I’m sitting in a Starbucks. A young woman is waiting for her boyfriend to get his drink. While she waits, an older couple walks in. They walk slightly hunched and slower. They also have the look on their faces that says, “Ya, we’ve lived a long time, that’s why!”
I watch the older couple walk by the young, tight-skinned, bleached blond, I-broke-a-nail-and-life- is-really-hard twenty (barely) something . Then I notice, the twenty something stares at the couple. At first, it’s kind of a stare of pity and gratefulness that, “I am not them.” But then, she looks again, and her face changes. She really looks, and bites her lower lip. My projection into her mind (which could simply be my projection) is that she has a quick realization that she too will one day be old. But, then in true human fashion, she quickly changes the channel of her mind. Her boyfriend interrupts the moment and off they go.
Now, all of what I said is true up to the point I guessed about what’s going on in her head. She might not have been as reflective (for that split second) as I’m portraying. My evidence for her slight twinge of reality was her face. It momentarily betrayed her feelings–feelings that say, as John Mayer wrote, “I want to stop this train and get off for a while.” But alas, we can’t. Once we show up on the planet, the train just keeps moving.
I don’t blame the twenty something for changing the channel. Heck, I do it all the time. I did it in this little moment I’m describing by focusing on the twenty something more than on the seventy something’s. But, I think one difference between twenty something and forty something may be that I’m learning that inside those split second moments of reality, is an invitation–an invitation to stay with the burn just a little longer. The burn that reminds me that life, as our Buddhists friends would declare, is impermanent and I will one day no longer breathe. Gee, aren’t you glad you stopped by? Crap, there I go changing the channel.
This is really not a downer post, really. It’s just a reminder that life is better if I live slightly longer in reality than in denial. The applications to this are legion. I’ll let you make them. So next time you feel the twinge of reality, stay with it just a little longer. Just avoid the remote for a few more seconds and see where it takes you.