Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Hold'Em



I believe there comes a moment in life when you realise that “that’s it!” These are the cards you were dealt. You did your best with them, or your worst, but there’s no reshuffling of the deck, no second chance at a better hand. Nothing will fundamentally change. None of the great deeds you were going to accomplish will happen. The miracle you’ve always thought to be just around that next corner has never come and will forever elude you.

Certainly, you continue to fight, and dream, and build, and cry, and hope, and create, and love, and dream some more, but somewhere deep inside you, where the harshest of truths are held, sometimes unrecognisable even to yourself, lurks this cold fact. Maybe you’re living your perfect life, you’re happy, you have a great family, a good job, maybe you’re a published writer or whatever else meets your fancy. It doesn’t mean you have to be sad – you could be perfectly content - it’s just a fact.

Look around you. Look inside you. That is the place where you were born and this is your family; these are the choices you’ve made; this is the person you’ve married and not somebody else, this is where you live, in this house, in this town and not in another, this is what you do, these are your children, or maybe you don’t have any, by your choice or nature’s. I’m not saying that you’re not happy with your spouse or that you’re not content with your life. But, could you have done everything – or at least some things - differently? How would your life have been had you taken another decision at some crossroads? Do you wonder?

It’s not true discontent that I’m voicing, but a nostalgia coming from the idea of closed (or drastically narrowing, to be more optimistic) possibilities. Others are eighteen now, not you, others are starting their lives.

But when you have a relatively “normal” life, all this sounds trivial in the end compared to the tragedies that devastate other people’s lives. Just an example from yesterday’s newspaper: In 2006, after being forced to squat on the floor for three hours, 19-year old Private Andrei Sychyov, from the Russian army, developed gangrene and the doctors had to amputate his legs and genitals. And his future, of course. Talk about a bad hand…

And another pespective: On the drive home to my older daughter’s school, I sometimes catch a glimpse of a man or a woman; I see them because there is an old people’s home there and they get out for a stroll or just a breath of air when the weather’s permitting. Not together. He is thin, frail, wears huge round glasses, and has a walking cane. She is diminutive and needs a four-legged metal support, just to stand. I’ve rarely seen them move. And I think of them that they just exist, enduring each day, or maybe enjoying it and hoping for the next one. Yesterday, I saw the man and thought, what about this man, how was this life of his that brought him here, how good, how bad? Does all this existential angst mean anything to him?


* * *

That’s probably one of the reasons why writing means so much to me. When I plunge into it, everything else is erased. I have a clean slate. I can start a new life every time, without discarding my “real” one. I have myriad possibilities, all waiting for me. I can open a new deck of cards and even cheat…

22 comments:

Emperor Ropi said...

It is possible that reality and your feels are different.

Bernita said...

A truly perceptive essay.
I think one has to hold hard to the idea that if time closes some doors, it opens others.

Taffiny said...

I need to hold onto possibility, regardless or probability.

I do think about it, going back making other choices, living bolder, having more faith that the pieces will fall into place, believing more in myself. The trouble for me is, even if I could go back in time right now, I am still me. I am still so much the same girl I was. I don't know if I could make other choices. I hope I could. (except of course I would not trade my son for any other life, rather I would like to pull him into another one).

My life is good, I am fortunate. But it does make me sad to know that I will never fall in love, never know what it feels like to kiss someone and have that rush of energy. I suppose that is why I daydream, to fill in those gaps, to feel things, or to at least imagine them. Still it is hard for me to accept never. I think of a relative who feel in love in her 80's and got married (both of their previous spouses had died.). Of course there is a time limit to such love, and it doesn't have that blush that earlier loves do.

And I think, what a thing for me to hold onto, am I that desperate to not give up hope? In this vision I don't hold so much to the notion of physical passion, but noitons of emotional, mental, spiritual, connectedness to another. It makes me rather sad, then to realize how I do hold onto it. I do love my husband. And this is my life, can I not say to myself this is how it is, this is what I have chosen, and this is how it always will be? And somehow though I don't doubt that, that is true, I can not, I can not say that to myself.

It is the same with all my dreams, till my last breath, I intent to hold out hope. (I wonder if this will ever change?)

Could you be a smarter bolder 18 year old you, forging ahead? Could you tell us how it would be different, or how it would feel different?

Ello said...

Yes I agree so completely, how can we not wonder at all the roads not taken - but it is through our writing that we get to have do overs! Be 18 again, have a chance at living certain parts of our life over with different characters. Writing is power that we give to ourselves.

SzélsőFa said...

It is strange - I do not wish to be 18 again, I do think I'm happier now, but the 'narrowing of possibilities' does scare me, too, a bit.
The 'what if'-s, the 'would have (not) been'-s, ...scare me.

I felt your words so closely...

Isn't it strange that one part of our inner self is quite scared, the other one is content with his set of cards? Isn't it splitting one's head and mind?

The Grocer said...

Better to have lived and lost than not to have lived at all, to misquote someone or other. Is your "That's it" moment not akin to a Zen like acceptance of who, where and how we are? The sadness I believe comes from the accompanying realisation of one's mortality and that some things are too late to change.

Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) said...

I am with Bernita on this - when one opportunity closes, another presents itself. I believe in choices and more choices, I believe in change and endless possibilities. I believe in growth and flow and movement, in ebbing and flowing tides. I can do things now that I couldn't at eighteen. I will do things at 70 I couldn't at 40. In every circumstance there is a lesson, life, irrespective of the cards, or perhaps because of them, is a constant journey of change and growth and it all comes down to the choices we make and the way we choose to view life. We are always growing towards our selves and our divinity.
xxx

Vesper said...

