Do you remember when, at the start of the school year, your new teacher would ask you to write an essay on what you did during your summer vacation? Well, that’s not what I’m writing about today, for Living on the Verge is hardly a vacation on the Riviera, but the phrase caught my eye recently and I wanted to explore exactly what being on the verge means to me. Although I confess I’ve been there a few times, “on the verge,” that is, it’s one of those places you’re not sure you’ve been until you’re on your way back home from it. It is neither a nice place to visit nor to live. Too much tension — living on the verge — good and bad.
We’ve all heard someone say, “I’m on the verge of something great happening…I can just feel it!” By contrast, we’ve likely also heard someone say, “I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown.” In the first statement, being on the verge appears to be a positive place to be, full of excitement and anticipation, albeit usually far off. In the second statement, being on the verge seems a bit precarious, and frighteningly imminent.
I went to the New World Dictionary of the American Language for a definition. In part, this is what I found:
Verge: the edge, brink, a bend, twist, margin (as the verge of the forest), an enclosing line or border, a boundary of something more or less circular.
When we’re always on the verge, we never arrive; we feel like an almost ran, a has-been who never was. It’s going through life with a thousand things on your mind, and none of them coming to fruition. It’s that right answer, the eloquent phrase that lingers on the tip of your tongue, then dissolves like a bitter pill, absorbed into your system, unuttered and irretrievable.
Being on the verge, being on the edge, on the brink, on the boundary of something more or less circular…all of it makes us dizzy as ’round and ’round we go. Being on the verge is dwelling in possibilities. Possibilities can be wonderful, and being on the verge of something can be exhilarating, but only if we finally shift into the next gear and go from being on the verge of greatness and dwelling in the land of possibilities to the place where our mojo is working. That is, of course, unless the verge we’re on is the one leading to a nervous breakdown. And even then, if we listen to the sage advice of playwright Jane Wagner’s bag lady, as portrayed by Lily Tomlin in the play “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe,” a nervous breakdown, if viewed from the proper angle, can be a breakthrough.
So, how do we get beyond the verge, go around the bend, unwind the twist, go outside the margin, cross that border, and obliterate that boundary? Are we required to take that empty-handed but full-hearted leap of faith into the void? Perhaps, sometimes. But just maybe the answer lies in simply changing our perspective. Changing the way we think about time, for instance, can make all the difference.
Are we hypercritical about how we use our time? As I wrote on my FaceBook wall the other day, Time is what passes and marches on; it’s what we spend, waste, kill, mark, lose track of, complain there is not enough of, and yet is on our side. But does everything we do have to be relegated to a timeline…to be task oriented? If we spend time doing something creative, something not on our perfunctory to do list, do we feel we wasted, rather than spent that time? Do we live our lives doing only those things that spell obligation or fall under the umbrella of have to and wind up feeling like we’re doing time, a veritable prisoner in a cage of our own making?
Do we teeter on the edge of time, living on the verge, nervously, anxiously waiting for that right moment to happen, the one that transforms our lives for the better forever? I suspect more of us live our lives that way rather than having the peace of mind of knowing that we are doing the best we can with our own level of knowledge, understanding and awareness, and that as long as we are on the earth plane, we are works in progress. Sometimes I feel like a work in progress – others I just feel like a bonafied, certified, and, possibly, certifiable piece of work.
I suspect it has a lot to do with learning to enjoy the present moment, without regrets about past experience or worries about what might yet go wrong. Maybe it’s as simple as “Surrendering the How,” as I suggested in my poem of that title, and trusting that all unfolds as it should.
In the mean time, (Curious, time often seems mean when we’re waiting….), along with all the other things we do with our days, we can choose to bring into our world more activities that we enjoy, more of what we love to do. Then we will be spiritual millionaires of time, for each moment will be precious, and we will not tremble so on the verge.