Monday, July 8, 2013

Is this who I was meant to be?

I am still processing Thursday’s post about “thriving” in our October Years. In my own mental shorthand I have defined thriving as “coming closer to being the person I can be.” That in turn has led me to questions like---Am I thriving? Should I expect to thrive? Does it matter one way or the other?  I’ll admit, there are times when I’m inclined to just settle for being the person I am. 

Of course, thriving is a very personal thing. My thriving isn’t necessarily your thriving. If you happen to be one of those October thrivers, chances are you’ve found the proper balance in your life. You look ahead, but remember the past. You accept the person you have become, but hope to be more.

Yet I see, and perhaps you do too, October friends who are not thriving---who seem to have been beaten down. Some have given up. Be aware, however, that such judgments are fraught with danger. Who is to say that his or her kind of thriving is the only acceptable kind? I have to remind myself that thriving, and the change that comes with it, is a very individual thing. Your change doesn’t have to look like my change.

I’ve mention “change” before. It seems to me it ought to be an important part of October life. It is, after all, still allowed at our age. One way of viewing life is as an unending chain of choices, adaptations, and changes. Though I can’t judge what change is appropriate for you, I am sure that adapting to life’s changing circumstances is an important part of thriving at any age. To use our October status as a reason to stop “becoming” is to sell ourselves short. What could be sadder than the person who believes that it is too late to become something more---that change is not worth the effort at this late date?

One way to integrate change is in the context of a life lived on purpose. Do the concepts of “purpose” or “intention” resonate with you? Have you ever thought about becoming the person you were meant to be? As you may have guessed by now, I’m a Wayne Dyer sort of guy. In that life view there are no accidents---things happen for a reason. To resist the changes implied by life’s “non-accidents” is the same as resisting our destiny.

As a storyteller I constantly create change in the lives of the characters I imagine into being. In a hopefully entertaining way I lead them from one place, with its particular circumstances and outlook, to another more desirable place. More than once I have used the notion of life’s “intention” to link someone’s beginnings (childhood perhaps) to a much later October event. In the same way that it happens to each of us, I ask my characters to follow the twisted, but continuous chain of change and adapting to where it leads them.

Take for instance Jack Benz in Becoming. For fifty years, half a century, he has nurtured his improbable dream, knowing the odds were stacked against him---yet willing to stay the course.

For a few seconds he thought perhaps he had lost contact with her, until she looked up, ready with a new question. “Do you really believe that? What you said at lunch.”
“What did I say?”
“Last night, at the motel, you said that when something is meant to be it will work out. Then today, at lunch, you told me that everything is working out just right---just like it was supposed to.” She turned back to him. “Is that what you think? That this is meant to be?”
“Meant to be?” Jack blinked at the sound of her words. For a instant it felt as though she had traced his own questions back to their source. He could not remember exactly where he had first read about it---the idea that there was actually an “intention” behind what he had always assumed to be the random unfolding of his life.
It was a notion that had captured his imagination. When viewed from that perspective, perhaps his years of unremarkable plodding had served a purpose. There might have been a reason for the way his life had played out. If nothing else, it would help explain the unlikely fact that Cynthia Larson was seated comfortably beside him, seeking his interpretation of their unexpected and life changing connection.
“I’ve read stuff like that---how everything happens for a reason.” He rolled his eyes, offering a hint of doubt for her benefit.
“According to that, there’s a purpose for everything that happens to us. It’s not just accidental. It means that every person who shows up in our life is there for a reason. We may not know what it is, but it’s important---otherwise they wouldn’t be there. It also means there are reasons that we don’t necessarily understand, for things like strokes and divorces. It might even explain why I’ve been such a pest lately.
“Just think about it.” Shifting in his seat to face her more directly he hurried on, caught up in his not-so-conventional logic. “That day in the sixth grade, when we held hands and didn’t want anyone to see us. I’m not sure you even remember that. But I do. Anyway, I’d like to think that happened for a reason. Because, without those few minutes together, more than fifty years ago, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here today talking about getting old, maybe together.”
For a few seconds the sight of the bridge in the distance seemed to capture Cynthia’s attention. When she looked back at him her crooked, but comfortable grin had returned. Was it the soundness of his argument or her growing hope that he was right? “And maybe all those things happened because we held hands?” she wondered out loud. “It makes you think, doesn’t it?”
“I’ve asked myself over and over,” Jack continued, “if it could be just a coincidence. There must have been a million different ways to get from where each of us was on that day in the sixth grade to where we are now. It seems to me that you took the high road---living the good life with Eric, while I bounced along on the low road---working at my state job and drinking beer with Carl.” 
He had her hand again, squeezing to make his point. “Our paths were so different, but even with all the twists and turns, your way and my way both led to this exact time and place. 
“That sounds like what Carl calls ‘becoming.’ He says that everyone, even at our age, is in the process of the becoming something new and different. It may be something good. It may be something bad. But no one can stay the same. For you and me it seems like becoming has brought us right here. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t feel like an accident to me.”
Jack leaned over to kiss her on the cheek. Cynthia was not prepared to settle for that. Seconds later he pushed himself back into his seat, rebuckled his seat belt, and paused to wrap his mind around the improbable truth of it. After years of idle daydreams, Cindy Welton was sitting there beside him, looking forward to his company. She was no longer the youthful school girl who had first caught his eye. Like him, she had changed. Yet even with her crooked little smile and halting, jagged words, she had never been more appealing. Indeed, he was unwilling to accept those changes as accidental.
“I think we’d better be going.” He gently elbowed her good left arm. “I believe I’m beginning to feel a little under the weather. In fact, I think I’ll probably be needing a nurse.”

You could say that I’m selling change. You may not agree, but I am willing to believe that more than a little October change happens because a small voice is telling us we must keep striving, and thriving, to become the person we were meant to be.

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