And what is "reality", Ropi? You have a fan of possibilities in front of you - use them well!

Thank you, Bernita. Yes, hold hard...

Taffiny, thank you for your thoughts. I think that it's not only about choices we make but also about the ones Life makes for us. While you can try to do your best with them, you cannot control what cards you're given. I'm much like you in many ways. I daydream all the time. I fall in love with characters in films or books - and it feels tremendously "real". And I hold hope, Taff, boy, do I hold it, but I realise it's mostly foolish because, in fact, even if it doesn't always show it, it is in my nature to be foolishly optimistic, even in the direst of situations. So, foolishly, unreasonably, I still believe that something big will happen to me, in the best of ways, of course. I don't think I would want to be 18 again, but I would like to stay as I am now and live forever...

Yes, Ello, you're right - writing is so powerful. Our weapon of choice against the limitations of our existence. I'm glad you're with me!

Szelsofa, I'm glad we think alike. And I feel you very close. The dualism you're mentioning - I think about it all the time.

Ah, Mr. Grocer, but it is so hard sometimes to accept who, and what, and where we are. And, yes, you named it exactly: one's mortality - that's where it all comes from. Thank you for stopping by!

A very good vision, Vanilla, the best in fact to help one deal with everything. One needs to be philosophical (maybe even religious) to really come to terms with the idea of one's changes with Time. I'm very happy for you that you can do it.

Minx said...

It is good to stand back and review what has already gone. What we should all learn to do better is to read the signs that show the way forward.

witnessing am i said...

Smiling, shaking my head over here.

It is an amazing thing to be alive. To live, to breathe, to fill your lungs time and again.

Yes. Yes.

Aine said...

Very thought provoking post! Similar to what Absolute Vanilla said-- I've always tried to embrace each decade of life as a new adventure with new choices that weren't available to me previously. I found it curious when many of my friends dreaded turning 30. I saw it as my next grand adventure in life. I look forward to my 60's with all the freedom and opportunities that will be available after my children are grown and settled. And, I hope to have a new, interesting perspective on the world when I'm 80 (all those years of living must result in some wisdom, right?) Even my marriage is changing with the years, making it more exciting to be with the person who knew me when we were both different people.

And, I'm confident that the choices I made in the past were the best ones that the "me" who I was could have made. No use doubting past decisions, self-esteem is hard enough to hold onto at times.

Maybe my perspective comes from working in geriatric rehab for many years. I don't view aging as an absolute negative. I once treated a 100-year-old lady who was still in a bowling league and fractured her hip while mopping the kitchen floor (we jokingly chided her for wasting time on housework-- get out and live life to the fullest!).

Thanks for the post, Vesper. It always helps to know that we are not alone, reflecting on ourselves/our life is universal.

Taffiny said...

I might be able to accept not having forever, if only I could have 1,000 years, that just may be enough time. :)

Vesper said...

The way forward, Minx, yes, that could be a tricky one. One must be careful...

All's relative, David. It's good to be alive, indeed, because being alive means one can hold hope. I wonder what that poor Russian fellow feels, though...

Thank you, Aine, for reading this and sharing your uplifting views. I suppose the inevitability of old age and death makes it all more difficult to accept for most people. In my case, for example, my "inner" age does not acknowledge the "outer" age. In my mind, I am still the one I've always been, and probably somewhere around 18-20 years old, because that was a period of great exhilaration and countless opportunities. Hence the contradictions and the worries... But, as you said, it helps to see that you are not alone in your reflections.

Oh, Taff, 1000 years, yes, to start with, and then we'll see... :-)

strugglingwriter said...

Great post. I really enjoyed it.

For myself, I try not to ask the "what if?" questions of my life, because that is the way to sadness and madness (for me). I like my life and more importantly, can't change those what ifs so why bother thinking about them.

"That’s probably one of the reasons why writing means so much to me. When I plunge into it, everything else is erased." I love this about writing and also think this applies to reading.

Jeff said...

I think all of us have thought at one time or another, "If I had it to do over again . . ."
All of us have said or done things we regret and wish we could change, but the past is the past, and all we can do is learn from those experiences and move forward.
Likewise, there are many good things in our lives both past and present in which to be thankful.
I believe this is all part of the process of maturing.

Nice post, Vesper.

Vesper said...

Thank you, StrugglingWriter, and thank you for stopping by! I don't think of this often, but sometimes it just "strikes" me. You're right about reading - in fact, I think I could include certain films too.

Jeff, thank you for your thoughts and your kind words. You have the good attitude - the one that helps one continue... :-)

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Wow! Swimming in the deep end, I LIKE it!

Well written. It's important to be aware of who we are, where we are, what's going on in our lives - as I believe we only pass this way once, but that aside, everything we think and say and do affects others just as much as it affects us.

With what cadence do we go through life? A dance? A march? A run... stroll... a brief glimpse.

Thanks for this perspective, I enjoyed it.

I wrote something quite similar today on my blog.

Scarlett & Viaggiatore

Vesper said...

Thank you, Scarlett & Viaggiatore. Life's ways are a mystery that we uncover with our every step. Some steps are good, some are bad, some firm, and some wobbling. We just continue. This is our life...

Shameless said...

Well said, Vesper. :-)

Vesper said...

Thanks, Seamus. :-)

Dena Braves said...

Stumbled upon this post today and, as often happens, it was a very good one for me to find today. I've been having many of the same thoughts you express here and could not have expressed them so well.

Vesper said...

Dena, thank you for visiting and for sharing your thoughts. I'm glad my little essay was of some help to you. Often, we can find some comfort in knowing that we are not alone...