Monday, May 13, 2013

A Soulmate? Are you sure?

Imbedded in Long Way Home, the second half of a two-book story that begins with  Second Chances, is a rather unexpected, but intriguing side trip---a visit with the woman Clint Harris thinks might be his “soulmate.” Like you, I had read about “soulmates.” Though I suppose the term means different things to different people, the basic idea is probably the same---there is someone out there who is meant to be with you, someone with whom you are paired in a mysterious, predestined way.

In Clint’s case, being nudged down that soulmate-seeking path is a fall-back situation, a way out when there are no other options. He has lost his wife. The lady he hoped would fill that void has apparently sided with his rival, Fat Tom Berry. It would have been awkward, so late in the story, for me to introduce a new female character who’s sole purpose for being there was to provide Clnt with another round of romantic failure. So instead I have him considering what some of us can imagine, and perhaps even relate to---meeting again after sixty-some years the one who first stirred those relational fires---his very first potential “soulmate.” 

It begins as a mind game---as it would for any of us---a memory-driven return to a special adolescent moment we have carried somewhere in the back of our mind for a lifetime. Perhaps like you, the impressions of that incident on a young Clint Harris had been indelible---a experienced realization of how affirmation ought to feel---providing a relational baseline he had never outgrown. 

Now, deep in his October Years, there is no way to repeat that first time. So instead, he is left to imagine the possibilities, to dwell on what-might-have-been. In spite of his doubts he wants to believe in that soulmate reality. Finally his whiskey-induced remembering of who “she” had been sixty year before grows more persuasive, and he finds the courage to plan a much-belated reunion.

So there I was, sifting through bit and pieces of my own youthful relational history, gathering snippets from which to assemble a rationale for the feelings I wanted Clint Harris to feel. I was trying to imagine how it would feel to be caught up in that disorienting mind-drama so late in life. Are they real, I wondered, those soulmates? Does that mean the sweet lady who has been at my side for fifty-seven years was intended from the beginning to be there? Was that the Big Guy’s plan for us from the start---a pairing of soulmates? 

Of course, in the fictional “second chance” setting I had created I was also dealing with other, more practical questions. Their stories---both Clint’s and his potential soulmate’s---must explain how a connection made decades before could have survived to become a “second chance” possibility sixty years later. What had there been about their first encounter, the one that had not led to a relationship, that now made her soulmate material? If it had been meant to be, why hadn’t it happened the first time?

Without dwelling on the outcome of Clint’s soulmate adventure, let’s turn for a moment from the nebulous realm of literary construction to a more personal real-life look at how each of us---you, me, and everyone---comes to terms with our own unique set of adolescent lessons. Were your “first time” experiences discarded, erased from memory? Or have they remained? And if so, are they an affirming part of whom you have become, or a bit of excess baggage you would rather unload?

Finally, having imagined the story of Clint Harris’ return to his roots in hopes of finding his soulmate, I was left to put those sometimes conflicting elements on paper, a paragraph at a time. In truth I approached that process with a degree of timidity---knowing that I would be asking my own soulmate to proofread my stumbling descriptions of a time before we met, when perhaps a first soulmate candidate had crossed my path. We don’t normally talk about that, yet by the time she had finished her work I was accepting her willingness to lend a hand as the ultimate endorsement of our shared history.

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