Archive for December, 2008
So, this past Sunday I delivered a speech (lay sermon, I suppose) at my Unitarian Universalist fellowship, and it was about “my personal journey to ‘Having Enough,'” focusing mostly on my decision to leave the academic career path and find happiness with a different life than that one I had earlier pursued. The whole Sunday service was lovely, including songs about simplicity and the participation of our fellowship’s new voluntary simplicity group; I showed the Miniature Earth film that I love, and that and fellow participants delivered subtle messages about appreciating what we have. I was happy to receive very positive reactions on my talk from many people in the audience — the topic is clearly timely and struck a chord with many.
When I shared the written sermon with my dad, though, I realized that perhaps I had actually over-simplified my journey to Having Enough in this particular storytelling. My dad was positive and wonderful about my words and message, and went on to discuss how it was not until he faced his own mortality during his heart bypass surgery experience at age 51 that he truly began to, on the deepest level, appreciate what he had and each day he had it, although he had verbally touted that philosophy for his whole life.
In reading his words, I realized that in my Having Enough sermon I had presented my story as if it was that one decision (to leave the ivory tower) that led me to where I am. But, I realized there were several pivotal experiences in my twenties — including my dad’s heart surgery and my own heartbreak at 23 when my first long-term relationship ended in a pretty shocking way — that combined to show me this more gratifying “having enough” path I am on now in my mid-thirties. (And, I’m sure, many other less major experiences before and since also contributed.) None of these experiences alone brought me here, although I could tell the story of each and show its connection to my Having Enough journey.
In a way, I look at this realization as a trick of writing — how we choose to tell a story, and what details we include and leave out. In another way, I think it is just a part of life for everyone, how we selectively remember our own experiences, triggers and connections, and how we put it all together in our rationalizing brain and our deeply-felt emotions to come up with how we perceive the world and our place in it.
Really, it is all about continuing to re-evaluate the stories we tell ourselves, and others, isn’t it? Continuing to strive for some kind of balance, some kind of growth, some kind of deeper meaning. I’ll remember this feeling the next time I try to tell one of my stories, and hopefully further incorporate the nuances of any supposed cause and effect in a human life. And I’ll continue to be pleased with the fact that my Having Enough talk had a positive effect on people, though it may not have been as complete as I now see it could have been.
And so the journey continues…
Thanks to Mama, Ph.D. co-editor Caroline Grant for sending me this essay from Skirt! Magazine (I finally read it, Caroline!). The story of a couple chasing an escape fantasy and learning to let go of it for an unexpected (and it seems better) reality, it’s so relevant to my last post about ideal versus real.
It bring to mind for me the Joseph Campbell quote:
“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”