This I Believe

Theodora - Montclair, New Jersey
Entered on June 12, 2006
Age Group: 65+

The world is hardly a better place than it was when Edward R. Murrow urged people to share their beliefs, to shore one another up, in a sense, with what made sense of their lives. Winter is nearer these days, the world an even more cold and heartless place, people killing one another for reasons that seem unfathomable. The creature comforts which seem to many of us basic, things to which we are entitled, are unknown to many people in the world who live in desperate fear and deprivation.

And yet, and yet.

I am in my 70’s and my body is falling apart. I like to say from the neck up, I’m still a young woman, but it is increasingly hard to ignore pain and disability. I remember what seems only a few years ago when I walked everywhere. Now, to get through a museum, I need a wheelchair and someone to push it. Once I marched and demonstrated; now I sign petitions. When I was 22, having worked for 2 years after college, saving every penny, I fulfilled a dream and went to Europe. This was 1952, when the war had not yet receded into memory. I hitchhiked through France and Italy, I stayed in youth hostels, in fields. In London, I stayed with new friends in a freezing flat where we had to feed the gas fire hourly. I saw some of the ravages of the war, met people my age who had suffered terribly while I had spent the war years in comfort and safety. I had a wonderful time, and more than 50 years later, I can remember every day, and what it was like to be adventurous.

And yet. And yet. I love my life. I had a fairly happy marriage for more than 40 years and I have had to learn to live as a widow, a word I hate! My children, who were the central figures of my life for so long, have grown up and moved on into their own lives.

I like to put clippings on my refrigerator door, and my favorite is a quote from Tennyson – “tho’ much is taken, much abides”. What abides? I can still read and listen to music; I still work, a few days a week, as a psychotherapist; I cherish my children, my grandchildren, my friends. I tell myself that doing the NY Times crossworld puzzle is not frivolous but keeps my mind working. I never thought I would learn to use a computer, but I love my computer and have several cyber-friends, the modern equivalent of pen-pals. Despite the aches and pains, I feel my life is rich, with all the things I pull around myself as cloaks, keeping warm in the face of the cruelties of the world and the constraints of aging. These are more than beliefs, they are sustenance, And I am grateful.