I am in the midst of selling my house in anticipation of a move north (I understand that this is a complete reversal of the normal rhythm of Jewish life because when one retires, Florida or some other Sunbelt state is the tradition).
I hate the process. First, you must give up the notion of actually living in your home. While it is on the market, it belongs to the realtor and a parade of potential buyers who traipse through, opening doors and drawers, flushing commodes, providing a running commentary about YOUR taste and generally engaging in behavior that I regard as intrusive.
Not only do those things contribute to the feeling of being displaced and invaded, but I must keep everything spic-and-span, not to mention, neat. I am not a slob, but I also do not dwell in the OCD universe where everything must be in its proper place and free of anything that might diminish the value of the property. There ARE days when everything falls into place and others when the very best of intentions simply unravel.
I have given this commercial journey a lot of thought and whether it conflates – to me – with retirement or the actual move (grandchildren and work in DC are the magnets drawing me away from the Sunshine State), it has emerged as a metaphor for life itself, or at least a chapter thereof.
Within the Jewish heart, after generations of natural selection, there beats an overwhelming desire for success. How that is calculated depends upon the “conditioning” aspect of one’s life.
Achievement may be a function of career, wealth, power, fame, family, relationships, altruism, compassion – each of us might well create a list that, if not endless, certainly would be substantial. And as you are living your life, those tangible and intangible items are next to impossible to telescope or compress. We hear people say that the only thing they want is to love and be loved, but their visible hierarchy of priorities speaks volumes that go in a different direction.
Over time, we learn that what passes for accomplishment, the things that give us satisfaction, are modified and transformed. What used to be very important – the absolute center of our personal universe – can become trivial and even frivolous.
All of this comes under the heading of “a blinding flash of the obvious.” These are metrics understood by everyone. Only the timing of that insight is up for grabs.
It is tragic when we see people come to important realizations when it is already too late – the children and grandchildren have lives of their own, work was a means to an end but it wasn’t your life, friendships allowed to wither through indifference or neglect are difficult to reclaim and best intentions are not actual deeds.
It’s a shame that the circadian rhythm that monitors and adjusts our bodies’ awareness of time doesn’t also have some mechanism that sets off alarms when the substance of our lives is off track or out of sync. I imagine that’s why values are so very important. But here, I would make a serious distinction between word and deed – or – best intentions and reality. Too often I see people confuse their best intentions with actually doing something. There is a message here, especially as we grow older and our vision (while declining in sharpness) becomes more refined. It most likely revolves around the meme of not just “talking the talk” but also “walking the walk.”
I have stood at the bedsides of people who are on their last legs. They often confess to me a litany of regrets that revolve around the best usage of time and boil down to the very human failure of not thinking the best, doing the noblest while finding transient happiness in the wrong things. We are all guilty of these human foibles, but some more than others.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have wanted to shake the daylights out of a prostrate and struggling soul – to at least verbally slap them upside the head and say “You blew it. It goes too fast and you wasted most of it!” Alas, I have never summoned the courage to do that. Instead, I make noises about everyone making mistakes in judgment. But I do say it to myself all the time. And, I don’t mind confessing that every once and a while I slap myself silly. It ought to be the trope of everyone who looks at the calendar and sees more behind than ahead.
When the time comes to meet my eternity, I want to be able to enter the shelter of God’s wings knowing full well that I received full market value, that I made the right investments in others and in myself. It is far better to know these things now than wait until time is too short and some Rabbi is standing at your bedside.