Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Upsetting the social script

Meeting with wonderful old friends – from my first job – Monday night and realizing, other than aging somewhat, no one has really changed, I wondered out loud on the drive home if it's possible at 25 we have already become primarily the person we will be for life.

It seemed a rather profound thought to explore. I know in some ways I don't feel very different; in all of the essential ways I believe I am the same person, sans some of the baggage and experience I have accumulated along the way.

Or were we just putting on our best faces? In this group, we have all witnessed each other at our worst: nursing headaches at work after a Sunday night galavanting; playing grownup in newspaper jobs that practically paid play money; living large because we didn't know any better; and loving hard for the same reason, sometimes rewarded with heartaches, yet also with relationships that have survived and grown. It stymies me to think that these people sailed out of my daily life when they had been such an important part of my maturing. I guess we all grew into other things: different careers, marriages, relationships and families.

So is the person who laughed, reminisced, stirred fond memories and totally enjoyed herself with this group the real me or is the one who has not-so-gracefully navigated a harsh winter and feels lost, even desolate, me? I don't recall these spells of hardness during my tenure with these friends. But then, life was simpler. Only me to care for, no worries, no lingering expectations or disappointments, only living in the moment as we all did. AHHHH living in the moment. That may be the difference.

How did I stray so far from that earlier time? I felt new, alive and my own person then. Now I feel governed by some pretty deep ruts not necessarily of my own making, but trenches – family and cultural patterns, philosophies and tenants that run counter to my essential self – from which I am attempting to emerge  The first step has been to recognize them. Now I am working to extricate myself. And it's really hard. I feel like I am the only screwed-up person as well as the only one trying to do something about it. It's not something that pops up in the daily course of conversations, e-mails or facebook posts. And, when in passing, someone asks how I am, I know they don't want to hear "crappy or demented," so I suck it in, force a winced smile and reply, "OK," which is a blatant lie. But the truth would upset the social script.

Deep down, I know this is imperative and what I am supposed to be undertaking right now, in this moment. Last week, I was beginning to wonder if God were an invention, but that's because I am conflicted about my faith community. I have been giving there what I have needed all of my life, spiritual nurture. My wise shamanic counselor says they can't provide what I need. So where, I ask, do I get it?

Certainly at age 25 I did not suffer from this dilemma. I did not examine issues this deeply. Was I living more superficially? It was surely an easier way.

Perhaps my lesson is to meld my earlier ability to live in the present with the harder course right now, including talking about it, even making people feel uncomfortable.  And to take it one day at a time and see where it leads ... hopefully into God's loving embrace. But I am not so very sure.

• What does renewing old friendships mirror about who we have been? Who we are now?
• How does dealing with the complexities of life as we grow older contribute to our maturity?
• To our spiritual growth?
• How is it possible to have felt so very close the the Divine, only to feel so far as to question its existence?
• How can we open a healthy conversation about the darkness, which is also a part of the lightness?

they held the mirror
and when I looked back,
I saw joy, frivolity and an easier way

I am afraid to look presently

because the ride is steeper, twisting and taking
me deeper and darker away

from the light I only so
very recently seemed to find

something tells me it's okay and
if I were to peer ahead, I would be pleased with the view

I must hold that hope, along with the reflection
of the past, and let it light the darkness now

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