It’s true what they say about getting older: for everything you may lose (eternal optimism, youthful enthusiasm, supple skin), you gain clarity. You can see what was only blurry before – what you can change, what is beyond your control.
A blurry world snapped into focus is freeing, sure. You can see so clearly that railing against the void is useless. You can’t change the weather, the world, anyone but yourself. You can let go of those things that are pointless and can better spend your energy, especially now that it’s become an exhaustible resource.
But with clarity comes a sense of loss, too. Helplessness. Some things you can’t will into existence, can’t move no matter how much you mediate, how many cleansing breaths you take, how much wisdom and perspective you feel you have in knowing a better way.
You can’t change anything but yourself.
Surely this is why celebrities all write self-help books and memoirs in their 40s. They all say the same thing: somehow I can change something, someone. Life is fleeting. I don’t want you to spend that short time suffering.
I was watching a documentary the other day about Buddhist monks. In their monastery, a clock chimes every 15 minutes. It’s a reminder to be present in the moment. When they hear the chimes, they stop whatever they are doing, take a breath, reset. I guess we do that once a year, new year’s resolutions and all of that.
We know it’s a good idea to be present, to look around, to remember what we are grateful for. But what we wish we could change is so much louder. It obscures the rest. We have to really listen and look, to filter out the noise.
But mostly we lose ourselves into the noise. We obsess over the front page of the newspaper even though we live in the peaceful world that doesn’t have reason to make the news.
That part we can change. Or, anyway, it’s potentially changeable.
We can enjoy breakfast and the moon and the way the light filters through the leaves. But it sounds dumb, right? Sappy and self-righteous and oblivious to the suffering of the world.
I don’t know. I can’t change anything but myself.