William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
When You Are Old
When you are old and gray and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face among a crowd of stars.
I could not quite resist sneaking this into my blog. The very selfish and vain part of me relishes the idea of having someone love my “pilgrim soul.” Of course in real life, that pilgrim soul is the very thing one must put away in a quiet corner. It is a thing of romance and imagination and is not always useful. And as reluctant as one can be to do that, the irony of it is the richness of being comes with stepping out into the everyday (which is another topic that makes for great rambling but I won’t do a James Joyce here).
The only danger one faces, really, is falling into the habit of seeing one’s self through the eyes of others. When I was young (and self-centered), what I was, who I was, and the things I did seemed to be of consequence only to me. My mantra was that I didn’t care what other people thought of me and those who chose to pass on their personal versions of my adventures were welcome to do so. I just listened to the beat of my own drummer. It was quite the feat back then.
But all that changes when one becomes a wife and then a mother. When did I start listening? When did I begin the habit of apologizing for who I was or was not? My selective memory has blotted out the details, of course, and moving on is essential if one is to survive this real world. I just know that I nimbly jumped on the production line that would turn me into a good wife and mother. I was like Erma, the mom in Wait Til Your Father Gets Home. In one episode, she asks, “What went wrong? I did everything the magazines told me.”
It was a long list of MUSTs. There was a list of things good wives did, a list of things a good mom did. There were books to read to make your child smarter and impeccably behaved. The right school, the right grades, the right colleges they must get into. On top of that, there was the right way to look, the right weight to be, the right way to speak, the right people to know. It even began to seem as if everyone else’s lives seemed more important than mine, everyone else’s problems were bigger or more real than mine. It began to grate on me until I realized that I had created that particular reality. I lost my drummer.
Then all of a sudden (it’s really not all of a sudden but we like using that), and I’m not saying my job as wife and mother is over, something changes. One day, it’s just not so difficult anymore. One day, you are presented with a memory, a replay of a friend telling you about choices and taking charge and letting go. On that particular day, it happens to be the right day and the words actually sink in. You come to realize that the interruption happened because you let it happen but that it’s not the end of the road. In fact, who you are now can once again be that “pilgrim soul” but one who is now older and hopefully, wiser.
So, many many thoughts later, I put down the scissors and the cutout. I riffle through a writer’s magazine and find exactly what I need to put on my vision board and I begin to write about a typical day for me. I make sure to include all the things I should like to be able to do on my own as well those I can share with those I love.
I can now continue to be.
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)