Saturday, October 18, 2008

Life is Change


We humans have a morbid fascination with security. What's this all about? As you look more closely at how we define 'security' for ourselves, you can begin to learn what it is you really mean when you say that you're working to provide a secure future for your family. Doesn't it mean that you have sufficient income (for now and for the future) not just to provide you and your family with the necessities of life, but also both to maintain your lifestyle at its current level, but also to provide the other members of your family with those benefits you want them to have (like advanced schooling)?

Doesn't it mean having a stable family life? How about having access to the kinds of health care and preventive programs that will best promote the health and well-being of you and your family members? Shall I continue? Doesn't 'security' imply not only freedom from crime and attacks, but also the freedom to pursue your favorite sports, hobbies, and pastimes? In short, doesn't 'security' imply to you maintaining at least the quality of life to which you've become (or wish to become) accustomed?

Then, along comes midlife, and what happens? It seems (often quite rightly) that your security is being blown all to hell and from the inside out. Your career is threatened, your family is threatened, your health is threatened, everything gets put 'on the line' in a landslide of insecurity that catches you off-guard and without a stable foothold to hang on to. When midlife threatens to strip everything away, what's left? The answer to that questions depends entirely on you, but, whatever it may be, that core of 'self' that remains when all else seems to be dissolving around you is where you find your spiritual center. If you can muster sufficient humility to allow the midlife transition to expose the core of your being, there you'll find all the clues that you need to your identity as a person, your purpose in life, and your destiny.

I need to remind you of the caveat I always mention whenever I talk of that rather dangerous term, 'destiny.' People tend to think of 'destiny' as a predetermined path along which you're given no choices but to fulfill. That approach to destiny distorts its meaning so as to make it not only unpalatable, but almost frightening. If you have no choice, then why try? On the contrary; your destiny only begins with your DNA. You're not born with infinite possibilities: your possibilities are limited (at least) by your genetic makeup from the instant you begin to exist. Every moment thereafter, those possibilities continue to be shaped, pruned and honed until you come down to the person who looks back at you from the mirror every morning. Your destiny has been shaped by your environment, your experiences, and every choice that you've ever made.

Choice - that comes down to only two: to choose to work with your destiny as you experience it today, or to work against it. It means accepting the person you are today (and therefore the person you will be tomorrow) or rejecting it. I very much like the characterization of that choice in these terms: you either choose your destiny, or choose your fate. What's most important for you to appreciate is that your destiny does not represent a static future: it's totally dynamic, shifting and evolving with every new experience and every single decision that you make (big or small). You're building your bridge to the future as you walk on it.

Returning to my original point, I want to challenge you to take another look at 'security'. Once you accept that your destiny is a dynamic concept, you'll soon recognize that any definition of 'security' that makes it a static point in time or a changeless goal distorts it. Rather than being a state, true security is a condition of preparedness (like strength and agility) that allows you to discern the 'signs of the times' and take proactive measures that will promote your (and your family's) well-being. No matter how clear your vision of the future may seem, it will never adequately encompass everything that you're going to encounter between now and then. The future that you will experience may have very little in common with your imagining of it. Because it's dynamic, it's also unpredictable.

They say that the only two certainties are death and taxes. That may be true; but, what most concerns me is that so many people going into midlife seem to want a life that's not only certain, but static. In my estimation, that means 'dead.' What good is a life - a destiny - a spirituality - that's essentially dead? Midlife happens upon you as that time in your adult life when you're invited to give up the dreams of 'happily ever after' and to accept the challenge of putting your hand to life's tiller and steering your course for the rest of your life though the ever-shifting winds and tides that surround you. Midlife is also that time when you come to accept that tomorrow may bring changes that today never anticipated. In midlife, at last, you come face-to-face with life, not as a dream but as a challenge: one for which you can now learn to be eternally grateful.

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