July 21, 2017

Notes from a Midlife Crisis

When Socrates insisted that "the unexamined life is not worth living," most people agree that he was encouraging us to examine our interior lives, the ideas and beliefs and motivations and choices and reactions that propel us through the world. Ever since I turned 50 a few months ago, however, I've been equally interested in doing some exterior examination: How have I changed over the years? Do the physical changes I've gone through in the last few decades--the added pounds, the new wrinkles, the ever-multiplying gray hairs and slowly-receding hair line (and, if I'm really honest, the additional chins...*sigh*)--say anything about the interior changes that I've also experienced?

Yeah, probably. I don't know. Maybe.

But there's one thing I can say: My hair has changed quite a bit over the years, but my hair style hasn't changed at all. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, indeed.

The above picture is me from sometime around 1977 until July of 2017, approximately every thirteen or fourteen years. Maybe one of the reasons looking back on my life like this is valuable is because, seeing myself at ten, at twenty-three, at thirty-eight, I can remember many wonderful things from my life at those times, and, if I'm smart (and that's a big if!), it prompts me to count all the wonderful things there are in my life right now, even if I am (gulp!) fifty years old. Midlife may not be quite as much fun or as free as childhood, or young adulthood, or not-young-but-still-not-old adulthood, but it's still life, and that's worth a lot.

Also, I find a great deal of pleasure in this Peanuts strip from 1973, drawn when Charles M. Schulz himself was fifty:

June 10, 2017

For Laura

Six months ago today someone who was very special to me lost her life-long battle with depression. I can't tell you how sorry I am she's gone.

Her name was Laura Travis when I got to know her, but for more than half of her life her name was Laura Caudle. She was only 14 when we met, 15 when this picture was taken, 46 the last time I saw her, and just a few weeks short of her 48th birthday when she died. She is survived by her sister, Kate; her husband of twenty-five years, Keith; her daughter, Lisa; and two grandchildren.

I am grateful that I knew her when I did. She was good for me when I was 16 and 17; it was a great gift to be close to someone who was smart and funny and loved books. It was because of her that I read Stranger in a Strange Land and learned to play backgammon. She helped shape who I am today.

We grew up and went our separate ways, as people do, and stayed only loosely in touch as adults; we both married people who were good for us, and had kids, and led our own lives, and, frankly, probably didn't think about each other all that often. But the world feels emptier without her in it.