Monday, May 20, 2013

Happily ever after - or not

How adaptable are you? Are you the kind who could start over? Those are not rhetorical question for October seniors considering the prospect of starting from scratch with a new partner? If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lifetime learning to live with “the one.” (And he or she with you.) At this October stage of the game would you be willing to relive that sometimes complicated learning process yet another time?

In the course of writing eight novel-length “relational” stories I have depicted my Tanner friends, the ones in their October Years, as they travel toward what they hope is “one more time.” The first part of my storytelling process is easy enough---introducing those lonely and wanting folks, explaining how they have made their way to where they are now, and helping them imagine where they would like to go. If I do my job well I’m hoping that you’ll want to know more about their journey, which is the story I’m telling.

Recently, however, perhaps prompted by this renewed blog-focus, I find myself wondering if my expectations for a “second chance” relationship have been too simplistic. As I noted above, I’ve lived out the deeply personal process of learning to live with a life partner. The merging of any two lives into a meaningful partnership is not an easy thing. That must be especially true when each of them has spent a lifetime acquiring their own unique set of habits and preferences. Coming together the first time, all those years ago, required realistic expectations, chemistry, and patience. Though I’ve never been there myself I’m certain that a second chance, October relationship must be built on those same elements.

In Second Chances each of the Harris brothers is widowed and seeking a new connection. Nothing unusual about that. So I have them charging ahead, assuming that if they win “her” interest their pairing will succeed. Each of them, of course, defines “success” in terms of their own long and loving marriage. Not surprisingly, the picture of a new relationship they are painting in their mind looks a lot like the first satisfying time.

But there are so many variables. How can anyone be sure the formula that worked so well in one relationship will succeed with someone new and different, someone they are still getting to know? Small wonder that not all my stories end with a gift wrapped, happily-ever-after bow. Still, who am I to say they shouldn’t try?

Perhaps you can tell that digging deep and looking for unseen motives are occupational hazards for someone like me. If that’s true, I accept it as the price of being authentic. I want the stories I tell to be something more than feel-good caricatures of lost and lonely souls stumbling toward inevitable happiness. My Tanner friends know it’s not always like that. You’ll find very few ivory towers in the October landscape.

When I step back to consider my own experience I remember the first times I seriously considered a future with her---and how that youthful me charged ahead, relying on a naive “I hope it works” model. Fortunately, it did. But there are no guarantees. We say our prayers, trust our instincts, and hope for the best. That was true at seventeen. I’m assuming it’s still true at seventy. You give it your best shot and take your chances. Since I want my October Years stories to be credible, don’t be surprised to find there are times when “giving it your best” isn’t enough to win the happily-ever-after my Tanner seniors are seeking.

I would really appreciate your thoughts and comments on the October Years posts. I would much prefer having it be a dialogue. If you already have a Goggle account just sign in leave your comments. Otherwise, creating your own Goggle account is a simple, 30 second matter. Thanks for considering that idea.

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