Months ago I told myself there would come a time when I would run out of things to say about October. What happens then?
Now, having reached that moment, I know exactly what happens then. When I have nothing more to say, it's time to stop talking. But before I do that there are a handful of entries from a couple years back that I want to post again for readers who were not on board then. Then, having restated those October observations, I can ride off into the November sunset. What follows is the first of those “one more time” posts.
The last day or two I have been processing a recent post about “thriving” in our October Years. In my own mental shorthand I define thriving as “coming closer to being the person I was meant to be.” That in turn leads to questions like---Am I thriving? Should I expect to thrive? Does it even matter one way or the other? I’ll admit, there are times when I’m inclined to forget all that and settle for being the person I am. But those nagging questions won’t go away.
Of course, thriving is a very personal thing. My thriving won’t look like your thriving. If you’re already an October thriver, chances are you’ve found the proper balance in your life. You can look ahead, while remembering the past. You can accept the person you have become, but hope to be more.
Yet from time to time I see, and perhaps you do too, October friends who seem not to be thriving. Perhaps they have been beaten down, or given up. Still, we must realize that such judgments are fraught with danger. Who has the right to judge? Who can say that his or her sort of thriving is the most acceptable kind? Thriving, and the change that often comes with it, are very individual matters. Your change need not look like my change.
I’ve mentioned “change” before on these pages. It seems to me an important part of October life---it’s still allowed at our age, you know. Take a moment to consider life as an unending chain of choices and adaptations---in other words---change. Though we shouldn’t judge what change is appropriate for someone else, I am confident that adapting to life’s changing circumstances is an important part of thriving at any age. To use our October status as an excuse to stop “becoming,” is to sell ourselves short. It is a sad thing to see, or tell a story about---the person who believes it is too late to become something more---that change is not worth the effort at this late date?
One way to integrate change into late-life experience is in the context of a life lived on purpose. Do the concepts of “purpose” or “intention” resonate with you? Have you ever wondered if you have become the person you were meant to be? As you may have guessed by now, I’m a Wayne Dyer sort of guy. In Dr. Dyer’s life-view there are no accidents---things happen for a reason. To resist the changes implied by life’s “non-accidents” is akin to resisting our destiny.
As a storyteller I am constantly creating 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, hopefully more desirable, place. More than once I have used the notion of life’s “intention” to link someone’s beginnings (think childhood) to a much later October event. In the same way that it happens to each of us, I ask my characters to follow the continuous, perhaps twisted chain of change and adaptation to where it leads them.
Take for instance Jack Benz in Becoming. For fifty years, half a century, he has nurtured his improbable dream of knowing Her. During their high-school days at Tanner Southside High she had been Cindy Welton---social diva, miles out of his league. Later she became Cynthia Larson---socialite wife, living life in the fast lane. Until, that is, a devastating stroke changed her into someone her husband could no longer love. From the beginning the odds had been stacked against Jack---yet he had been willing to stay the course.
There in the front seat of his car Jack thought he had lost contact with Cynthia, 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 happen if we give it a chance. Then today, at lunch, you told me that everything is working out just right---like it was supposed to.” She turned back to him. “Is that what you think? That you and I being here right now was 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 first read about it---the idea that there might be 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 actually 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, the late-life incarnation of school-girl Cindy Welton, was seated comfortably beside him, seeking his interpretation of their unexpected, perhaps 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 way of thinking 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 can be reasons that we don’t necessarily understand, for things like your stroke and divorce. It might even explain why I’ve been such a pest lately.
“Just think about it.” Shifting in his seat to face her 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 sure 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 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 that had won her attention, she wondered, or the growing hope that he was right? “And you think all that happened because we held hands?” she asked softly. “It’s enough to make you think, isn’t it?”
“I’ve asked myself over and over,” Jack continued. “If being with you could be just a coincidence. There must have been a million different ways to get from where each of us was 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 changing, becoming someone new. That change may be something good. It may be something bad. But no one can stay the same. For you and me it feels like our ‘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. True, she was no longer the youthful school girl who had first caught his eye. Like him, she had changed. Yet even after her stroke, 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 can tell that I’m selling change---becoming something more---what I call thriving. 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 should keep striving and thriving, becoming closer to being the person we were meant to be.