Monday, December 12, 2016

Is enough enough?

Way back when, I told boyfriend #1 I didn’t know if I loved him enough. He said, “So do you wait till five minutes before you die to know this was what you were going to get so it had better have been enough?” He was that kind of guy, and I’m sure he’d be flabbergasted to know this is what I remember.

By now, all of us have seen that commercial where the spokesperson asks people, “Have you saved enough for retirement?” and they all look at him quizzically and ask, “How do I know what’s enough?”

How do we know what’s enough?

While I’ve been thinking about enough, I keep coming across this word: “tireless.” As in, “She worked tirelessly for human rights” or “She was tireless in her passion for making art.”

So if I were making a scale, this is what it would look like:

In my mind, it’s a scale measuring laziness, commitment, and passion. I’ve written a lot here about feeling like I waste time, that I’m not very productive in my Third Third. But recently, I realized that constant self-criticism had given way to a Third Third rhythm: I liked the rhythm of my days, of my creative activity, of my social/adventurous/New Thing pursuits. I liked the balance I’d struck between being useful and being still. I stopped feeling lazy and occasionally just felt … still.

And then my book club read Founding Brothers about the creation of our country and a friend reminded me of what Ben Franklin had said after the Constitutional Convention.  A woman asked what kind of government we were going to have, and Franklin answered, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

Can we keep it?

Do you read the newspapers?!?

So I feel tremendous responsibility to not let our country down, to keep a republic. I write many letters to my Congressional delegation, I teach English to new immigrants, I go to vigils and marches and make sure I’m standing with the now-marginalized-more-than-ever-before. I donate to rights-preserving organizations.

But I’m not doing this tirelessly. I’m still kind of lazy about it. I’ll spend a whole day caught up in a new novel or my nights finishing Orphan Black season 4. I’m beginning to think that tireless is not an operative adjective for my Third Third.

I’ve been tireless in my life. I’ve fought for political access, for affordable housing, for public transit, for women’s equality. I’ve burned my candle at both ends. I’ve felt part of something bigger. I’ve liked living “notched up,” fueling the energy that flowed and flowed. But now, I only operate at lukewarm.
Is this aging? Am I tired?

But we don’t have that luxury now. If we slack off, we can’t keep our republic! (My sense of urgency would insert LOTS of exclamation points there!) We have to do more than enough. We have to be vigilant and positive and proactive and resourceful.

So I’m back to beating myself up. I’m no longer still; I’m just lazy.

But this weekend, at the Human Rights Day vigil, I spotted a man carrying a sign:
I’ll think more about tired and tireless, lazy and still, enough and not; but for now, I just have to make sure I do. And keep doing. And do a little more.

1 comment:

  1. Don't beat yourself up. Mentor the younger generation. Tell them the history and help them carry on.


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