I am sitting here in daughter’s house in Mexico; she is out. Two of her three children are watching television in an adjoining room. Before me lies a book I picked up in a local bookstore thinking it was a novel that would make for a light read (the kind you want when you are in the car waiting for your daughter -something I have had to do quite a bit since she began walking). The book, The Happiness Project, is not a novel and now, considering the title I wonder why I ever imagined that it might be. It is, however, light reading because of the simple, straightforward, this-is-what-I-did way in which it is written and it has proved to be a good and helpful read in moments when I have felt a bit down or cross (vacations are hard sometimes and when you are with someone who is not on vacation and has a thousand and one things to do before lunch and another such tally afterwards, they can even be stressful). One of the things the book says is that purposeful work is an important ingredient of happiness. Purposeful work that serves others is doubly happy-producing. I know this; it has been my experience when working with people and sharing the inquiry technique that has given me so much personal happiness and freedom. Yet since moving to Salies and giving up the brunt of my work with others I have often wondered if I hadn’t made a mistake and sacrificed up the purposefulness of my life as well; sort of like throwing the baby out with the bath water.
If I think back I can remember the “high” I would often feel at the end of a workshop; the enjoyment that filled me when I worked with someone and that person had an “aha” moment; or even the satisfaction in the simple fact that I was actually earning my living for the first time in my life. Watching the attendees (even though they were small in number) who actually continued to apply The Work and find their own freedom was another element of joy. Yet recently that joy had been constantly diminishing and I had found myself, with each workshop, thinking more about the money it was producing (or not) than about serving any purpose other than my own bank account. If I am honest, this was why it was so easy to leave the space open for a dear friend whose enthusiasm and passion for The Work was on the up-and-up.
On the other hand, finding time to write this blog was producing the joy that I had begun to find lacking in the workshops, but I couldn’t see it as serving. What purpose does it serve other than my own ego satisfaction? If I consider the number of people subscribed to my blog (43), I must admit that my audience it much too small to make a difference. And of those 43, around 35 are friends and/or family who might be subscribed out of the kindness of their hearts and not really reading it at all. This, however, has not proved to be enough to stop me from writing and the satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment with each piece I hang on the blog is far more than what I might need to merit continuing. And then I found that it might also be serving. Ah, the miracle: an e-mail that I share with joy and humility: Yet, in concluding, I feel compelled to tell you that your blog ‘Everything Begins at 60’ has inspired me because my sister is very depressed about becoming older. She feels that there is no useful life past 60…even though she hasn’t achieved that great age yet. “What is there left for us?” she quested, “now that we have become ‘invisible’?” “What do we do, except become grandparents?” “It’s all downhill with nothing to look forward to other than infirmity and losing our marbles”! Oh dear, thought I, how do I answer this? Do I need to? Can my beloved sister find her own answers? My favoured ‘homilies’ of “everything works out the way it should” and “everything happens for a reason” felt like dried salt upon my lips. And so, I forwarded your wonderfully wise words to her and, hey presto! she is much more positive now and encouraged by your delight and adventurous spirit.
So there I was: forced not only to consider this person’s comment but also to remember that others have said more or less the same in other words even going so far as to suggest I publish it in book form. As far as the e-mail, I do not personally know the correspondent although we have a close friend in common, and much less her sister, but the thoughts expressed make me wonder how many aging women might be out there shackled by the same beliefs: that there is nothing left (when for many of them they are free for the first time in their lives), that it is all downhill (when with just a minimum of care there can be twenty or more years of activity both physical and mental), that there is nothing to do except be grandparents (when suddenly there is everything to do because we are no longer responsible for others, neither the small ones nor the elderly usually), and as far as being ‘invisible’, well let me tell you that that is not my experience, quite the contrary: perhaps I was more invisible when I was somebody’s daughter, wife, mother or sister and that somebody was usually a man who was visible. Now I am myself, nothing more and my visibility has grown in leaps and bounds. Invisible? Me? Not any more, baby; not any more!!!
By the way, I couldn’t resist the temptation of staying in Mexico for Xmas with all my family (son, daughter, daughter-in-law, 7 grandchildren, my ex husband and his wife) even though I will be the 13th guest at the table. So Salomé and Salies will just have to wait until the end of December to see me.