Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Blink Of An Eye

I am outside talking to a neighbor. She is in her late 50's. An empty nester.

I look at her, try to focus on what she's saying, but my mind is somewhere else. I am looking through her...seeing her in a way I've never seen her before. I am seeing her 20 years ago...young and busy, lively house full of kids...wiping runny noses, picking up toys.

And I'm sad.

Strangely, I don't think she is sad. She seems happy enough...content with her life.

But I can't shake the sadness.

I walk to work, and I see an elderly couple, arms linked, walking slowly and with difficulty. I watch them. They were a young couple once...not so very long ago. Did they raise a family? Were they happy? I want to know. I need to know. I need to know if their lives just passed them by so quickly that they are wondering where the time went. I need to know if they are mourning the passage of time....their loss of youth.

I'm sad.

For them, too. But mostly for me.

I do Taharas. Sobering work. But never sad. The women are generally old, have lived a full life, and I am preparing them for their meeting with their Maker. It's work that puts things in perspective...puts life in perspective. It reminds one of what is important, of where we are all going some day, and what we take with us. It's beautiful...and holy. But not sad.

I did one last night. I work mind going to a place that is becoming very familiar to me. When did this woman stop being a young mother and become the frail woman I see before me? At what point was she no longer needed? When did the transformation take place? Did it happen slowly....or did she suddenly find herself there one day?

I continue my work.

But I'm sad.

How long before I find myself in that place? How much more time? How long before my roles change from mother...or wife...or whatever I am what? I depend on these roles to identify myself...even to myself. When will they no longer apply? And...when that happens...who will I be?

Within ten years, I may have an empty nest.

Ten years....

I think back to ten years ago. In some ways, those years seem to have flown by. And every year seems to pass faster than the year before.

I'm almost there. And that thought makes me so sad.

I wish I could freeze time. I'm happy with where I am today. I'm happy now. I want to stay here for a little bit longer. I'm not ready to move on.

I just want more time.


  1. Beautiful post, as usual. I think about the same things...honestly, I've read your blog and thought "this is one of those who didn't lose her depth and zest for life and thoughtfulness and drive at middle age, who didn't become a mindless zombie bored with life and just going through the do I become like her?" It makes me feel hopeful to know that it's possible.

    Here's the thing. You're happy now...because this is what is right for you for now. But in ten years, when you're in your neighbors' shoes, hopefully you'll be happy with that stage. You'll have lived the previous one fully, and hopefully by that time you'll be ready to move on, have new experiences and explore your roles differently. Is it sad? I suppose...but hopefully that's just from an outsider's view. Hopefully once you get there, you'll be happy and content, just like your neighbor, knowing you're building on a solid foundation and are just building up.

  2. I don't feel sad about the passage of time. The 43+ years I've lived have contributed to the person I am today ... each and every one. Most of the empty nesters I know seem quite content, not longing for little children again (except for the visits of grandchildren). Do you think that there is something missing from your life TODAY that makes you dread the passing of time? Is there something that you would like to accomplish that you are not accomplishing?

  3. SIS...

    Thank you. That actually means a lot to me, even coming from an anonymous blogger. (Middle age?? Ouch!)

    I've thought about what you said...about being happy now because this is what's right for me now...and being happy at every stage. I hope that's true. I think the saddest part for me is how quickly it passes. I may love every stage, but I want to spend more time at each stage.


    It's not the past that's making me sad. I wouldn't want to go back there. I like who I am today. I'm happy with where I am now. Nothing is missing today. I'm worrying about the future...and getting there too fast.

  4. To me, middle age is 40, and you have to be that old if you have a son in shidduchim. Life expectancy for an American woman is 80 so that number makes sense. But still, I hesitated when I wrote that for fear of you taking umbrage, and I'm sorry.

    As far as wanting more time, I totally agree...I'd be okay with living like 200 years or something. "I'm gonna live forever..." And life moves way too fast when you're big. I wrote a post about it once; tell me if you want the link. I guess the trick is making the most of the time we have, right?

  5. Sis...'s ok. I was kidding (kinda). I guess I am middle aged (Ouch!).

    I'd love to see the link.

  6. :-)

    From a hundred years ago...

  7. Mystery Woman,
    I'm with tesyaa on this one.
    Embrace the future. There are so many wonderful experiences that we have as we age that we miss when we are young. One replaces the other. The experience of marrying off a child, for example, cannot be enjoyed by a new mother (well... in most cases ;) ).
    Every stage of life has it's beautiful moments. I don't think most of us want to go back. We want to remember and look forward.
    I do agree though, and working on the chevra kadisha has highlighted this for me as well, that concern for how exactly our "end of life" will be is something not always pleasant to contemplate.

