JThanks for sticking with me for a second column on this wacky topic of “Change your metaphor, change your life.” It’s just possible once we do, we’re no longer under the spell of the borrowed history, temporal and cultural myths that rule us. See you later, memory, beauty, gut, bone and muscle supplements! Adios too late, too old!
On some subconscious level, don’t we know that we are part of a bigger question, a bigger answer, a bigger story? Doesn’t that explain why our dreams are filled with monsters and angels, and why we, in our dreams, find ourselves either glued to the ground or flying free? These nocturnal odysseys tap into a fundamental, ancient and strangely familiar aspect of ourselves… cowardly lions, heartless lead men. Haven’t we, in certain situations, needed a bit of pixie dust, a magic lantern? And when it appeared, what form did it take? Could we ever have foreseen? What makes anyone think this incredible cycle suddenly stops?
Just for fun, let’s change our belief that life happens between the metaphors of birth and death and instead be on the lookout for patterns of experience and intersections of time that point in another direction. Let’s not succumb to the cultural message that time is running out. That there is a “real time” to be “in”. Time itself is a metaphor. If we waste a day flying to China, where exactly is it going? Have you lost two years to COVID? What have they become ? We had to let go of our “metaphor” of what those years would look like, we had to adapt, pivot, see the invitation in what happened instead, but nothing concrete was “lost” .
Time travels. Time stops. Hurry up. Time is up. Time is too short, too long. Time is lost. A beloved rancher friend once shared his local weather theory. He said that when you’re young, very young, “Time passes very slowly but the metabolism is extremely bent. As you get older, time speeds up and the metabolism slows down dramatically. At death’s door,” he said. he continued, “the metabolism comes to a complete halt, and yet time flies by so quickly that all of your life’s experiences flash before you in one fleeting moment.” I can imagine, like it was yesterday, how he took off his sweat-stained cap, smoothed down his gray hair with his hand missing an index finger thanks to a run-in with the tractor, and, carefully repositioning the cap on his head, and asked: “What do you think?”
Good question. I turned it over until the edges were worn and smooth. Based on what he said, it would seem that at some point the arcuate ellipses of time and metabolism must intersect, and when they do, should be in balance and harmony exquisite. Do you think this intersection is a unique moment in our life? If so, it must be perfect. Orgasmic. How can we know when that unique moment is? Or when we’re inside? Or is it a particular quality in each moment? If I practice, can I stay at this intersection and experience everything this way? Could I live my whole life as the fly line dances over the river before it hits the water? Before a baby breathes for the first time on the way to a life-affirming cry? The time between the coyote’s laughter coming out of his lips and the moment I hear it on the other side of the valley? Is this the moment just before we express our love – the expression of it waiting in the wings anticipating its entrance? Can we recognize these moments only with hindsight? Like salt thrown over the shoulder for good luck? Or can we live forever in their present and immediate knowledge, practicing, nurturing the awareness that they are always happening around us, until they are all and only of life? These are some of the questions I wish I had asked my breeder friend before he died.
Every moment we have all the time we need. We can’t count on how many moments there will be, but we can honestly live each one as if it were our last, free from authoritarian cultural metaphors, vigorously and courageously claiming our own. Anouar Sadat, president of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, reportedly said: “I will not die a minute before my time. Despite the risky policies he adopted, I always thought he meant that he was entirely responsible for the timing of his death. I liked the idea. A lot. But when he was assassinated in 1981, I realized he had meant to say that he had no control over when his time would come but, at the same time, that he would not waste a minute in s worry when that happens.
— Poet and author Ellen Waterston is an older woman who lives in Bend. “The Third Act” is a series of chronicles on aging and ageism.