Most of the time, I can look at my life and acknowledge that I’ve done well enough; certainly, I currently live a better life than perhaps I deserve, karma-wise. I love and am confident that I’m loved—that in itself makes life worthwhile. While my health is about normal for someone my age: kept alive by medications, kept functioning by a modicum of mental and physical activities, I know that my days are limited.
What might have been part of my life seems a bit ridiculous to consider, I suppose. I might have done better by those who trusted me over the years, but that’s not the present consideration.
I’ve been sitting on a sunny Sunday morning, reading The New Yorker, one of my favorites, and listening to the Saint Saëns organ symphony (which of course prompts one to close one’s eyes and simply absorb the resonances that make reading impossible).
I’ve also been wondering—again—why I didn’t stick with an early experimentation with music. As a teen-ager, I plinked a lot on my sister’s piano, hearing things that fascinated me, trying out various chords and even writing down a few “songs.” Nobody really encouraged me, but nobody discouraged me, either. If I’d had enough gumption, I’d have pushed myself to at least take lessons and try to satisfy that needling curiosity about why music affected me. I’ve never felt that I “could’ve been a contender” in music, but I might have accumulated enough skill to play for myself and feel the stuff that was inside of me come out as far as my fingers, at least. Regret number one, recurring over most of my life.
When I was eight years old, a family friend took me to a local airstrip and paid for me to be taken up in a brief flight in an old (even at that time) tandem airplane of some kind. Ever since then, I’ve fantasized about flying—not the hear-to-there-crammed-into-a-seat-isolated-from-“flying,” but feeling the lift and the freedom of a light plane, crawling over the landscape, above ordinary life itself, it seems. I’ve read about people who conquered mountains or brought back medals from the Olympics, but never was I tempted to emulate them. I couldn’t imagine myself winning an air race, or even trying. Enough for me is to hang suspended by slender wings three thousand feet above green fields and silver lakes, and then climaxing the experience by turning into final approach with the thin wedge of a rubber-smeared runway coming toward me and feeling the soft plump as tires meet concrete. There is no gourmet feast that could compare with that experience. I know that had I been persistent in my youth, I could have had that as a regular part of my life, in some form.
Both of these holes in my life could have been filled. I say often that I don’t know why they never were, but it’s obvious that I didn’t work hard enough. Hence the regrets.
There was something else that as a young person I dreamed about: writing. I wrote some silly (erotic, of course) stories in my teens, and for a while seriously pursued the idea of professional writing. It never occurred me to go for a MFA (if such was even available at the time), but I never let go of the desire to be a writer. In middle age, I did get a degree along those lines and eventually managed to support myself writing technical material. It wasn’t until I retired that I said, okay, from now on I write for myself. I didn’t dream of fame. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts at marketing, I decided that that part of the process didn’t interest me. I simply wrote. Not many people have read what I’ve written since. I can honestly say I don’t care, although I can’t deny that a wider recognition would give me some satisfaction. The recent advances in technology allow me to put my work up where it might attract a reader or two, the limit of my marketing efforts.
So what has my life been about, and how might it have been more satisfying—aside from the emotional and relational part of it? I think I used the word gumption here somewhere. Something I lacked enough of. I suppose I could blame that on my early environment—inadequate role models, little encouragement, whatever. The bottom line is that I didn’t have enough of it. Some people are born with other, more influential, limitations. This has been my life. I can wish, on occasion, for it to have been different.
On the whole, approaching my eighty-sixth year, I can’t complain.