Refocusing Your Lens
Age and time are like twin kaleidoscopes, swiveling in and out of focus, shaping our memories and views of time both near and far. They are lenses that filter our world as minutes turn into hours and days and months. Our constant job, in order to remain balanced and serene (if that’s ever a possibility) is to continually assess and readjust the focus of these lenses taking into account the current conditions and using the information gathered from the past as reference points with which to underline the present and inform the future.
Years ago, when I was turning 40, I was in the midst of some sort of existential meltdown, over what I can no longer even begin to speculate (see how important the present really is in relation to the perceived stresses of the past?). I called a very close and long term friend who knows me as well as anyone on the planet and was bemoaning my imagined and much ballyhooed impending crisis du jour.
Her words and insight were profound, succinct, and typical of her pragmatic approach to life.
Quite simply, it seemed to me, she pointed out that up to this point in our lives, we were living with all the future and possibilities laid out in front of us, gleaming and as yet untried, at least in large part; scuffed a bit perhaps by the imagined slights and imperceptible insults that all twenty and thirty somethings take to such heart but still, really, invincible.
Now, at 40, we had history. I had history.
Now, at 40, I was still looking at the rest of my life to come through the same lens that I had viewed the last twenty years of already accomplished adulthood. It seemed woefully inadequate and hideously out of focus and that lack of clarity of vision was the major contributor to my present state of angst and upheaval.
I needed to refocus my lens, taking into account the life I had lived, the people I had experienced, the time that had fled past, and adjust my lens, refocus as it were; taking all these factors into account and THEN look ahead and see if the view from the finder I was now gazing through provided a brighter and more vivid vision of the future.
With a simple twist of a kaleidoscope’s cylindrical tube, suddenly, a wholly new and dramatically brighter and different version of my life would come into play. One with colors unforeseen, patterns ever-changing and a star-burst of possibilities that rivaled the best fireworks ever imagined.
Age, and the passage of time merged into the fast lane of the future.
This, combined with the peripatetic nature of a life lived in linear form and the countenance of an observant and patient friend had coalesced to help me see into my future, not as a seer but as a student of my own life, both past and present, and in doing so, elevate myself to the challenge of living in the present while acknowledging the past.
I refocused my lens.
I mention this now for a reason.
Another twenty years have blown past since this prophetic and really profound conversation occurred, I am about to turn 60.
Without a real awareness of it, a slow growing disquiet has gained purchase in my soul once again. At first, I attributed it to the newness of my move to the Great Northwest finally wearing thin after 4 years and the dreaded Winter Grays were staking their hold as so many had warned they surely would. But it was more than this. I am not a depressive by nature, I know and recognize “down” and can manage, quite efficiently usually, to gain “up” with little trouble.
This has been different, prolonged, somehow more profound and, as such, more disturbing.
And so the refocus review began, again.
What, exactly, had changed since the last change-out of lenses occurred back in 1992? The sheer scope of that question was astounding in its inception, pointing out immediately how much richer and full of really astounding facts and figures this past two decades had been than the previous bi-decadenal review. It really does beg the question “Does life begin at forty?”.
Mine most certainly did.
A scant year into the next phase I met my husband and have been happily traversing life ever since with a mate I never thought I ever deserved nor would ever find. The ultimate refocus, in my opinion, from thirty-something serial dater to part of a pair that really can tackle the world.
My health, while precarious and tentative twenty years ago, benefited from the advent of drugs, the love of a really extraordinary person and the elimination of most of the bad habits I had picked up during the previous twenty years of single, sybaritic, adulthood. This is not to say there was a Mother Theresa like expunging of all ills. There have been surgeries galore, replacement parts aplenty and challenges that would fell ancient oaks under normal circumstances but then I am stronger than that, really, I am.
We have lived in amazing places and traveled to even more during these years.
Some we faced with true amazement, living in a redwood forest for ten years was a privilege that is not to be dismissed as normal under any circumstance. Living in Utah on the other hand was an opportunity to make the best life possible out of a less than optimal circumstance. Since the redwoods came after the “opportunity” I choose to view one as a reward for the other. Again, that perspective thing.
In 1992 I thought I had seen what I would see of the world, at least in person. I was so totally wrong that I still have to shake myself and simply try and recount the sheer number of countries I have been to since then, the friends I have encountered who continue to enrich and color my life to this day from around the globe. How wrong can a person be when dealing in assumptions?
Turns out, very.
Which brings me back to the present.
The end of another year, the beginning of another chunk of time, as yet un-lived and unobserved. How to view it?
Twist that lens, maybe even replace it with a new one, heaven knows Dr. Tom tells me I have the beginnings of a cataract. There’s a lens replacement in my future I never thought I’d live to see.