Life story.

corners n curves

Tonight I was thinking about the story of my life. The story that began when I was born and then certain things happened. My parents did certain things, my family was a certain way, we lived in a certain place, I went to certain schools. That was my childhood. In some ways, it was like other people’s childhoods but in other ways it wasn’t. But it was the only childhood that I had.

And then I had my teen years. My adolescence was, what five or six years of my life. They were pretty important years, even though I don’t actually remember that much about them. I remember the first time I kissed a girl, the first time I drank so much I threw up on the subway, the first time I was in a play.

These were all important events in my life. But they were one-time events and I will never have them again. All these events were difficult to judge and put into context at the time. Things happened that seemed incredibly important at the time but now I don’t remember them at all. Whereas other things that seemed trivial have remained with me for decades since.

What I was thinking about tonight was, I guess, this finite quality of my life. Not death, the end, but just the whole arc of my life. Right now I am at a certain point in my life. It feels like it’s probably the middle of my life but I don’t know that for sure — I could be a day away from the end. But assuming it is the middle of my life, I can’t necessarily look at it and see how everything that has preceded it has led to this point. It feels sort of like progress but also somewhat random.

Looking back at those events in the past that had either a significant impact on me or were completely forgettable, I’m struck by the fact that they are so difficult to assess. I look at things that were clearly watersheds, like getting married, having a kid, losing a loved one, but all those events turned out to have a different meaning than I thought they would have the time. It’s just proved impossible to chart the course of my life or even understand it as it unfolds.

So I could look at this very moment, sitting here, a certain point in the summer, when certain events have happened or changes took place, and I can imagine that I could look back on this time and see it for something or other, but right now I have no idea what that is.

The only meaningful way to look at your life is twofold. On one hand, this big sweeping story: I was born, I lived my life, and then it ended. Or the minuscule: one day at a time, one hour at a time, putting down the events of each day in my journal, I ate this for lunch, I talked about that with my friend, I bought new tires, I discovered a lump, I found five dollars on the street. I can’t tell whether it matters, or why, or how much, I can only live through it. And thinking about the big picture reminds me that this is the only time that I will have today, and because I don’t know what role or purpose today will hand I should try to live it fully.

Perhaps this is all just a trite observation. But tonight it struck me that my life is like a TV show and I can pause it and see how much time has passed in the episode so far, but I can’t tell how much time is left. I can look back on what has happened in the episode so far but I can’t change any of it. And what is to come may or may not have as much excitement or laughs as what has transpired so far but I plan to watch the rest of it regardless.

When I look back at what has happened so far, it’s again that feeling that that was my one childhood, that was my one adolescence, that was my one first job, and that’s it. It can make life seem fleeting but it can also show the importance of each one of these sections, including the section I’m in now. And when I think about the uniqueness of this period I’m going through, it makes me want to get the most out of it, to not take it for granted but to live it deeply, richly, cause this is the one I have. ‘One Life to live’, so I guess in the end, yes, the conclusion is trite. But somehow, tonight, that didn’t make It any less true or less important to think about.

Oh, and I know my blog looks different, You’ll get used to it. So will I.

24 Comments

  1. Christie

    Pretty thought provoking stuff first thing in the morning!

  2. Judy Breedlove

    Oh, wow, Danny. You put it so well. We always think we’re going to remember things when they happen in our life; but, unless it is monumental, we don’t remember. Pretty heavy thoughts this early (7:21 am) in the morning; but, certainly thought provoking. Thank you.

  3. Mikey

    I love the new format, it’s bright and cheery. A most thought provoking blog. I’ll be thinking about what you’ve written throughout the day.

  4. Matt

    Maybe the real human meaning is in how we deal with this experience. Shinzen Young has a few good ideas on this: “Don’t know, with smile.” And: “A meaningful experience of meaninglessness.” For me, everything always seems important at the time, but good, neutral or bad, it doesn’t help me to cling to it. Maybe things are meaningful precisely because they are impermanent.

  5. prior

    you are a great writer.

  6. Lynn Cohen

    I like being inspired to think like this. Like your thoughts then triggered my thoughts! Yesterday one of the highlights was playing a card game with my nine year old grandson. It’s a game my mom taught me, called Spite and Malice. He really caught on and got caught up in the back and forth repartee of the game! When I play with my brother we swear at each other. It was delightful to hear how a nine year old deals with frustration and excitement depending on the cards dealt him! We both laughed so hard our sides ached. I’d love to think I will remember this forever and that he will too. But maybe not. Likely he’ll remember that his grandma taught him this game, as I recall my mom taught it to me. But what matters most is that we had this really fun, happy, time in our lives together. And I taught my grand daughter, also 9, to use the free motion foot on my sewing machine so now she can draw in thread on fabric! Right now life is grand! Right now is all we have, and I’m damn lucky to have joy right now! Thanks for helping me to focus on that today!

