Last Friday, I sat in a theatre watching the documentary, “Yalom’s Cure,” a bio pic about California psychiatrist and Professor Emeritus at Berkley, Irvin Yalom. I’d never heard of the man. No matter. After the film, I felt like I knew him and what’s more, I left the theatre invigorated by the overview of his universal concerns and excited by his questioning nature. I’ve always loved analyzing people, their intentions, their motives, trying to decipher why friends, family or acquaintances make the decisions they do, why they choose certain roads to go down. I’m nosy, and I’m a good listener, I read body language and watch people closely. I would have been a good spy. I’m a literature major, after all. The human condition, in all its permutations, is food for our spiral notebooks too. So, watching Yalom talk about his ideas, while viewing scenes from his life, was entirely up my alley.
Of course, I especially liked his opinion that writers are essentially creative psychologists as their mission is to confront and explain through their work of art, the underlying mysteries of human behavior and the human mind. That literature in its best form, is a roadmap to understanding ourselves and others. And his belief that, “the more we know ourselves, the better lives we can lead.”
My younger self could have been his acolyte, ernest and passionate about questioning it all, the hours, months, years spent reading books, looking up at the clouds and talking about life with best friends, professors, fellow travelers. Life’s journey was fascinating and we were open to the possibilities. What topic, political, social, philosophical did we NOT cover, did we NOT explore while we went to hear bands every Friday night, took long road trips to California, spontaneously moved in with each other for awhile. What rich ground we laid to construct our future lives, it now seems from the perch of ‘middle age’
Having children has only confirmed those views, that a life well-considered, is time well spent. My decision to stay home with my children was my best moment. To watch them awaken to the world in all those little daily ways, was fascinating. Watching a person unfold is a great gift. You are fortunate if you have had the chance to see and share those moments of becoming. Watching a toddler react to a bird in a tree, can help confirm life’s shared condition. Children can remind us daily of the range of emotional life. In the faces of babes, you see it all. Fear of the unknown, courage to try, pain of separation, joy of the familiar, sadness from losing your best thing. And the nuances of their personalities spring to life with every little step they take.
How do we construct a meaningful life? No one has all the answers, but it seems to me that we will never regret taking the time to try and figure out that question. And that takes time. Precious time.
As I write, the doors are open wide onto the warm Paris night, lights shine from apartments across the garden. Moths are collecting around the lamp that hangs over the table.