as they went from kids to teens to parents themselves. I am now watching the "greats" grow and wonder if I will live to see them mature.It is a delightful process.
Wonderful post per usual.

Red said...

We change outwardly in a physical way. We change inwardly the kind of human being we are. We change physically inside as well and that sometimes takes us for a surprise.

troutbirder said...

Your last couple of post have me looking inward at my own life and loses and gains. The lost of a son, the aging process, giving up long established interests and hobbies. But then new friends and interests, a new pace of life and new joys and challenges in greeting each and every sunrise. Thanks!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

I swear, you should write a memoir. You've experienced such great contrasts in your life, and that's the stuff of memoirs. Wonderful post, as always.

Linda Reeder said...

I'm just getting to this at 10:00PM today. It has been a very busy and full day, as I will post about sometime tomorrow, after the grand kids go home.
I want to see that movie, but may not get to the theater to see it. I have trouble spending that much time indoors in the summer.
I really like reading about your love of life here in the PNW. It has always been my home, and I love it to. I have also made a lot of trips to Colorado, so I know quite a bit about your former home too.

Meryl Baer said...

Thoughtful, thought-provoking post. My kids left yesterday and after an incredibly busy summer, it is time to slow down. Hub and I were just talking about our future home. We love our place now, but New Jersey taxes will probably push us to move eventually. But we have no idea where...

Dee said...

Dear DJan, we met through this blog first and then I discovered that you had a second blog. While I enjoy both because I find your life so engrossing, this one has always been my favorite of the two because here you are--on a Sunday morning with your tea--so philosophical and your musings have led me often to consider my own life and how what you've said applies to me.

I think your blog does so much good because it's always filled with gratitude for your life, even when you are making a big decision such as how much longer you will sky-dive. Your gratitude and your willingness to examine your life and share your discoveries with us are great gifts to your readers. As one of your readers, I thank you. Peace.

Sally Wessely said...

I was thinking of the transformation you describe here in your post as I read about the changes in your life. I can't even imagine you dressed up with make-up on and heels etc. I think of you as your are today because that is how I met you.

I love thinking about how we evolve through our lives. I think you have refined the person that you have always been. In doing so, you have presented to the rest of us a picture of acceptance for what life has thrown at you and an ability to grow into a person of inner peace and outward activity. The activity part of you pushes the edges of endurance and excitement while accepting the limitations that come with this stage of life. Thank you for all the lessons on life that I have learned from you.

Linda Myers said...

I'm four years into retirement and have had similar thoughts. I'm not doing as much physically as I did years ago, but I'm doing more mentally - even from when I worked. I'm glad to see myself today.

Next week I'm going to go through my closet. If I haven't worn something since I retired four years ago, it's going to Goodwill. A little scary but exciting as well.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Re your comment on the blog today, I agree completely, the Buckhorn Curio Shop is not my kind of place but interesting. This is one of the elements of blogging that I’m still trying to refine. I was conflicted about posting that postcard since so many of my followers are lovers of animals, pets or otherwise. Now, the Buckhorn Curio Shop, with the “greatest collection of heads and horns in the world” would not be a place I would want to promote if, in any way, I thought there was harm to the animals involved. For example, have you been following the story on ivory and how it is affecting the African elephant population? They may become extinct, practically speaking, in the not-too-distant future due to the premium many folks are putting on ivory. The way I see it, that is a tragedy. Although I love ivory, I would not spend one cent today to support that kind of activity. Getting back to the Buckhorn … I think all those heads and horns were collected from animals that died a natural death. I’m wondering, do you think that is a na├»ve assumption? One of the things I love about this blogging hobby relates to the comments folks leave for me which so often get me to thinking in different directions. Thanks again! John

Rita said...

When I look back over my life it is almost as if I have lived many different lives. They all taught me different things. Twelve years ago I was busily, busily in college. Dagan and Leah were newlyweds. :):) I have that movie saved now. Oh--and I can remember the days of putting on makeup and fussing with my hair before I'd ever leave the house. Life is much easier now. And I am much happier. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. I do so love your Sunday posts--even if I don't always get to reading them right away--LOL! I still love them. *hugs*