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  • Writer's pictureJane Leder

My Life at a Glance

I have kept my "daily appointment" calendars since 1989! I'm not sure why. They take up valuable bookshelf space; still, I've been unable to toss them. Today, I arranged the calendars chronologically, put them in piles on my office floor, and dug in to see what I was doing two years or twenty years ago and how my life has changed or basically stayed the same, and what I might learn about myself.

The first thing I notice is how busy I was--researching a new book, interviewing, writing, editing, traveling, dancing. Every day seemed full. To consider all of this activity now at seventy-six makes my head spin. One activity a day works just fine.

One of my many activities way back then was seeing an astrologer. I had written a feature piece about psychics for a national magazine and met this astrologer along the way. My memory is that I worked with her for maybe a few months. Wrong! I had her astrological readings in the margins of my calendar/appointment book for at least two years--comments like:

"No financial deals until January 10" "This week and next, out of balance, tired." February 19, financial harmony." "Mercury retrograde. Expect snafus particularly with electronics like computers." "Positive feedback about my work until April 18." "Saturn transiting Mars. Very goal-oriented. Patient. Friendships." "Neptune opposite to Saturn - marriage/new identification."

And on it went. I had always been a skeptic but, surprisingly, the readings were more accurate than not. I'm now a believer. Well, kind of. It all depends upon the experience and knowledge of the astrologer or reader or palmist. There are a lot of frauds out there.

I didn't need my daily appointment book to remind me of my son's automobile accident in 1989, his broken back, the lengthy recovery, and my role as caretaker. I put my life on hold and became the embodiment of Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross. I did my best to channel Clara's patience, her empathy. Let me say: it wasn't easy.

That same year I received my first royalty check for my book about teen suicide. By the time the checks stopped coming, I'd made what a mid-list author can only hope to earn. I haven't topped that amount since.

In the years that followed, my husband and I separated, I had a grand mal seizure (I like to say that I gave myself electric shock therapy), and we reconciled. It's been thirty-one years.

It has been even longer since my To-Do lists have organized my life. The pages of my books are jammed with the day's or the week's projects: take the dog to the vet; schedule a mammogram; meet with the accountant; call for a haircut; get tickets to the ballet; buy a new fax machine (as if I'd forget that the one sitting on my desk had gone to scanner heaven). I like to think that I've gotten a bit freer with my days and that checking off each item on the list doesn't matter much anymore. Things will get done--eventually.

In 1995, I started to track the date of the start of my period by writing a capital P on the appropriate page. I was fifty (ah, so young!) and ready to stop the bleeding, the bloating, the bitching. I couldn't ask my mother how she'd fared post menopause not because I was uncomfortable broaching the subject but because she'd had a complete hysterectomy after my youngest brother was born. The day my periods came to an end was the beginning of a whole new journey, one without a flush of hormones but of self-discovery. I found the "pause from men" quite freeing.

What I didn't find as liberating was the shrinking of my circle of friends. One year their names and phone numbers were part of a list at the back of the appointment calendars. The next year or the year after, many of those names were no longer on the list. Friends had moved away, one-sided friendships had fizzled. And sadly, dear friends had died much too early. I read somewhere that by the time we reach our sixties and seventies, our pool of friends on average has shrunk to seven. (I've spent time trying to find this study without any luck. Maybe I made it up to assuage my losses.) I remember thinking how sad this shrinkage was and how alone we all might become.

On the other hand, there are new names, phones numbers, and email addresses of a handful of friends who have come into my life. The older I get, the more selective I am. The number of friends is no longer as important, but the quality of these connections is.

I made it up to the year 2000 before I had to pick up the piles of calendars and put them back on the shelf. My yoga class on Zoom was starting in five minutes; I needed to clear the floor with enough room for my mat. I don't know when I'll get to the remaining twenty-one chronicles of my daily life. Maybe I never will. But I'm glad that I took the time to refine memories that were fuzzy or just plain wrong and to survey a life that was/is full, sometimes challenging, often mysterious but always a path worth following.


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