Tag Archives: Florence

Chapter 2: In Retrospect

On looking back in regret:  “Watched a program on television about the sixties.  I don’t think I was very reflective politically and socially in that time of my life, and I certainly know that I lacked courage.  Will I look back and regret my blindness today?”  And later on, “I was so  unreflective in the sixties.  I wonder if I will look back on my life one day and feel that I went through all of it in a daze?”

My college suitemate during my freshman year was a senior with wide-ranging interests in the arts and culture, but who majored in economics, passed the CPA, and went on to get a Ph.D. in her field.  I once asked Joanne about this seeming “split” in her interest, and she responded that she wanted to keep her avocation and vocation separate; she wanted something “like economics” to pay the bills.

I realize in retrospect how much to heart I took this comment.  Even in college I longed for and deliberately planned for a profession.  The fact that what I eventually became (a librarian) is different from my college dreams (first, journalist; then, English college professor) is not particularly important.  What is important is that all of these vocations are a little tangential to my “real” interests, which are a cluster of spirituality, metaphysics, and psychology.  Something within me feared “getting lost” in these less-tangible areas.  In my work life I touch the here-and-now, the practical problems of interaction in and contribution to the secular world.  My head may be in the clouds, but my feet are on the ground.  Of course, it is the clouds that show me how to live.

Did I take on too big a challenge in this lifetime?  Is that why I shade toward the serious?  Or is it just my ignominious narcissism coming into play?

I once saw a hallucination of my bad karma.  It was a woman with flashing eyes who gave me a knowing look and seemed to scream at me (though silently) that “her” intent was to “get mine” (i.e., get what “should” be coming to me in this life).

Looking back, I remember that when I was a little girl, I didn’t want to be greedy (e.g., getting even “my share” of Easter eggs) nor to get “too much” for myself (I rarely told what I wanted for Christmas).  This suggests an attempt even as a child to deal with the “getting mine” that I recognized in the hallucination.  Fifteen years of denial in adult life followed that hallucination, and then the ghost seemed largely expiated.  There was never any question that I would selfishly seek my own “just desserts” instead of following what I perceived to be God’s will for me.  The set of my will was very strong because the love (however remote) that kept me on track was genuine.  And that has made all the difference.

A 25-year-old losing a first job can’t know yet that all of life is a constant ebb and flow.  And all the ebbs yet to come can be seen as blessings in disguise as well.  Great inner growth is usually the by-product.  Possessing the knowledge that vicissitudes are natural is one advantage age always has over youth.

There is no sure way to know when one is actually in a fortunate period of life.  Once I was very unhappy for nine months in a job that I disliked.  In retrospect I believe this was actually a period of real internal growth, having repercussions that have reverberated down all the years since.  I had felt almost compelled to get a job.  On some level, did I choose the unhappiness of that job as a necessary byproduct to a speedier learning process?

It really is fruitless to look back unless it teaches a way to take a better route in the future.

The “worst” doesn’t happen ever to me.  Even when it seems to, it isn’t as bad as worry has anticipated, and I come out of it better off.  As much like Pollyanna as it sounds, this dynamic is probably an axiom of life and not my own lucky charm.

When I was a child, I used to look out my bedroom window at night, dreaming about the future with much anticipation.  It wasn’t until I returned to Florence and the neighboring hill town of Fiesole for the second time in 25 years that I knew why.

Gazing out at panoramas has a great calming effect on me; I have at such times no worries about the future and no problems of any kind.  I have not had great roles to play in this lifetime, as it turns out, but I have lived through a private drama that has led me ever more closely to God.  And this was what the better Self in me wanted all along.