A baby boomer’s take on the arc of life

When this piece came into our inbox here at BoomerCafé, we weren’t sure we wanted to run it. It’s a definite downer. But then we decided, even for active baby boomers, life is a series up uppers and downers. So we give you the the talk sent to us by cattle rancher Larry Bryant of Benton, Kansas, the talk he gives his 28- and 30-year-old children, which he calls “The Arc of Life.” True though it might be, we hope it’s not typical for most of us.

You are born and adored with attention, told that you are special, that you can be whomever you want to be and do whatever you want to do in your life. You deserve a medal just for showing up in this world.

Your parents dote all their after-work attention on you and your activities. Hauling you and your friends to all your sports and academic events. Constantly cheering you on with total sincerity. After all, you and your siblings are the center and totality of your parents’ attention span.

Larry and Marjorie Bryant at Yellowstone National Park … and some buffalo.

You cannot blame your parents. Like you, they are programmed by their culture, and their own realization that they themselves are not really special, that their marriage and careers also are not really special or unique.

As a society we celebrate 8th grade graduation, even though a sub-100-I.Q. brat with true behavior problems could achieve that dubious achievement.

High school is just another chance for your parents to wildly cheer you and your fellow teenage sibling on with praise and admiration. You and your sibling barely lift your glorious fingers with chores around the house. Even with your increasingly snotty attitude towards your parents and other adults, you and your happiness are the focus of your somewhat pitiful parents’ time and attention. Proms, homecomings, what college, what major, the cost … Oh-My-God let’s discuss and discuss.

Next you enter college, again it’s all about you and your peers. Parents postpone exotic trips, new cars, so much else, again sacrificing financially because you and your sibling are the golden fruit of your parents’ loins, and of course because you are special.

The Bryant children and grandchildren.

You finally graduate from college, and actually get a good paying job. Your parents are thrilled, theoretically they now are done emotionally and financially with you and your sibling. BUT NO!

“Happy, please be happy,” again our parental mantra, and never-ending questions.

It doesn’t take long for you to realize that like probably most jobs, your job sucks. Why did your parents and society lie to you all those years telling you that you are special, and that all you have to do is graduate from college and happiness and nirvana will be yours.

Your boss and co-workers just don’t understand how special you really are. Why can’t they see that you are so special, so different from them?

Your biological clock, evolutionary DNA, and subconscious societal norms scream at you to select a mate and propagate. Once again your parents proclaim their familiar mantra, “ We only want you to be happy,” and shell out thousands of dollars for some antiquated marriage ritual.

Your parents down deep know full well that marriage is a roller coaster of hard work, love, like, dislike, loyalty, betrayal, exhaustion, annoyance, along with eroding physical and mental abilities. Culminating after years with the the zen acceptance of putting up with each other’s flaws, each other’s baggage, egos, and fears.

Weddings of course are rituals where we tell lies about the future, especially the bride’s and groom’s future. Again it is a time and event specifically designed for you and your mate to feel special.

Eventually you and your spouse pop out a baby, and again the cycle continues. The baby is so special, and it literally demands so much attention and money that you as a couple are no longer the priority. Your time and attention are quite literally sucked into this beautiful black hole of a human. Exhausted as new parents, you somehow believe that you are in a unique situation, that your parents and peers can’t possibly relate. This is the first baby of the new world. Well, at least in your world.

Larry and Marjorie on a holiday to Verona, Italy.

You have so much love and joy when you see this baby that you start to forget about your own specialness. 1 a.m. feedings, sick infants, developmental delays, feeding and bedtime rituals imprison you and your spouse’s entire mental and physical beings.

Children ARE special, because they alone can change our myopic attention on our own egos, and direct that attention towards themselves.

Yet children do put holes in your luminosity and forever suck on the teat of your soul. Children create and sustain the near-constant never-ending parental mental loop, “Are they happy, are they healthy, and what can we do to help?”

Soon you find yourself cold and tired at your three-year-old’s soccer game, ludicrously cheering on your children, reminding them how special they are. The wheel of life keeps turning!

Almost all humans are trapped in this endless cycle of life and procreation of their DNA. Astonishing as it may be, you have built this prison yourself with your own free will.

But in the end, a human’s life journey is really not one of free will, but instead the illusion of free will.

How is the typical American life any more special or free than the annual migration of birds, butterflies, the arctic caribou? What drives most of us humans to dance to same music on our life journey?

Obviously just because we are modern, educated humans does not mean we are free of millions of years of evolutionary DNA, and its associated urges and cycles.

We humans all enjoy and rejoice thinking about ourselves as special and unique. Of course, reality is that we are just another brick in the wall of humanity, a mere spec in time, and very soon forgotten, not really special or important.

Oh, and lastly, don’t forget to be happy!

4 Comments

  1. After reading this article, I am reminding how much of life is a struggle and how our ending is always framed with loss. But that reminder underscores how much we need to focus on the “golden moments” of life. At the end of each day I always ask my wife: “What was the peak for your day?” In short, what were your best moments? We need to focus more on those moments, embracing them and reliving them. That’s how you stay “happy”! And, despite the above reality, it is not that difficult. Be happy? Focus on the good!

  2. There’s a huge difference between making children think they’re special to the world and making them feel special beyond measure to their parents and family. The former is what turns children into either selfish, entitled adults, or those that wonder what went wrong. The latter is what children need and should have, from birth to death, knowing that whatever the world (which may not think they’re the second coming) throws at them, they always have a family’s love. I must also say that parents that don’t put their relationship first, such that, “you as a couple are no longer the priority,” will surely end up being disappointed. I do not know one couple that, “always put the children first” that is either fulfilled/happy or still together.

  3. I felt like the man in this post until I realized I was psychic. Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. It’s taken this vintage 1948 Baby Boomer and Ivy league college grad about thirty years to finally accept that I see the future and that my dead husband now communicates with me. Knowing you go on as who you are puts a whole different spin on things. Life is not really what it looks like. The long journey to accepting the existence of a spiritual world that supersedes this one is written in my book, Fifty Shades of Gray Hair – Second Sight, http://amzn.to/2kWPNI9 Life isn’t always fun, but it is full of surprises.

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