As You Like It: Big Rocks and Letting GoBy Joan Florek Schottenfeld
I just finished Billy Crystal’s new book, Still Foolin’ ’Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? Crystal writes about dealing gracefully with being 65. He may be a guy and famous, I may be a woman and definitely not famous, but there were times when I thought the man had read my mind.
We think we’re unique, but when it comes to aging, we’re all going through the same stuff. The memory lapses, the sleepless nights, the shifting bodies — we’re all on the same page. It’s just that Crystal says it so much funnier than I could ever even think it. Toward the end of the book he talks about the many ways that you can choose to be preserved for eternity. My favorite method is a process where:
They use heated water and potassium hydroxide to liquefy the body, leaving only the bones behind. Coincidentally, this is the way my grandmother made chicken soup. That’s actually kind of comforting. Drop my bones in a big pot of boiling water, add a matzoh ball and an onion and you can have me for the seder. If there are any leftovers, freeze me.
But he can also be bittersweet when he talks about the afterlife:
I’d like to think that there is a heaven and it starts from the happiest day of your life. I’ll be eighteen and Janice Goldfinger will walk by me in a bikini, and I will follow her and it will start all over again. I’d really like to think that.
What a lovely vision of heaven — a place where you begin living again from the happiest day of your life. He began with his wife, Janice, and I’d start with my Shatz. It makes me smile.
His book made me realize that I’ve reached the age where I’m letting go of certain parts of my life. It began a few weeks ago with our piano.
I love that piano. I remember choosing it and having it delivered by a quirky company called Death Wish Piano Movers. My girls played for years and even enjoyed practicing. But then it stopped. They moved away and the piano was silent. But I always faithfully had our friend Mary tune it.
I called her last week and surprised myself by asking if she could help us sell the piano. She wasn’t surprised, though, and she promised that she would. I stood there gazing at it, trying to imagine an empty space behind our couch. And as the coffee in my cup grew cold I knew that it was simply time to let it go.
Realizations often come in groups. A few weeks later, as I suffered through another shin splint from a step class, I knew that it was time to stop. I would have to find something that was gentler on my knees. I discovered the perfect yoga class. I’m choosing to think of that not as a letting go, but as an exchange. My body has been grateful.
This morning when I let Snoopy out our back door for his morning stroll, the squirrels had taken over our bird feeder as usual. I knew that the Snoopster would soon make short work of them, racing out and scattering them like chaff. Instead he stepped outside gingerly, sniffed the air, walked a bit and quickly came back. Ah Snoop. The years are catching up with you too. Squirrel chasing is a thing of the past.
It’s so strange approaching life with the question, “Is it time to let this go?” on your mind. But then something happened last night that put it all in perspective.
I was teaching career planning to our GED classes. For weeks we had talked about goals, ambitions, dreams — the important stuff in life. We discussed time management, priorities and life planning. They complained about their overly full days and their constant lack of time. They understood that getting their GED was important, but there was always a text to send, a call to take, a cake to bake for the church.
That night I gave a demonstration that I hoped would help them understand. I brought out a jar filled with big rocks.
“Is it full?” I asked them.
“Yes,” they answered.
I poured gravel into the jar, which settled in the empty spaces.
“Is it full now?”
“Maybe,” they said this time.
I then poured sand into the jar, which sifted into the cracks.
“Is it full now?”
“No,” they answered.
Then I poured water into the jar, completely filling it. “Now it’s finally full,” I said.
“This jar is your life,” I explained. The big rocks are the important things: your goals, dreams, desires, your family, your health. The rest is all the useless stuff that you fill your days with. If you waste your time with petty things, you will never have the time for everything that you truly want. You will end up accomplishing nothing, leaving nothing behind. So the next time you’re about to text, or the next time someone asks you for yet another favor, ask yourself, “Is this a rock?”
There was complete silence in the room. One simple visual had gotten through to them. So I’ve decided that letting go is not such a bad thing. As long as you hold onto your big rocks.
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