Monday, March 12, 2018


In the first part of this "serious conversation," I spent a while reviewing how it is that I actually spend my time, with a view to evaluating my priorities. This, given the realistic acknowledgment that the time ahead of me is limited; it's important to be sure that it is not misspent.

The preeminent priority is family. That's the first, reactive thought of course, but also the one that stands the test of deliberate review. And when it comes to family, there is one primary relationship: Ellie and I have known each other now for very nearly fifty years, and will have been married this November for forty-seven of them. As I look to the coming years, I see that my first priority is to honor that relationship, to nourish it as best I can, and to accept my own part of responsibility for mutual care. To be realistic, once again, is to acknowledge that care--both physical and emotional--will demand more and more time and patience as the years progress, and will likely require the surrender of other, me-oriented needs and wishes. As one who is not known for patience and who obsesses over time, I have still much to learn about both giving and receiving care. I will need to allow time to pass more slowly, even as it seems to be inevitably speeding up.

In this context, another priority: myself. (And I do not see this as being "selfish." I cannot be of any good to others if I am not good with myself). I have not yet learned to abandon some of the behaviors and expectations of much younger years. The body has different needs and I am, to be honest, less attentive to those changing needs than good health warrants. I know that I eat--and drink!--for a younger man than I, a man with a speedier and more responsive metabolic process. The net result is that I gain needless weight and, while vanity is a less powerful motivating force these days, I find myself uncomfortable in my body and the clothes I wear, and I do not enjoy the discomfort. I am also exercising less than I used to do; was a time when I was active four or five days a week, but now I'm down to two or three. So this, too, remains a priority. If I wish to age gracefully and in good health, I must spend the time I need to maintain strength, stamina, and flexibility.

Aside from the body, of course, there are the other three corners of what I have come to see as the properly balanced life: the intellect, the emotions, and for want of a better word, the spirit. Meditation is unquestionably the best thing I have learned to do to sustain these aspects of my life, and I value the practice of more than 20 years more than I can say. A half hour every morning allows me to sharpen my attention and, for the most part, maintain some semblance of emotional balance, even in difficult times. It also keeps me connected with that part of me that I can't define, but whose presence I am increasingly aware of--the part that transcends all the others and seems curiously independent of them. I know it's there, because it becomes almost tangible in meditation, a kind of space "I" inhabit with an unfettered sense of freedom from time and space. I want to continue to spend time there, and hopefully to share its benefits with others.

These thoughts, then, for Ellie and myself. I'll have more thoughts about family when I resume my conversation next time.

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