I was just reviewing old bookmarks, and ran across the last blog entry of a writer friend who is no longer with us. If you want to read it, you can find it here. Marsha was a fine writer and teacher, and a good person to have in your life. She brought the pleasures of poetry and literature into the minds and hearts of thousands of students. A pretty darned good legacy, when you think about it.
Reading her poignant post got me to thinking about the idea of a “life well-lived.” Who decides about that? I am agnostic, so I don’t look forward to some Great Beyond. As far as I know, this is it — the whole show, not a dress rehearsal. (Although I generally hate being wrong, I wouldn’t mind being mistaken about that; however, logic prevails.) That being the case, the only life I expect to have beyond the grave is in the memories of people, slowly to fade until the wisps are carried away by the winds of time; a tiny part of the whole, but unnoticed down the years by those to come.
So, unless I want to indulge in magical thinking I have to accept that the sum of my life is my legacy as well, and I have to ask myself whether I’ve lived that life so as to leave something worthwhile behind, however ephemeral.
My desire to take a hard look at that question has varied over the years. I stopped drinking and drugging in 1989 and thought I was sober. As it turned out, I really wasn’t. (Think unaddressed process addiction that far preceded the chemicals.) Only in the past few years, after another “rock bottom,” have I started to deal effectively with that one.
Overall, though, I think my total progress and some of the things I’ve accomplished are probably not to be ashamed of. Whether others share that opinion is none of my business. I’ve slowly come to understand, at least intellectually, that I live in my reality, and what’s going on in someone else’s is not my concern.
However, I think it behooves us all to occasionally look back, think of our lives to date, and decide if they’re something we can be satisfied with. If we feel as though we’re on the right track, maybe we can attend to the details a bit more closely. If it seems as though we are a bit short, then we might sit back and consider how we can re-map our journey. Perhaps our criterion should be something like, “Have I helped others as much as they’ve helped me.”
I don’t know. What do you think?