As an unmarried male (therefore sitting in the window seat, though the aisle tends to be my preference), I couldn't help but sympathize with Didion's observation. The chaos of modern life, way down there, melds with the vast, indifferent dome of blue sky (Joyce's phrase, to throw another quote your way), and life seems to make sense. It was while gazing out that window on a near-empty plane that I wrote on the following recent memory, which I'm compelled to share:
The last thing George Orwell wrote in his diary was, "at the age of fifty, every man has the face he deserves." Meaning, by then your life has overtaken genetics in bearing itself out on your face. Harsh words, yes, but not entirely untrue.
There's a storytelling event I attend each month. Sometimes I tell stories there, but more often I'm there just to listen. The storytellers recounting their experiences come in all shapes and sizes, but lately I've found myself drawn in most by a number of the senior women there. Do you ever surf the channels and think, enough with the attractive twenty-somethings already?
The verve these oldsters possess, the vivacious glowing light, a rich twinkling humor you know is earned and strong, for it to still be here after all these years… this is what I find inspiring. Everyone's bitter over something, but I hope I can confront loneliness and loss as they have, and still have space to laugh at the fading of the long day.
A woman of similar demeanor recently got on my bus. On the older buses, which have stairs, the passengers rise into your view as they ascend the steps. From the driver's perspective, they become closer and taller all at once. For her it seemed appropriate, in keeping with her confident stride. Frizzy silver hair, still cut long, with blazing grey eyes and an unusual knit sweater– a sense of the individualistic. No mere housewife, this sprightly old thing. She paused as she took stock of me, staring as equals and children do.
"Oh wow," she breathed. "Aren't you a little young!"
"I am! I should be at home doing my homework! Gettin' the chores done!"
She grinned, and with a hint of joyful sarcasm replied, "and I should be in the garden, doin' the yardwork, and cleaning the house!" Hers was a tone which said, there's a role I'm expected to be resigning myself to, and I'm so glad I'm not. She continued with, "but we're not doing those things."
"Somehow the world will survive."
"The world will survive."
"It's good to be here."
"I'm all the happier for it."
"You and me both."
The glow on her face was writ large. Orwell would've been impressed. Let us continue to be ourselves, conforming to no man's template, thoughtful and sharp, defiant when we need to be, that we might follow in her admirable lead.