"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
-- Soren Kierkegaard
I came upon this quote today as I was perusing my usual website "hangouts", and it helped me to put this past week in perspective. It was a difficult week for me, mostly because of my father who is struggling with dementia. Rather than going into what happened, let's just say that I came to realize that his disease has progressed and his health has declined moreso lately. When we first brought him to the care facility several years ago, I was sad at the thought of him losing his independence. But gradually over these years, he has also been losing himself, which is saddest of all.
Last night I got into a conversation with two friends who are also experiencing the difficulties of elderly parents and their various physical and emotional struggles. This helped me to feel not so alone in my fears and my sorrows...you need to have your friends and family around you sometimes to know that you are not the only one. It was also a big help when I came home to my two daughters who hugged me for a long time when they saw how upset I was. I kept thinking that one day, they'll have to go through this with me and with their father and that even though they are sympathetic to my situation, they really don't know and won't know what it's like for a long time yet. Hopefully.
That expression "youth is wasted on the young" came to mind as we hugged and I thought about the freedom they have from the worries I have. But the truth is that youth is not wasted...thank goodness we have times in our lives (hopefully!) where we are so utterly oblivious to the problems of the world. Thank goodness. I am so grateful that I had days when I had no, or very few concerns. I want my daughters to enjoy their young lives as much as they can, because everything around them will continue to change and evolve and sometimes you don't even realize how much things have changed until you look back, just as Kierkegaard said. No, youth is not "wasted"; hopefully it is simply well spent and enjoyed.
Then I thought of Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi line "don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?" Because many times you don't realize what you had when you had it. Ain't that the truth? There is a tendency, when we are going through difficult times, to want to look back to when days where happier and when life was easier, and why wouldn't we? It's just that the chances are that we have long forgotten there were also difficult times back then, they were simply different problems or struggles. My daughters think they have bad days and rotten experiences from time to time, and they do. It's just that their bad days are different from mine. Youth is not necessarily as great as we remember it was! And remember how when we were much younger, we longed so for the future and what it would bring us? Well, here it is!
If I spend too much time looking back, then I am not fully engaged in the present. So although I want to occasionally look back in order to understand my life and put things in context, I don't want to spend too much time there. And that's why I'd like to add to Kierkegaard's expression, with apologies to his much higher intelligence. Life must be lived forwards, but it also must be lived "presently". I am increasingly aware of what I actually have to look forward to in my old age, for lack of a better phrase, and as I age my perspective changes considerably. So today I'm thinking more about the line from Carly Simon's song "Anticipation"..."these are the good ol' days." Because they ARE!
Where are you Irene?
I am right here :-)