Like it or not, October reality is inescapable. As I’ve said before, October is not for sissies. Of course, we like to dwell on the high points---our children’s success, the wonderful world of grandchildren, those times when things work out like we planned. Who can fault us for reveling in those good times? More to the point, it is those successes, both large and small, that help us deal with the other, sometimes dark, face of October reality.
Whether as individuals or couples, each of us deals with our own unique set of October circumstances---a very personal blend of issues that may include family, financial, health, and relational challenges. You are bound to know someone who deals with one or all of those. It may be you. After all, by the time we arrive at this stage of life we bring with us an weighty load of existential baggage. At every turn the person we are becoming and the future we are creating is impacted in some way by those October realities.
Over the years our April dreams have been tempered by a lifetime of personal experience. We continue to update our expectations, creating new understandings of what we consider acceptable October outcomes. We have learned that our dreams are not static. Our youthful visions of a “happy ending” have been reshaped, perhaps more than once. Though we keep dreaming, our dreams are probably very different these days.
For some, however, loneliness, worry, and doubt have become dominant elements of their October existence---testing the responses they have spent a lifetime learning and creating what I consider spiritual challenges. No matter how you choose to label those soul-deep trials, my personal sense is that the most effective coping response, whether you view your dilemma as transcendental or purely coincidental, is likely to be the right person who happens to arrive at the right time.
It is that conviction which nudges me toward the October relational stories I tell---the ones that illustrate how a new or renewed relationship can be an effective antidote for the distressing landscape of October reality. Connecting one more time happens in real life, as well as the Tanner Chronicles.
But take a moment to consider that challenge. What kind of person would choose to start 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 difficult learning process yet again?
In the course of nine novel-length “relational” stories I have followed my Tanner friends, the ones with their own October issues, as they travel toward what they hope is “one more time.” From time to time I have paused to wonder if my expectations for a “second chance” relationship are too simplistic. After all, I’ve lived out the deeply personal process of learning to live with a life partner. I know that 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 in the company of someone else, acquiring their own unique set of habits and preferences. The first time, all those years ago, required realistic expectations, chemistry, trust, patience, and a huge dose of luck. Seems to me that October relationship must be built on those same elements.
But there are so many variables. How can they be sure that what worked so well in one relationship will succeed with a new and different someone, especially someone they are still getting to know? Is that realistic? Small wonder that not all my stories end with a gift-wrapped, happily-ever-after bow. Yet even then, who am I to say they shouldn’t have tried?
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 perhaps too-naive “I’m sure it will work” model. Fortunately, it did. But there were no guarantees. That was true then, and still is.
Perhaps you can tell that digging deep, looking for unseen motives is an occupational hazard for someone like me. If that’s true I accept it as the price of making my stories as authentic as possible. I want them to be something more than feel-good caricatures of lost and lonely souls seeking inevitable happiness. My Tanner friends know it’s not always like that. Truth is, you’ll find very few ivory towers in an October landscape.