    Your new look is very spiffy! Nice arrows to previous and next posts too! Enjoy your NOW!

  7. Gail Hight

    Thanks Danny, very profound and just what I needed to read this morning! Love the new look of your blog.

  8. Virginia

    Sometimes it seems as if you are reading my mind, Danny. Thank-you for expressing yourself so eloquently.

  9. momsun

    I frequently think about where I am now and how I got here. Absolutely NOTHING turned out “as planned”, and yet here I am in my “golden years” a happy, and more importantly, a contented person. All of the things that have happened… the good, the bad, and the ugly,… have brought me to this place. No regrets about the past because you can’t change the past. Life is what it is.

  10. ehwilson2013

    As I was reading this, Danny, it occurred to me that so often people act as if they know that story of the rest of their life. They assume they are too old to…, too tired to….., too lacking talents….., and close doors they can just as easily open as not! Let’s boogie all the way out!

  11. Christine

    Hear, hear! And couldn’t agree more with ehwilson2013′s comment. thanks as always.

  12. M. Robert

    I like the new design.As long as we do not get too worked up, or anxious, or disappointed with our struggling to make sense of things and coming up short, which to me it seems as if I do more often that not; keep on trucking. The sharing you do is more than enough to qualify as a fully led life (whatever that may mean).I read that high school students are not good at planning. From my experience adults are not very good at it also. “Navigation, learn it and live; or leave it and be damned.” Capt. Stotover, G.B. Shaw. If you find a book or method that provides tools to Chart or Navigate our lives (scientifically, or secular), I would be interested.

  13. marjunblishen

    I like the thought that we can’t judge our own life. I can’t anyway. I like today, do my best, say I’m sorry, have compassion on myself and those around me. Very interesting string of thoughts. Thank you.

  14. AnAis

    My grandmother used to say: “Life is so long and short at the same time…” And it’s absolutely true. The only thing we should try is to live EVERY SINGLE DAY of the rest of our life as it was our last chance, enjoying the most simple things around us, because HAPPINESS IS IN SIMPLICITY…

  15. Kathy Kelly

    I find that I am always operating, moment by moment, out of a set of values. Up until now, if never occurred to me to become conscious of these values, before I act, or react, or respond. I hope there is another healthy force in the universe nudging me toward the good.

  16. Cher solis

    When I lost my 23 year old son I thought my life was over but it turned out to be a new beginning. I learned that life’s too short not to be happy. I got the courage to leave an abusive marriage and start over . Art became my therapy so you could say I saved by my art. I met a wonderful man who appreciates me and treats me very well. He encourages me to send time on art . So after some bad turns in life – now it’s all green lights.

  17. Leah

    I really like your new look Danny! Interesting thoughts in this latest post. Lots of food for thought.

  18. Lynn

    Your blog looks very nice. Very user-friendly.

  19. Vagabond

    Danny, in tune with your thought process in this post, have you ever read something you wrote just a few years ago, maybe 3, maybe 10, and didn’t remember writing it at all? You think, “that couldn’t have been me writing that.” I find that I can remember things written much more than visual or audible moments in time, but even so, it seems that there was NO WAY that I could have written what I wrote just 3 years ago. It’s as if I was a different person with a vastly different thought process. It’s troubling and entertaining all at once – I want to believe that I have some continuity or confidence in my thoughts, but I’m content in knowing I’d never think of writing such garbage today! Or is it writer’s hubris? Do we really change that much? I believe we do, somewhere deep inside the mind… and soul.

    Every success, failure, joy, heartache, guides a newer, more mature thought process. And as you say – who knows what that even means. We think we know, but years down the road we may assess it or grade it differently. We may be the same as we were on the surface (in looks and mannerisms), but given the time to think methodically and write, we can be very much different people altogether as we age, grow, and develop.

    Great new layout for the blog. I like how the page borders change sometimes just by reloading the page. Variance! An element of color and surprise.

  20. Michelle Wallis-Morris

    I like the comment that they are important because they are impermanent. I also like to read your blog and books and these comments because it helps me when I think I’m the only one who thinks like this, about meaning or brevity or triviality of life or events. Of love and loss. Of art and life. You keep writing and I’ll keep reading.

  21. Viv

    What a wonderful post! All our stories are unique. I truly believe life review is good, but should not define us.. Just turned 61 and have never been happier in my life. Life is good!

  22. Cindy

    For some reason, the song “These are Days” by 10,000 Maniacs comes to mind.

    “These are days you’ll remember.
    Never before and never since, I promise, will the whole world be warm as this.
    And as you feel it, you’ll know it’s true that you are blessed and lucky.
    It’s true that you are touched by something that will grow and bloom in you…..”

    Simple but true.

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