Life is like friendships. You only get out of it as much as you put into it. And boy! Does that take a lot of work!
The Greatest Generation knew that. In those pre-television days, they worked hard at having fun. You weren’t given toys during the Great Depression. You made them. But now with TV, the web, video games, smartphones and whatever it is that keeps young people and their very, very well developed thumbs entertained, we’ve lost the concept of working hard at making a wonderful life for yourself! Heck! I struggle with it myself and I barely squeaked into Gen X by a whisker.
Waiting to Live
When you live under the thumb of narcissistic abuse, it’s easy to live in expectation of someday. Someday I’ll get to do what I want to do. Someday my dreams will come true. Someday my real life will start. As Portugese writer António Lobo Antunes said on No Reservations about Portugese life under dictatorship: “For many, many years in dictatorship, there was no future, there was a very teeny present and the enormous past of the dictatorship.”
That’s how I lived my twenties, a ” very teeny present” in a holding pattern, waiting rather hopelessly to not just plod through life…but live, live, live. I didn’t consider the day-to-day pattern of my 20s to be my real life. I was holding my breath, waiting to get away. Then my Real Life would start.
In retrospect, what a waste! Maybe my life wasn’t how I wanted it to be. Maybe it wasn’t how it should be, but it was still Real. Real time. Real living. Real life. A decade slightly squandered through misery and exhaustion, from being controlled and held against my will.
I still have nightmares about it, as recently as last Sunday. In my nightmares, I have a house but can’t move into it. Or my realtor can’t find a house for me or I don’t have the funds for a downpayment. Something is always wrong and I’m still stuck, whiling away my twenties, waking up in my childhood bed, going to work, coming home by dusk for my 9 p.m. bedtime in my childhood bed. In my nightmares, I’m always threatening to leave but never quite doing it.
Now I realize that real life is now. Not next year or someday. It’s now…so don’t squander it! Don’t find yourself saying, as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.”
Regret is a bitter pill to swallow.
On the topic of making good use of your precious time, it’s easy to rely on shopping, TV and internet to pleasantly wile away free hours. They’re intended to be addictive and can definitely add value to life but there’s a lot more going on in the wide wide world, even if like us, you live in “Lake Wobegon” (pop: 60). And I’m preaching to the choir here because I’m very guilty of taking a casual la-de-da approach to my own life and happiness and not really investing hard work in making life as sweet as possible.
It was when I got on my current Give-Me-Cultchuh-Dahling kick that I realized the richness that I, and a very unwilling Michael, are missing out on. With the Yuletide season just ’round the corner, it’s high time we looked about us and put forth that little bit of effort to turn life from pleasant into delightful!
The best part is that it doesn’t have to cost much…or anything!
For example, it’s been nine years since I attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah and I’m ashamed of myself. During my pre-teen years, my family practiced for weeks each year before attending the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Messiah sing-a-long at the Ordway. Those are some of my happiest memories.
So this year, I and a very unwilling Michael (bribed with the promise of sushi afterwards) are going…no…matter…what. It took a lot of digging and searching and Googling and emailing but I finally found a Messiah performance. And during the Hallelujah Chorus, we are going to stand…even if no one else does! You never sit during the National Anthem nor the Hallelujah Chorus. It’s about respect and tradition.
During my research, I found that the cultural and classical music scene is booming up here in the boondocks. It took hours and hours of searching, Googling, sending emails, signing up for e-newsletters but I’ve discovered that there are two symphony orchestras, chamber music, choirs, chorales, madrigals, recitals, pipe organ performances, theatre groups, wine tastings! You name it, we have it…I just didn’t know we had it because I hadn’t put forth the effort to find them.
And that is my point. The sweetness of life doesn’t come to you. You must put forth the work to find it and grasp it. To wring out the sweetness and suck out the marrow. Bless Thoreau!
With some events being posted in newspapers, some on Google, some on Chamber of Commerce sites, some on “Explore Lake Wobegone” sites, some on Facebook…and some not posted anywhere…it takes a lot of work to find what you want, work to stay on top of it and work to motivate a very unwilling Michael out of his soft, comfy recliner into an uncomfortable orchestra hall.
But this is our lives. I already regret not frequenting more cultural events during my narcissist-controlled twenties and I don’t want to make that mistake again from my own apathy. I don’t want to look back from my deathbed, or his deathbed, and say, “I wish I’d ________________.”
Life can be so rich if you’re just willing to put forth the work!
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