Looking back…living with option b.

A few years ago in one of my blog posts, I suggested that I had my own personal sword of Damocles, as I did my best to prepare for the passing of my life partner. At the time I identified very much with, and felt for the first time that I truly kgard4understood, the ineffable nuance buried in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.  It has taken literally years for me to look back and give thought to the “wait”– whether things could or should have been done differently, more thoughtfully or better. I waited nearly two years for the moment when I could write about my personal Monday-morning-quarterbacking and first person second-guessing. Today, for not completely inexplicable reasons–that day arrived.  As you might surmise from this lead in, “underestimated” best describes my level of emotional preparedness for the loneliness that lie ahead.  The impression that as one reaches a certain age you necessarily start to come to terms with the probability of loss, is– misguided.  Most startling? How common the really shattering experience of losing a life partner is (50 percent of all partnered couples experience it) is  and at the same time, how utterly unprepared one is, for it . After months of reading Cheryl Sandburg’s #optionb and following her  #optionb facebook group, I’m fairly certain that we humans have done a poor job of reconciling ourselves to that which is an integral and inescapable part of life.

My student years were filled with the study of philosophy. According to Plato, the best form of government was one ruled by the philosopher, the “philosopher king” he termed it–governing a world guided by a love of wisdom, intelligence, reliability and willingness to live a simple life. Were our world ruled by philosopher kings, no doubt in my mind but that we would be more mindful of Mr. Sagan’s blue dot concept, without having voyage into outer space to embrace it. The philosopher king would cross-fertilize with the scientist, confront the inescapable realities that permeate human existence, and perhaps for the first time, devote thoughtful resources to helping mankind identify and develop better loss-coping mechanisms.

Among the few conclusions I’m willing to publicly share are these two…
1) As inhabitants of this universe, who have managed to rule out the comfort provided by the many deities that previous civilizations relied upon, we need to apply our collective societal intelligence to identify and develop better loss-coping mechanisms.

2) On the positive side, there is one truth that I have found reaffirming–modern civilization’s evolution, anchored in the family construct, offers extraordinary relief, albeit palliative, to intercept the pain of loss in a meaningful way.

On this not-so-upbeat note you have now reached the part where you google images for “inspiring quotes” and/or, slightly sensing the vacuum, invite me to dinner. As for the inspiration and strength, well I find that Winston Churchill is always a good place to start.

optimist

Managing Change and Transition …Put one foot In front of the other (and don’t look back).

In life we learn through literature that there is big stuff and small stuff, as in “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  There are things that are key, critical–that go to the coreImage. In the “small stuff” column we find the discretionary, optional and elective.  Among the “core” things in life, and possibly one of the most critical one can master on this planet, are transitions. The ability to transition from point A to B, or to put in its simplest terms, to move on. 

You’ve heard often about the person who “doesn’t handle transitions well.”  At the same time, we’ve all witnessed people who have faced seemingly overwhelming odds, yet have managed to reinvent themselves, transition and emerge no worse for the wear.

As I scoured the web for visuals that represented transitions–it was interesting how many aspects of life involve transitions. That was only matched by the realization that the person who hasn’t mastered transitions, or the ability to finesse one gracefully,  likely faces an uphill climb over and over again. Transitioning affects us all, more or less, depending upon our circumstances.  The spectrum in which it presents is broad: in or out of a relationship, quitting or leaving a job, losing a loved one, going to school, leaving school, changing school, moving out of one house and into another, divorce, retirement or other fundamental passage.

In an earlier post, I wrote about people plagued by inertia–but I may have to stand corrected. It may not be so much the inertia, but a fundamental inability to manage change that is at the root of the paralysis. I didn’t spend much if any time reading or studying Kierkegaard in my years studying philosophy, but this “inspirational” quote seems to get to the heart of the matter.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

Moving-On-in-Life-QuotesAt a relatively young age, I was confronted more than once with some of life’s  “fundamental passages.”  In later years, but well before adulthood arrived, I was exposed to adults who represented both extremes on the transition scale. On the one hand a parent who was entrenched in past recriminations and regrets , on the other hand a grandparent, who at the drop of a hat, could transition into a new plan if any part of the present was presenting an obstacle, literally and figuratively, to where she wanted to be or where she wanted to go.

Perhaps the exposure to these two approaches, paired with the several transitions I was exposed to at so early an age as to think them natural,  is what influenced me and my outlook on life. Whatever the source, that outlook has served me well. Confronting passages and transitions without paralyzing fear, regret or apprehension and harnessing the ability to manage expectations grows confidence in one’s own wings. Confidence prevents the kind of procrastination that is responsible for so many of life’s missed opportunities.  Good timing then, often mistaken by onlookers as “good luck,” generates positive outcomes.

But this process, and it is a process, requires conscious thought–no bumbling about, being buffeted by the “slings and arrows” of life.  It requires that one acquire a penchant for flexibility, adaptability, willingness to consider change and acquire a zest for the anticipation that transitions generate. In the end there are two types of people, those who become fluent in the art of transition and change and those who are simply, sadly, stuck in the past or the memory of it.

Like any one of a number of habits one might want to kick, I suggest this as a first step in learning how to transition gracefully:untitled

When you find yourself looking backwards, standing still, frozen in your steps or seized with apprehension–in words that aren’t mine, but have a simplicity I love: 

Put one foot in front of the other…and, I might add,  don’t look back.

If it helps, whistle the tune below, or in the manner of Jimmy Fallon,  grab a bunch of muppets and sing your way through the transition.

Either way you’ll be off to something of a start.