I am sitting on the sidelines of life. I have become a spectator. I am not even commenting currently on what I see or sense.
Wow! Never thought this day would come.
Living alone for over 20 years can cause one to become introspective and reclusive.
Again, I don’t know exactly when it happened. I just know that it did.
There is no rule that I know of that says you have to become withdrawn and lonely simply because you are alone. Circumstances are not what make us who we are or do whatever it is that we do—or don’t do.
What I believe I have come to realize is that I have allowed myself to respond to circumstances with an increasing degree of skepticism and frustration over not being able to change things more to my liking.
Then, some days after penning the words above, I discovered in the words of one of my favorite authors, Mark Nepo, in The Book of Awakening a kindred spirit. He told of a poetry reading he was doing in New York City when he encountered an angry young man that had just witnessed a woman being mugged. The young man was so angry he wrote a poem on the spot. Another person attending the event called out, “Yeah, it sure beats stopping the mugging.” Mark went on to write:
The story points up, painfully, how living in our thoughts removes us from the very real journey of being alive. To always analyze and problem solve and observe and criticize what we encounter turns our brains into heavy calluses. Rather than opening us deeper into the mystery of living, the over-trained intellect becomes a buffer from experience.
Well, those thoughts immediately clicked for me. For a number of years I have been observing from the sidelines, analyzing the variety of events that puzzle and upset many of us. My way of dealing with the upset was to write critically, often, about those events and the all too apparent lack of judgment being expressed by others. This process is not living. It is observing. It is judging. Seldom, if ever, will we find satisfaction in simply observing and criticizing events. It makes no difference, really, if our judgments are sound. Making a difference comes from what one does, not what one sees.
Here is where I can tell myself that I have had many years of actively engaging in life during my careers, first as a minister and later as an employee of a Fortune 500 company. In both of these careers I found ways to move my observations into actions that helped change some conditions. The doing of whatever I could brought a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Unfortunately, following retirement, my doing was mostly limited to writing about my observations. Of course, I believe my writing was an appropriate way for me to move beyond simply being discontented with events. Still, as time has proceeded I have been less satisfied that writing has served a broader useful purpose. That is why I suddenly had the realization that I had become a bystander. In some respects I was not much different from the young man who wrote an angry poem about a woman being mugged rather that attempting to stop the mugging.
I suppose I am expected to say here that not everyone should jump into the fray and try to physically set things right. That does not satisfy me in the least. We have had so many occasions through the years where people just stood by doing nothing while some tragedy was taking place. In these days of instant communication, we find so many using their phones to take pictures of events. I wonder though how many think to call 911 or rush to the aid of a person in trouble. Yes, I know, some do.
Finally, my point is that to live we must be engaged on some level. Each person will decide for him/herself what he or she can do. Once we have decided how we will be engaged in life, we must do it. It may even be that whatever you are doing is already exactly the right thing for you to do. No one can decide for you. Getting beyond analyzing or just thinking about it does seem to be an important step to take.
Apparently I became a spectator without realizing it. Now that I see that I will seek to find ways to be more engaged in living. I will probably continue to write. It’s what I do. I will also get out of myself more and socially engage. (This is difficult for me, in case you wondered.) Maybe I will take that trip I keep thinking about (even though I don’t have a particular destination in mind). I encourage you to find your own way to engage in life here and now. Let’s enjoy life together!