“And the seasons they go ’round and ’round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game” Joni Mitchell
As I sit in my kitchen listening to Joni Mitchell singing circle game, I’m struck by the lyrics as if for the first time. The song first filtered into my consciousness though the ear piece of my turquoise Transistor radio when I was 13 years old. The year, 1967 and the times were all about change. I suppose, upon reflection, the time of my birth put me squarely in the eye of some of the most profound changes that any generation has ever seen. Being comfortable with change has, out of necessity, been a large part of the fabric of my life.
Lately, time and change have taken on a different look and feel. The dawn of any new life stage is often triggered by events in time, always book ended by profound changes in our lives. This new stage of life seems more pertinent, more focused, more urgent and more conscious than the previous ones. I think it’s because change in this stage of life has introduced the concept of the finiteness of life. The result, it has inadvertently highlighted the significance of moments in time and made them clearer and more engaging. I have no choice but to sit up and pay attention.
I might just be getting the hang of this change thing. The realization that all of the changes whether joyous or heartbreaking, self propelled or externally motivated have brought me to this very place. A place that I love. Change and time have given me a richness in connections and a depth of relationship with family and friends that I am blessed to have.
This stage, that I call “The Legacy Stage”, has a paradoxical dastardly oppositional twist. Time which has always been abundant and on my side, now has unexpectedly sped up. It speeds up just as I could use just a bit more time to reflect and use all of this life experience to inform my next best step forward. I have an incredible urge to want to to freeze time, as in a photograph, but alas it moves me along whether I want to travel with it or not. How I choose to embrace this stage is really the test.
My mother once said to me that getting old isn’t for the weak of heart. At 40, I didn’t really get this. I thought I did, but now I know that I don’t. Now, in my fifties, I know enough to know, what it is I don’t know. My certainty has shifted to curiosity, a healthy confidence in knowing what I do know and a humbleness that allows me to admit what I don’t know.
The truth is that knowledge, experience and change has rendered me less certain, more humble and given me the grace to understand that life is about learning, making mistakes, growing to the very end and leaving behind a life well lived based on the choices that are presented through change.
My 85 year old Dad has always understood that keeping curious, looking forward, treasuring what is around you, moving through hard times and good times and staying current with good humor make living so much easier. My mothers comment, “getting old isn’t for the weak at heart” is really a comment about living a good life.
To live is to experience and that experience and living it will trigger change. When we try to reject it, due to fear or anger, we risk forfeiting a great and big life. When we engage and embrace it, we grow, learn and evolve. It’s the embracing of life, with all of its changes, that ensures that we leave a a legacy of a life truly well lived.
What will your legacy be?