I am about to turn 43. Looking at that age written down, it looks like an old age. It’s not elderly, but it’s old. I always wanted to be 40. It’s the age where you’re still young enough to do things, most people have their health, but very few consider you a “kid.” You get respect at 40, while the degeneration process of the body and mind has not quite kicked in. 40 was my goal age.
The problem is that you don’t just get to stop at 40. Honestly, the 3 years since I turned 40 have flown by like an instant. The tick-tick-tick of time keeps moving. In many ways, my life is about like I expected it to be now. In other ways, it is completely off. I thought there would be satisfaction in being in my 40’s. Instead, there is a background of disappointment. The millions that weren’t made (or at least 10’s of thousands) despite the hard work, the places I haven’t visited, the children who are leaving to live their own lives….I want them to be little again. Where did the time go? In short, just like happens to many of us who keep saying “if only i were XXX, then I’ll be happy” or “if only had, XXX then I will slow down,” and then we finally get there, I am on to the next bit of grasping for more. We never really get there when we grasp for more…Dukkha. Dukkha is that dissatisfaction that you will always feel when you grasp at this reality, when you expect fulfillment from things of this world. You can never gain permanent satisfaction in this reality.
This background of dissatisfaction, I’ve felt this way before. It is the type of feeling that rushes in and makes me ask, “Is this all there is?” I started getting these feelings in my mid-20s; I think it was when the testosterone of teenage life wore off. In my 20’s, I had alcohol that confused the matter…lots of alcohol. All the while, I searched for truth. I found the teachings of the Buddha, and read about Dukkha. Buddhism recommended a drug-free existence. When I was 31, I decided that I could see things more clearly without alcohol. So, I stopped drinking it.
It was at that point that understanding came much faster. My motivation was much better, and my energy returned. I could see things clearer. Success in life began to accelerate; and I kept learning.
But that feeling kept returning, more powerful each time. As I tried to anchor myself in this world, it became less rational. Empty. There is no meaning in this perceived reality. It is emptiness.
As I age, it can be gut-wrenching. The dissatisfaction! Dukkha. I think as I age, the impermanence of existence is more obvious. I used to play the “I wonder what I’ll be doing in ten years” game. I don’t like to play that game anymore…53 is not an age I am in a rush to attain, nor do I wish for my children to each be 10 years older, and certainly not my parents. I can accept it, but I can wait for it…patiently. No hurry to speed through 10 years.
Dukkha indeed. Grasping at this life as if it were going to last forever. All that I see around me will be gone one day. All that I feel, all that I’ve worked for will be gone. All that I intend to work for in the next 10, 20, 30 years will eventually be gone. In 30 years I will be 73…if I make it to that age.
When I slow down, breathe, and enjoy my existence now. When I read, write, reflect and feel, when I am present in the moment, the dissatisfaction fades. Writing, for me, is my meditation, and it is one of those times I feel most alive. It is my craft and it completes me. I think we all have one or more of those things we do that bring us back to the present moment.
When we are present in the moment, we are not grasping, and we find the end of dissatisfaction, and if we are sages we can escape Dukkha.