  8. Another poignant post, as usual.

    My thoughts are, if you are happy where you are today, and wouldn't want to go back, isn't that true at any age? Meaning if you would "pause" at 30, wouldn't you be saying that you like where you are, wouldn't want to go back to 20? Perfect at 30, dreading 40? So now that you are 40 (I assume), you are saying the same things about 50, and 30? Point is, I think we are programmed biologically to be comfortable where we are actually on the road of life. So the 75 year old feels fulfilled, so glad to have pushed till there, so happy to have reached that stage, and content with his accomplishments and getting the rush from all the memories...

    I think the key is to keep moving ahead, to keep climbing toward whatever drives you at whatever stage you are. That way, you NEVER want to go back, because going back means you don't accrue what you have accomplished and have to re-ride the roller coaster...

  9. One way to look at it, is from a Hashkafah perspective. If we believe that we are here for a reason, and we are accumulating merit for the world to come, then the further you are in life, the better. Ever watch "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" You want to stay in the game, because if you keep going, the longer you stay in the game, the higher your winnings pile up. So you WANT a long game. BUT at any point in the process you risk losing it all by flubbing a question. So the guy who is climbing the ladder, he's at 250,000.00, does he want to go back? No way! He likes where he is, as he avoided all the pitfalls so far, but want to stay on longer so he can win even more.... I guess that would explain the desire to live, yet the lack of desire to "re-live"...

  10. I can relate very much this post. (Besides for the times I wish I could speed up my life for a few minutes, just to see what the future will bring for me. Lol.)

    So often, I used to find myself at the "end" of a time period, life situation, or opportunity, and suddenly it felt as if I'd been struck hard in the face by the fact that it was over, and that it was not coming back... And that thought makes me terribly sad. That I could have done it better...that I could have appreciated the time more...that I could have amassed more memories, more meaning, more growth.

    And then one day I realized that unless I figure out how to do things differently, my whole life will pass by in that same way.

    I came up with this method where I take internal "snapshots" of the special times, the important feelings, and the beautiful (or meaningful or touching or memorable) surroundings, so that I can "come back" to them later. And not only does this help me remember better, it allows me to be more "present" and live more fully in the space that I'm in right now. There's no future yet. There's only right now....and if I'm making an effort to consciously record it, I can live my life without that sadness or those regrets of letting the present slip by without noticing.......

    (Reading this over, I'm not sure how normal this sounds. This is one of those things that's hard to explain in words...Let me know if I made any sense!!)

  11. SIS...

    Great post. So....have you ever figured it out?


    I DON'T want to go back. I just want to stay here for a little bit longer.


    Good point. And I did think of that. But if I worry now about how little time I have left, I can't imagine being ok with it at 75. But maybe you're right.


    Interesting way of looking at it. Makes me wonder if I'm doing all I can to "win more".

    Corner Point...

    You made perfect sense. I can totally relate to that feeling of sadness. And having grown kids only intensifies that feeling. But I'm trying to do something similar to your method. I'm trying to be aware of every day, appreciate every minute, and pay attention to the little things. It doesn't help to slow down time, but it does help to know I'm living every moment and not allowing it to pass without being aware of it.

  12. Nice usual
    And here I thought I'm the only one making these equations in my head.
    I still remember vividly being 17 and figuring out that even if I double my entire life..I'll still be a young 34...
    and here I am...thinking..ok..even if I double my life I'll still be a relatively young 70..hopefully in good health...
    But..something tells me that's where this equation ends

  13. David...

    Exactly. That's what is making me so sad. There's just not enough time left...

  14. I'm trying to be aware of every day, appreciate every minute, and pay attention to the little things. It doesn't help to slow down time, but it does help to know I'm living every moment and not allowing it to pass without being aware of it.

    I wish I'd be able to keep awareness of every day, minute, and "little" thing....but I find that nearly impossible...

    That's why I try and focus my energies only on the big things, the really meaningful ones...

    Are you able to be as aware as you want to be? How do you remember to pay attention to all the little things?

  15. Corner Point...

    I am able to be more aware than I ever was before. I don't need to remember...I'm just so much more focused. It's because as the kids get bigger, time seems to move so much faster. I feel like I'm on a speeding train, and I'm trying to slow it down.
    Maybe that has something to do with being "middle aged", as SIS likes to remind me. lol

  16. Oy, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Just found this last comment now. Please forgive me for my transgression. You are a young spring chicken, nowhere near middle age. Is that better?

  17. SIS...

    Nah...I'm just in denial. You don't have to go there with me.