A dialogue like this goes on inside my head as I contemplate my future:
Marital status: Married (VERY happily)
Recent events: Two much-loved men in my family died in the past 2 months; one was 91;
the other 80.
My father died at age 57 (heart disease).
Employment status: Happily & securely employed but just making ends meet.
Retirement savings: Good-sized nest egg from smart savings in previous corporate career. Finance guy says I need to work 6 more years.
The Dreamer: I want to retire earlier than age 66.
The Protector: There’s not enough money.
The Dreamer: There’s not enough time.
The Protector: How can I afford to?
The Dreamer: How can I afford NOT to?
I want to fulfill so many dreams:
spend more time with my wife,
spend more time with friends,
and finally become a part of my grandchildren’s lives.
Create new things:
complete my genealogy,
record my own music in a home studio,
scan & document my old pictures,
digitize hundreds of reel-to-reel, cassette tapes, LPs and 45s,
index and convert hundreds of hours of video to digital format,
turn some of them into DVDs complete with voice-over, subtitles, etc.
catalogue family treasures for my grandchildren,
try out living in an intentional community,
discover new places and people
and walk in the woods.
I want to indulge photography,
and many more passions.
The Questioner: Aren’t you in good health?
The Dreamer: Yes, but every time Death visits, it reminds me that life is finite even with the best of health.
The Protector: You have to survive.
The Dreamer: Aren’t you confusing means with ends?
And so what is the purpose of life anyway?
Is it enough to simply work to pay the bills?
Or is there a larger purpose for my existence beyond mere survival?
The Protector: Most of the world’s people struggle for survival; you should be satisfied with a comfortable life. You should be very conservative in your spending plans, because your comfortable living could vanish in a moment by any number of unforeseen circumstances.
That’s just the point. Life is short, and therefore I should make the most of it.
There are no guarantees in life; you must live one day at a time.
I have all these dreams.
Visions of words, music, understanding and communicating.
Communicating to my children, grandchildren and others who love me.
The Questioner: Why is writing so important to you?
The Voice of Experience:
I grasped the meaning of immortality when cleaning out my mother’s attic after her death.
I discovered an old typewritten transcription of the autobiography of my great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Reuben Philips (1795-1877). He was a circuit riding preacher, school teacher and teacher of singing schools in the mountains of western North Carolina in the early 1800s. Because he set down so much of his life in writing, I realized that he had become immortal. He spoke directly to me from the time of Napoleon because he took the time to put his life down in writing.
Through experiences like these I have come to realize that the only thing that makes me unique is the substance of my thoughts. All of the elements that constitute my physical body will eventually return to the earth from which they were borrowed. Because thoughts precede actions, any accomplishments are the result of thoughts.
I always knew I was different from everyone else. In childhood I thought I might be crazy. My sister was retarded, and the thought often crossed my mind that there might be something seriously wrong with me. I was depressed a good bit of the time. I tried my best to hide my differentness by pretending to be like everyone else but often not quite getting away with it. I was not an unhappy child, but life has progressively improved with age.
I got pretty good at fulfilling other people's expectations,
But staying out of trouble is just not good enough anymore.
Each year I learn to respect myself a bit more,
to give ear to that still small voice.
To appreciate my own wisdom.
To expand my capacity to love,
and to be loved.
Each year allows me to become more truly myself.
A close acquaintance with death has taught me to appreciate life.
A great marriage,
the love and respect of my son,
living in Music City (college town, music central)
enjoying being a new Unitarian Universalist,
becoming more politically active,
working on causes in which I believe,
paying my bills
and enjoying continuous learning.
Now that I re-read the dialogue above,
I realize that I tend to slip into first person when using the Dreamer voice
and third person when speaking with the Protector voice.
My True Self must be the Dreamer;
I should follow her call.