I grew up in the seventies outside of Washington DC. My parents were military people. Mom was a secretary for a senator on the Hill in the sixties. She dressed like Jackie O, who wasn’t Jackie O then. My dad wore his uniform, crisp khaki or bright whites with gold medals on his chest. I had long hair parted in the middle.
My view of the seventies is of slogans. Lots of slogans. The Coke commercial with people of every color singing in perfect harmony telling us “I want to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony.” The Iron Eyes Cody Keep America Beautiful PSA. And then there was Ram Dass — Be Here Now.
Be Here Now was particularly confusing to me. I asked my mom what it meant but I never got an answer. It made no sense to our version of the seventies –living in our suburban home with the red door, walking to school in my poncho with the ball fringe, carrying my metal Partridge Family lunch box. Be Here Now was just something hippies say.
My energy as a child was always This Is It. Maybe it was a response to the military life of moving around. I wasn’t anywhere really — here, then there. A new school. A new group of people. This Is It — your chance to make an impression now!
Undoubtably, today I’d be diagnosable — ADD, ADHD. Back then I was hyper-active and often ‘just too much’. This carried on through adolescence and well into adulthood with a hyper-focus on my mantra— This Is It. It’s no wonder I went into the theater. This is the moment to get noticed, to make that connection, nail that audition, get that job. Curtain up, This Is It!
I remember in the eighties Bette Middler created a short film for David Letterman’s old, old show on NBC that asked Why Bother? In her very Bette delivery, I can hear her hopeless ennui “Whyyyy Baatheh?”
I used that slogan sometimes to combat the frenetic energy of my This Is It mantra. When every single moment is a This Is It moment, sometimes you just have to say Why Bother?
In the last several years, This Is It has happened in my life. It’s been it. My son graduated from high school last year. Not the ‘it’ for many parents, but for someone with autism, getting a special degree at 22 is it. A big it! We have crested the wave and all the work we did to get him there is done. That was it.
My husband and I bought a house. We were looking for a starter home, well he was, he’s 16 years younger than I am. I was good with a starter home, a condo, thinking that by the time we got to a dream home, I might be ready to retire. Then a house popped up on Zillow in our starter price range. I saw the pictures and said, “This is it! Put in an offer.” He starred at me. I’m ever so slightly controlling about my space, but I didn’t have time in my schedule to go see the house. He and our realtor went the next day. A family home, with a pool and an expansive back porch, it looks out over a lake. The three bathrooms, mother-in-law suite and other bedrooms were mostly uninhabited and the owner was living in one corner of the house. A family home whose family had grown up and moved on. That was it.
It is the season in my life to be where I’ve been striving to be all my life. My childhood dreams of being an actor, of creating art, have come true. There is family, there are friends, there is love and a home with a view. This is it.
As a result, there is a tiny bit of room opening up to contemplate a different kind of energy. This Is It doesn’t really suit me any more. I think probably it never really did work. I’ve lived enough moments that weren’t It to know that that energy, while motivating, is the first hill on the rollercoaster ride — clunk, clunk, clunk, up to the top of the hill, see all the possibilities and then plummet.
To find a new mantra, a new energy, I started meditating. I’m terrible at it. Just the worst. I can manage about three of the six minutes I give myself (on a timer, no less) before my brain starts to whirr, looking for connections between situations, things, people or ideas. Sometimes I can bring myself back and sometimes I can’t. But it seems those three minutes of breath do help — I can touch a different energy now.
And that energy is, believe it or not, Be Here Now. Oh Ram Dass, who knew? I was always running, moving, pushing to the next thing. But here it is. Now. It turns out Ram Dass’ mantra was always available. Bringing Be Here Now into This Is It might have turned those moments into I wonder what this is? I wish I had understood it earlier, caught on to the feeling of being, of here-ness, of now. And now I can. Now I do. This is it.
Categories: Alice's Voice
This spoke to me so deeply, and I think I’ll need to read it quite a few times–maybe daily–to let it really sink in. Before kids I was very “What’s next?” Having kids made me into a very “Be Here Now” person, because in raising kids I had to learn how to be in the present moment or I’d go insane. But as they are growing up, needing me differently, and soon going to be starting on lives of their own, I have been struggling with some very “This Is It” feelings. “This is it: last year of middle school for my youngest, last year of party planning and volunteering and being a parent-teacher liaison.” “This is it: sophomore year for my oldest, next year will be all college prep, all the time, and Oh my God she’ll be driving.” “This is it: they’ll probably really be away at long summer camps, so this was my last full summer with the kids.” So I think I’m taking your path in reverse, and it’s really unsettling. It’s also motivating, though, so maybe it’s something I need. This is the time to get back to my life. This is the time to get that writing career going. This is the time to focus on me again. But it’s really, really hard, because behind all of those thoughts is “because this is the time to start to let them go.” And I really, really don’t want to. So the only way I can is to go back to “What’s next?”
Taking in your journey is making my heart so full, Diane. It’s a powerful thing this transition of our kids and all it brings up for us. We’re launching out of the next in a new way.