03 February 2009

Late Life Lunacy

I am not a risk taker. I have always exercised good judgment and largely done what was expected of me. When others might ask why not, I have always demanded why, and labored over the answer to ensure that there was a carefully considered good reason for everything I have done. Sixty years of good judgments. My husband Rusty was the same way, and more so. He didn’t believe anything should be undertaken without careful consideration and without an exceptional reason. He believed one should never go from anything, rather to. The unknown was unknown to him. I loved him anyway.

I’ve never slept with a man without protection. I never eat raw meat. I only occasionally jay-walk, which is the genetic right of all New Yorkers, and I consider myself rebellious when I purposely neglect to wear my seat belt. I still blast rock and roll on my car radio. Overall, I make choices that I hope will set the right course and I aim to be a good role model for my daughters. Good judgment in my world has been defined as what is best for others or best for the common good. What is the most efficient use of my time and money? What is the choice that best avoids loss? I am frugal and thoughtful in all things. Waste not, want not is my motto. What however defines a wasted life?

While my dearest friends might describe me as bold, I have never been nor would I be considered audacious. I am rarely impulsive. Until three years ago when, my husband gone, my children grown and flown, I moved from conservative Connecticut to Laguna Beach, California. Not because of any ill-conceived MTV reputation nor even a real sense of adventure, but because the hillsides and sunshine called to me and the laid back atmosphere soothed the savage beast within. Frankly, I fell in love with a town, in a way that I have never fallen in love with a human being. With what might be construed as true abandon. But not without due diligence. I spent first a three-month winter sojourn, a sabbatical of sorts, [during which time I rented my place in CT to avoid excess out-of-pocket expense] and then a second winter, when I tried on for size the idea of living in such a place. I learned about tide pools and learned to love breakfast at outdoor cafĂ©’s. Climbing steep inclines I regained muscle tone I’d lost or never had. I discovered the joys of a nearly desert landscape and the thrill of dolphin sightings. However, I did not relocate to Southern California nor to Orange County, decidedly not; I moved to a funky hilly gorgeous beach town bordered ubiquitously by the Pacific Ocean and populated with surfers and artists, tourists and wannabe’s, and found in this place, so different from any place I have every known, the side of myself that welcomes a bit of risk and a decidedly Zen state of mind. I went back to listening to Joni Mitchell and reading Dostoyevski and studying Buddhism and rethinking every thought I’ve ever had. And now, three years later, I find myself reaching for risk, within reason of course, and wanting to experience more life, more possibilities, more experiences, before I am too tired.

I am sixty years old and I am willing to take a few risks before it’s too late. There’s plenty of time to sit on the beach or quietly by the fire, when the charge of daily living is sublimated to the very essence of aging. I am healthy and strong and my energy level is only slightly diminished. Perhaps I can take more risk now because there is so much less to lose. Whatever the case, call me crazy, but in the midst of a deep recession, and well before I can afford to retire, I would like to take off for a while, reclaim the nearness of loved ones and also to parts unknown, open to whatever comes next. The very definition of risk. Call me a late life lunatic, but, in the end, I can always find work, I can always settle down, I can always spend my nights with Netflix, but I can never claim what is still undefined and unexpected and oh so much more meaningful than the known. Bring it on!

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