Seldom in our lives are we made to stop short in our tracks and reevaluate not only where we are going, but who we are and what and who are important in our lives. Adolescents do it as they leave their childhoods behind, emancipating themselves from their parents, and learning new ways to become adults. The questions they ask then are Who am I? Who do I want to be? Who can I be? They may also ask Is there a God? What do I believe? Where do I belong?
These questions come up again when one must choose a profession or a mate and decide whether to have a child, where to live, which friends to have. They may also come up when there is a tragedy such as a death, a divorce, or a serious illness. But in the routine of daily living, we don’t wonder about life’s purpose either because it has been resolved or we have set it aside because we have no time to deal with existential questions.
Now surrounded by death, anxiety, and fear not only for our loved ones but for ourselves, we suddenly have time on our hands to ask ourselves the same questions: What is important? What is not? Where are we going? What else is there to do that we could or should still do?
I feel like Thoreau in his cabin in the woods away from the turbulence of civilization. This gift of time is both awesome and unexpected. What is new is to be free of pressure because someone is waiting, something has to be done, there is somewhere to go, and always something that has to be dealt with right away. We have the time to again ask questions that have been set aside for so many years.
There is time to just sit quietly and think, without feeling rushed or even guilty that I am actually doing nothing but simply contemplating. There has seldom been a time for this luxury because there was always some kind of action needed. Today there is no action possible as there is nowhere to go and nothing that needs to be done within a specific time frame.
So I’m doing what I needed to do all these years and had procrastinated—looking through all the drawers and shelves, discarding items not used in a long time and no longer needed, reams of my writings that are no longer relevant. It has been a dream of mine to be a minimalist, which I had never achieved; perhaps the time is now…. Time for reassessment, what is important and what is not important among the things I thought I was attached to. In this time of isolation, we realize that what is truly important are all the relationships we have with others.
The importance of family, friends, and love, of caring for each other is coming through during these days while we are shut-in. It is heartening to receive phone calls from distant friends I haven’t heard from in years who want to know if I’m okay, as well as family members I had neglected who are now in touch again. Friends are sending jokes and sharing stories via email—all ways to stay connected.
Being well into my 90s, death is certainly closer. This is the time to reassess what I still need to do before my demise. My life has turned out amazing beyond all expectations. Yet, I have had my share of losses—my parents, my younger brother, my husband, my son, and most recently my son-in-law. I am pondering my legacy. It is not about the books I have written or the classes I have taught. It is having raised children, who have raised their children with a social consciousness, who are doing good things for the planet and its inhabitants. Perhaps this is the only true legacy.
Copyright © 2020. Natasha Josefowitz. All rights reserved.