Saturday, April 18, 2015

Simple Wisdom From A Very Dear Friend ...

I may live to be 90. But probably not. And so I am reasonably sure that I have crested the hill that is this lifetime and I am on the downward slope. Which is fine. Preferable in some ways, even. I always hated roller coasters, not for the speed but for the initial climb. I hated the feeling of leaning backward and the potential to fall. For the same reason, I am no fan of driving in San Francisco. Being stopped at a light in a car at a weird pitch makes me nervous. I am glad that I live somewhere flat.

Being on the downward slope, though, involves gravity of the preferable sort: the effort isn't in climbing upward but in slowing the descent, leaning backward – but only slightly and of my own accord to keep myself upright – watching my steps, stepping deliberately, noticing.

And so here, at what is very literally middle age for me – or so I hope; one never really knows – I'm beginning to reap the benefits of that "with age comes wisdom" that I heard all through the beginning part of my life, and fitting some pieces together, placing the edges, as it were, to define the parameters of this life and then to set about filling in the middle, watching the picture emerge, without the benefit of having the picture supplied on the front of a box.

Friends, I've discovered, are also teachers. And teachers have become friends. But one friend's words have returned to me like a very solemn offering and I so, so desperately wish that he were still here so that I could thank him in person for his wisdom that was so profound, but I didn't know it at the time.

I met Jeff when I was a teenager. He was only ten years older. But ten years is a long time.

And when we spoke that on particular day, however many years ago it was, he was offering an observation from a place that I had not yet arrived. I was dismissive then. I am not now.

We were talking about me and work, as we often did, but mostly about my inability to find what I thought was the answer to it all.

"You're a good person," he said. "Maybe that's enough."

At the time, it seemed glib. "Being a good person won't pay my mortgage, Jeff."

Today, I appreciate his words for the gift that they were.

Because I've come to appreciate that my "good person"-ness underlies everything I do. And in a practical way, yes, it leads me to form relationships that lead me to opportunities and work.

But more importantly, in the ways that really matter, it is all that really matters.

At his funeral, people spoke of Jeff's professional accomplishments, sure, because there were many. He was a talented and prolific man. But the essence of what was said about him was that he was a good person, that he loved his family and his friends, that he was intrigued by strangers and took an interest in everyone he met. He saw people. In his interest, he let them know they mattered.

And so, while I still have plenty to figure out, more of the picture to form as I work toward the middle and prepare to place the final piece – whenever that may be – I've started to learn to let go of the need to know, to define, and to instead trust myself and let it unfold. To not waste time trying to discern meaning from a fragment, but to be mindful of the moment – which is all we have – and be grateful when the next moment arrives. And along the way, I try to be kind. And helpful. And trust that it'll all work out. Because it always does. Even if, sometimes, that takes some time to know.


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