“rebirth” . . .
There’s a lot of talk about rebirth these days, it seems. Older couples finally decide to throw in the towel when the kids leave the nest and go to college. What used to hold marriages together doesn’t seem worth it anymore. We have a friend who is going through a separation and divorce. He has been eating dinner with us once or twice a week for the last few months ~ and we have become close family friends after having been good neighbors for years.
In parallel, a poignant interview story appeared in the New York Times a couple of weeks ago about Chuck Close, the portrait painter who was confined to a wheelchair after an accident decades ago. He recently left an unhappy marriage after over forty years and started dating younger women. Or maybe not even dating, it sounded like. He’s seventy-four years old and his grown daughters say they worry about him day and night because of his behavior. Why is that, I wondered when I read the article? One thing he said about his unhappy marriage and his uneasy relationship with his daughters was:
“You would think by now that they would just want me to be happy.”
I was thunderstruck by this sentiment because we, in this country, don’t think about old people in this country having a right to be happy at the end of their lives. Sure, younger generations have a right to be happy: to have big weddings, new careers, have children, buy houses, dogs and go on vacations. But with older people, I think there’s too much talk about who’s going to take care of them, what their health is like and who’s turn is it next to visit them?
Moreover, there might be tons of baggage, resentments from the past, estrangements resulting in boundaries set up high and expectations set down low among various members of a family. Just witness women’s fiction these days and that’s all they’re about – family reunions, conflict, bitterness, resentment. There probably isn’t a dysfunctional-free family in the whole country, it seems to me.
But hey, I forgot I was writing about rebirth. Yep, I think it’s a good idea, ESPECIALLY if you’re pushing seventy or more. Why not reach out for something (big or small) that you’ve always dreamed about that you would like to have in your life while you’re still around? For me, it’s publishing a book that I hope will affect a reader’s life down the line. I wrote it four years ago and for some reason, I resurrected it a few months ago and began to re-read it. I found myself enjoying it and laughing out loud at different parts of it. Since then, I’ve been revising it and making some corrections to the plot that it needed. But the most important thing is that I (still) like it. And I’ve found beta-readers (like beta-testing for computer programs) who are reading hard copies of it now and letting me know what they think. In fact, I was kind of surprised that so many of them said they’d like to read it when I sent out a general S.O.S. a few weeks ago.
As an Indie (independent-self-publishing) author, I have been fortunate to have met a seasoned literary editor and a professional book designer who are “excited” about helping me self-publish my book. That’s my aim. Fortunately in New England, there’s also a very active volunteer-run organization called IPNE, Independent Publishers of New England who support and organize themselves to provide Indie authors with a place to learn about the book publishing and marketing business and have fun too. There is a two-day conference scheduled in October to be held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire where guest speakers will talk about self-publishing and what’s entailed in promoting your books (way more than you ever thought you’d have to do, it sounds like.)
So, Chuck Close is still painting his self-portrait while he leads what sounds like a wild last-ditch life that he imagined for himself. I hope that he’s happy even if his daughters disapprove of what he’s doing. As for me, I feel that the only way to be happy “by now” is to follow my dreams, no matter how old I am and to do something creative every day. That’s about all and if it takes some rebirthing to do that, then that’s fine too.
Whatever it takes, right?
(Daphne, thanks for writing – this post’s for you. K)