As I was developing my thoughts about our lives being divided up into 20-year increments, or scores of years, I began to see the first three score as a time growth.
We gain friends, interests, and knowledge. We collect rocks, or stamps, or Barbie Dolls. We learn things and develop skills. We marry and have children. We get pets and buy homes. We grow our careers, sometimes moving from job to job and responsibility to responsibility. We gain opinions and political views and allegiances. Our lives can become hectic and almost unmanageably full. It all seems to be about the accumulation of things (people, tasks, possessions, debt).
Then, sometime in the third score, things begin to change. We lose touch with old work mates and neighbors. Our older family members become ill and die. Our children grow up and move on to their own lives. Our careers seem to peak or stagnate. We are not so much in line for the promotions or the new projects and we begin to think about “retiring,” or others think about it for us.
By the fourth score we may feel pushed out of the life we led. People may ask for our advice, but they don’t take it (often they don’t want it). Downsizing becomes an oft heard word in our discussions with family and friends. Our children are now those busy people we used to be and they may have little time for us in all that activity. Of course, I do know people who retired and are madly traveling the globe having all the adventures they ever dreamed of, but the truth of the matter is that, while we have more time, we have less money and energy and we just don’t know what we want to do, or if we want to do anything.
As infants our lives were very narrow, it was us and whatever else there was, was other. We quickly accepted a few vital others into our small circle. Our mother and other caregivers became important. Eventually, we included our family, then our neighborhoods, churches, schools. Our towns, and states and countries and at some point we consider ourselves residents of the world. I think that is probably fully realized during the third score of life, but it doesn’t last all that long.
As we get older our realm begins to shrink again. We become less interested in the “out there” and more concerned with the right here/right now. We may not travel as far, or care as much as we once did about what is happening elsewhere, and are more interested in our immediate surroundings.
It seemed to me, watching my mother and aunt age, especially in the last parts of their lives, that either through choice or circumstance their spheres of interest began to shrink. In the end, almost to that of the infant of so long ago. What do I need today? Who will provide it? Do I care about what other people are telling me? Am I hungry, or tired, or bored, or are you talking over my TV show?
I wasn’t offended by the refocus on the truly necessary, but I was very aware of it, and the least I could do was accommodate it as much as I could. Sort of returning the favor from my infancy.
Now I find myself tending the same direction and I think I understand a little better how they must have felt. I don’t feel like I have the influence that I once had. My effect on what is going on in the world right now seems insignificant, even if the issues are very pertinent to me (Medicare and Social Security, for example). I grapple with how to best use my resources to make a difference in the world. I buy goats for villagers on another continent (may as well be another planet). I “like” and “share” Facebook posts. I dole out my funds to various causes and charities.
Some of us try to focus on some of the dreams we set aside to raise families and build careers. I always wanted to be a writer. That would seem to be an easier goal than the dreams where I wanted to be a ballerina, or an opera singer (especially since I can’t sing or dance). On the other hand, it is not so easy to implement the dream.
I expect that I will be using this blog to impose on your good will regarding my writing. I may try out some ideas on you, or share some of the research I do. You will be forewarned about upcoming projects and given fair opportunity to express your opinions.
I would love to hear about those dreams you put on hold or nurtured in your “spare time” for decades. Have the dreams changed? Are you giving them a shot? Do you feel stymied in starting them up? If you have already fired them up, can you share how you did it with the rest of us? Don’t hesitate to jump into the conversation. We all can use the encouragement, and maybe we can offer some, as well.