There is a moment when thinking is flipped like a sand timer, on its head. A moment when all I think I see and all I think I know unthinks itself. In a state of confusion the old absolute makes a dash for the door. I call after it DON’T GO! but it pays me no heed. The new light thrown on this old belief has dissolved it. I didn’t ask for this new light but, then, whoever does ask for new light when that which was already is curled comfortably up in the library alongside all the other absolutes of my life?
Once the door has shut on the old I turn, reluctantly, towards the new. Now I will have to work and the thought makes me tired. I never had to think much around the old guy curled up in a library chair. Now I have a bouncing babe to dress and feed and think about, and at my time of life! It’s a veritable insult and quite lacking in respect for my retirement plans. I know of many, now dead, who staunchly maintained their library of beliefs. Although it might have been infuriating to me, I could only hand over the invitation for an alternative look at something old. I often as not withdrew my hand for these old retainers retained with iron fists, their vast collection of experiential wisdoms serving them as well now as they ever did throughout a long life. I could, in more gracious moments, see the value they put upon what and how they knew any given truth. I could sometimes, in a state of higher grace, see myself as they did. Uninformed. Young, too young to really know what I was talking about. I could take that head-on-one-side patronising half smile and climb back over their boundary wall with only a slight turbulence in my heart. Sometimes. Although I do confess to you now that this was a rare event. How could they be so stuck? Why is it that, after 20 years of my father being dead, did his ruling still rule? Was my mother a child who could not think for herself? Just because he refused to let her sew whilst she watched TV with him, did that mean she was duty bound to maintain that rule? Did I have to sit there, my hands laid still in my lap and feigning interest whilst watching Countdown? Seriously??
It was her rule of thumb. Her security. It told me much about their shared life. Perhaps she, like me, had married someone she needed at the time. A father figure, one with a well-established set of ‘truths’, and, perhaps she picked them all up and made them her own because to think for herself could have been dangerous. Many women have fallen into this old trap, me included. It is easy to do and comfortable, safe. But, unlike her, I am curious as Alice in Wonderland and always seeking a new way to do an old thing. Sometimes I bin the old thing altogether. It’s falling apart anyway, for all the patching I may have done to date. It no longer has a place in my set of truths and its voice is just a squeak, and an irritating one at that Even when I can smell danger ahead, I quest on because the world is always on the change and I do not want to be left behind. Uncomfortable it may be but what I am learning is a revelation. If I don’t hold on too tight to my own experiential trusses, will the building fall? Well, yes, it might. But, then again, it might not.
This letting go of control is my egg timer flip. All my life I was taught to adhere without more than the odd lightweight question, such as Shall I Prune These Roses?, to the establishment truths. In the parental home, my school, college or job, my marriage and my family life. Sometimes this wistfuls me a bit. Had I been brave enough to sew defiantly whilst watching Countdown as a young woman, might I have known the real security of independent thinking and autonomy? Learning this flip thing as a sexagenarian is all very well but what difference will it make now to my life?
I cannot be sure of my answer to that, but what I do know is that this new state of flux is exciting. All day long old truths head for the door but I no longer call them back. Thank you I say, and Hurry up. My house looks bigger without them, more space for dancing, more light. It doesn’t matter that I am a late learner. I am bright and strong and healthy and I say I Don’t Know a lot to the questions asked by my grandchildren, my children, anyone in fact. And I don’t. Know. How can I know, when the world is always on the change? Instead I ask them – How Would You Do It?
There should be a museum of Curious Old Ways with a nominal entrance fee. On rainy days, young families could visit the exhibits and laugh together at the quaintly out of date methods I trusted and employed for decades. They might picnic in the grounds and return, after lunch, for more hilarity. It could be a real hit with the new generations. Old thinking always generates laughter in the young. It doesn’t mean we didn’t bring anything of value to the table of life because we did, back then, when our set of truths was a newborn babe. But now they are not all relevant, nor useful as they once were, and they need either modification or release. it’s a good thing.
That library of old guys. I think I’ll move them on. I want the new light, the new books full of new truths. And all that room for dancing.