So it happened: this week I turned 50.
How the hell did that happen?
I don’t really “feel” any different, or more grown up. I keep waiting for wisdom to descend from up on high, but that appears unlikely.
Probably for the best. Chasing that need for wisdom, I realize there are a great many things in the world that I just don’t get — Selfies, Snapchat, Trump, Dancing With the Stars, certain home improvement shows on HGTV… As I age, however, I am starting to get Robert Frost.
When my wife and I began dating in college she gave me a collection of Frost’s poetry. I didn’t have the heart to tell her at the time that I loathed Frost. I mean loathed him. She was blonde and cute and smart and I treasured the gift nonetheless less — its up on my desk to this day.
At the time I was all about The Beats and their F.U. attitude. What an arrogant prick I was as a college; a Sophomore, which seems appropriate since that term literally means “wise fool”. A little bit of knowledge, as they say…
Looking back The Collected Poems of Robert Frost was the right gift, just given to me at the wrong time. Now, I can’t read enough of the guy.
What else is like that I wonder? What else might we have received over our lifetimes as gifts which we left unopened for one reason or another? Or gifts we did open yet saw no real use for at the time? Guess that’s where being a hoarder can come in handy.
I’ve tried taking inventory of all the things my youthful and narrowed self has neglected, rejected or outright refused to accept. Some of this inventory stands as an embarrassment to me.
The other day I accidentally ran into a Frost poem entitled “Reluctance” that stilled me. In the poem I see a man in motion who forgets that the world is moving with him as much as he is moving through it.
This is a hard thing to realize: change happens. And as you’ve been changing so too arrive changes to the place you live and the people who live there with you. Wrongly — but very humanly — we stand reluctant to accept all manner of things we should just steadfastly face with nothing more than a, “Well, that happened alright.”
In Buddhist thought the concept of impermanence is vital, almost as vital as acceptance. We must embrace the transient nature of all things — including the self — otherwise we suffer trying to hold on to things as they were rather than things as they are. Or, worse still we lament that things are not as we imagined.
As Frost points out, our reluctance to embrace such things as they change is a fight we’ll never win. So, reluctantly, I feel as if moving into my 51st year will undoubtedly require more acceptance than reluctance, and in a sense more giving in rather than giving up.