Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Over-examined Life

Back about 15 years ago, I discovered that other women were shaving their armpits and legs. Somehow, I’d missed that memo and thought that during the ’70s, we’d all radicalized and stopped doing that. It was one of those “Uh, oh. Uh, oh: Am I outside the standard deviation again?” moments.
Yesterday, in the midst of writing this blog, I crashed under another of those moments. I was writing about Dr. Atchley’s stages of retirement, about disenchantment spurring reorientation. That makes total sense to me: when you feel things aren’t working, you change direction. But I began wondering what the time frame of that stage might be: When would disenchantment spur reorientation? After six months, a year? Is there a stretch of disenchantment leading to a period of reorientation? Does reorientation end?

Which led me to the bigger question, the one about Other People. How frequently do Other People re-evaluate their lives? Does everyone reflect every day on whether his or her life had the meaning they wanted it to have? (Uh, oh. Uh, oh.) I am constantly deciding whether today – if it were followed by other days like it – would add up to a good life. And then wondering whether that’s enough because shouldn’t the whole be greater than the sum of its parts? And if not, how might I fix it tomorrow?

Suddenly, it was overwhelming. What started as a literary panic attack (How can I explain all this in the blog?) became a full-fledged onslaught of desperate self-evaluation: was all that questioning a thing to STOP? Was introspection crushing me?
I’m not sure if this has accelerated in my Third Third, what with having the time to think combined with intimations of mortality. I am after all the person who had dozens and dozens of identity crises. And I do like the philosophy that every moment is an opportunity to “repair the world,” to make a choice to do well instead of ill. So that makes for a lot of decision-making over all those moments.

So what happened yesterday was I heard all the whirring of decision-making in my head, the constant muttering of self-evaluation and I thought, “That’s the problem. It puts me too inside myself and not enough outside.”
To the rescue, my friend Linda, who emailed:
“I seem to forever be in an existential crisis of re-evaluation, self-examination, and relentless rumination and would like to get off and enjoy the moments. Maybe this time of year is not the time to expect to jump off this particular merry-go-round as reflection and rumination go along with the New Year, so my New Year’s resolution is to really enjoy my moments instead of trying to figure IT all out.”
Now Linda wrote this at 3:40 in the morning so I’m guessing she was awake and busy figuring things out, but she’s right!

And it means “Other People” includes Linda (and you perhaps?) so I’m not so outside the range of normal! Not so crazy in my own skin.

I don’t know if I’m constitutionally able to stop thinking things to death or if it’s just a deep rut I have to break out of. I was, after all, once a Philosophy grad student. When I work a job or contract, all my problem-solving is on work place problems, strategic problems, project problems, NOT how-am-I-living-my-life problems. That’s challenging and – right now – seems like a refreshing break. But writing about one’s Third Third requires personal reflection.

Living my moments is different from evaluating my moments. I’m going to remember that. It’s my New Thing.

1 comment:

Sharing Button