Crowds in the central square, placards exhorting the dictator to be gone, and TV news reporters scurrying for theoretical cover, it was deja’ vu all over again. Another ‘peoples’ revolution expressing frustration with a rapacious autocrat. Pushed to the edge of starvation and desperate for a voice, they band together to express their frustration and somehow find the courage to hope for positive change. Politicians wring their hands and affirm their support for democratic, human rights and behind the scenes negotiate with the dictator. Perhaps they’ll succeed and push out the old regime and a new strong man or party will take over. But the odds against real change are long. Successful revolutions are as rare as a winner in Vegas. Zooming from Egypt to California to Santa Monica to my life, I sense the instability of world culture today. The old axiom that all politics is local applies to the personal as well. All change is personal. Shifting into the last life chapter has shaken my foundations of self, just as Mubarak knows that change is inevitable at last, I know that changes in my life are inevitable and desirable. Getting off that entrenched system of friends, habits, and routines takes a veritable uprising of the soul, a comfort zone that provides cover and limited growth. Three years on into my ‘reinvention,’ I find myself in a dark place.
Waking with a sense of futility, I was barraged with questions: What is the point of reinvention? Where does it lead anyway? Do I still have the will to follow through to completion? Doubt, fear, doubt and more irrational fear. Is this a condition of aging? How do I manage this feeling in order to continue on my adventure of refirement?
Reinventors of any age probably face these questions and how do we find our way through those likely moments of aridity and self doubt? The challenge of age adds another layer that is not present when we are young and fresher on the scene. Over the years we accumulate experiences and lessons often called baggage. Unpacking that baggage may reveal a strategy for continuing on our journey. Baggage can be grouped into four types; ‘been there, done that,’ ‘Too old/ tired/ stupid to (start over, learn something new, move),’ ‘My life is comfortable so why bother,’ and finally ‘what if I fail?’
Where do these ideas and feelings come from? Our interpretation of experiences. We are constantly framing moments in our lives for ease of understanding and with that framing we add an emotion that stays with us. Today I awoke with that ennui of ‘been there, done that.’ I choose to dive down into that life sabotaging feeling and find out where it comes from. Essentially, it is an attitude springing from bits and pieces of frustration from my former job, hobbies, and relationships. Even though I may hold a generally favorable view of those experiences, discomfort was also there and this disquiet pops up to infect my stated intention to reinvent, renew, and refire my life. My tonic is to write about those disappointments and release them from my inner closets that periodically can spill out and mess up my day. When I don’t know what is bugging me, it is even more important to write or talk it out. After writing or painting or running or working in the garden, then I can get clear. I can then perceive in that flat attitude the fear and doubt that covered the passion and joy of the experience.
After unpacking the old, resolved hurts the next step of leaping into the unknown is not so foreboding. The infectious quality of doubt is put in perspective.
‘I am just too old’ is probably the most pernicious of these viruses. It permeates our general culture, it is supported by our observation of the life cycle of all things, and it carries a grain of truth. A grain of truth is not the whole truth. Typically, as we age learning new skills is slower but then we usually have a heightened appreciation of the moment. This mindful quality can then be experienced as its own reward and not just as a requirement to achieve a goal. Clarity of mission, vision, and goal is crucial. When those three elements are clear then taking the necessary steps is doable. Each of these is worthy of in depth discussion but a simplified definition of mission is how one puts his / her unique gifts, skills, and talents in service to others. Vision is about the form that this gift takes in the material realm. Finally, goals are the specific projects to be accomplished. When the excuses of lack are seen in this light then the value of mission overrides the personal limitations.
Failures have been many by the time one reaches AARP age. This fact is unavoidable and when compassion informs this ‘truth’ then wisdom can arise. Wisdom tells us that failure is a part of life and can’t be avoided. Wisdom tells us that we learn something in every failure. Wisdom can guide us to practical solutions to moments of failure. Failure is not a place and it is not static. It is a position on something. Viewing our circumstances with wisdom we can then take steps that are practical and progressive.
Today I joined Lazarus and not wallowing in my ennui, I took up my bed and walked. Walked to the café and met a fellow late in life reinventor and his spark plug started my engine. I remembered Mission, Vision, and Goals and my vehicle is moving again.