Two things happened today that got me thinking about the unknown limits of our time on Earth and how we carve out our place here. This morning my beautiful sister-in-law, Kassie, missed being killed as a giant Eucalyptus tree fell inches from her car at a stop sign near her home. Later
I see my children as they are
in the world.
I took myself to see a provocative film about a single mother struggling to raise her teenage son. The film, 20th Century Women, starring Annette Bening, depicts a significant conflict between the mother and the son. She yearns to "know" him, to grasp the inner workings of his heart, all the while remaining closed off to him. In a telling scene she complains to another woman, "I will never see him (the son) as he is in the world, as you do."
The film addresses the teen's heartfelt attempts to engage his emotionally sterile mother in meaningful dialogue. In one failed try he reads to her from Sisterhood is Powerful, a feminist anthology, a quote about older women becoming invisible. The mother reacts, "You think I'm invisible?" then stubbornly turns and walks out of the room.
I don't think we have time to waste. Kassie's near brush with catastrophe and the frustration of the characters in the film point out to me that our time on the planet is brief. It is precious. My husband often reminds me that "we are going to be gone from this world for a
very long time." In Kassie's case I cannot think of anyone I know who is living her life more fully. In the conflict of the characters in the film (which the critics say is personal to the
director) their unwillingness to be knowable to each other seems like a big waste.
Giant Tree that nearly killed
For many of us time is quickly escaping, slipping through our fingers like warm sand. For twenty-two years my cars' license plates have boasted my glee in being a grandmother. But times have changed. The children are mostly grown up now, taller than I. The Mimi plates came off this month, as did the eleven plaster-of-Paris baby handprints from the walls. Our grands have grown. Time is accelerating by. I think it's essential that we make each day count, and find new ways in which to do so.
I've listened to women lamenting the fact that they no longer turn
heads when they walk into a room, or about feeling invisible after a certain age. It seems to me that if we live a life of meaningful engagement with others, our lives will be fuller and we
will remain visible. I still don't quite get why the mother in the film believed she'd never really see her son as he was, perhaps she suffered tunnel vision. I'm not sure. But I do know that
when we interact with others in a meaningful way, magic can happen. When we ask others about their lives, and then actively listen, the most interesting phenomenon often occurs, we see them
and they see us! It can become a rich reciprocal experience. People are honored when we show our interest in them and they often return the attention.
Donna with Megan and Jaycelin.
It is important to Listen
When I was a little girl, the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie came into my grandfather's pharmacy to be sold. One of my jobs was to put the incoming books and magazines in the racks. I read that book, and even though I was
just a little girl, I began to understand that humans have a hunger to connect; that when others see and acknowledge us, we will open like flowers. Dale Carnegie told his readers to ask
questions of others and then to really listen. It is the key to meaningful conversations, the antidote to shyness, a way to make friends, and a way out of loneliness. Today psychologists are
teaching about emotional intelligence, pointing out the value of practicing empathy and drawing others out. One of the most powerful and priceless things we can share with those in our sphere
is the gift of our attention; listening to them, giving our time. I think we humans hunger to be seen and acknowledged. Perhaps the riddle in the film about the mother being unable to "see"
her son, is the fact that she was unwilling to be seen herself. Remember the old adage, "See and be seen?" If we are unknowable, then how can we know another? Time is too precious to waste
like that. I love hearing what you think. How are you staying engaged?
Our Moments on the Planet are Finite
My best, donna