I expect that the tug-of-war I often feel—between inner and outer calls for me to be involved in something—is a common one. There is a balance needed between the affairs of the world, on the one hand, and my own inclinations on the other. Too much commitment to external activities and I can find myself a servant to all the outside forces that are themselves coasting along on self-perpetuating, inertial paths. Too much time following my own inclinations and tired indolence takes over.
In my 76th year, I find myself viewing with appreciation the range of engagements that have occupied much of my time in recent decades. But more and more I view these involvements in the rear view mirror of a vehicle that seems to have lost its higher gears. Moving more slowly through the terrain allows more opportunity to observe the passing scenery, but there is also a sense that it was great to have the energy to pursue opportunities when they showed up.
For all I know I’ll live to 90 and 15 years from now I’ll look back at the kind of swan song perspective I am now voicing and tell myself that I should have harnessed myself to the cart of possibility with greater dedication.
Yet when I ask myself if I want to dive into projects that would require considerable interest and passion to get them off the ground, the harness remains slack on my shoulders. I could write a fourth book for instance. But the prospect of spending hours each day for a year or more, in order to create a story about life on this planet, just doesn’t feel worth the effort. Many people do that better than I do: creating both books that you can’t put down and books that you do put down, in order to absorb their impact and allow their insights to awaken and resonate within.
Similarly with my involvement with several non-profits, whose work still seems valuable to me: I feel that they will either survive or they won’t, based on the group of people for whom that outcome is personally important.
Family life remains the most demanding of my time and caring. But in the face of the distress and challenges that family members experience, I cannot do much but listen. As for the advice I am sometimes tempted to give: I discover that it usually doesn’t have much relevance to someone else’s life when they are at a different phase of their own life journey.
I wonder if our planet feels, like my kids probably do, that the solutions I come up with usually fail to appreciate what it feels like to be spinning and orbiting in space: a beautiful being who must constantly keep a delicate balance between the inner and outer dimensions of a unique life in the cosmos.
Since retiring (11/04) have felt the same internal conflict between helping others and pleasing myself. I keep going. I have a friend who had a book published by the British Royal Society shortly after his 90th birthday. The book is titled “Animal Genetics for Chemists.” Keep going, Michael.
Michael, Agree with Walter… keep plugging away… 🙂
I agree with Walter and with David, Michael!