Posted by: nedlnthred | February 5, 2017

One step up and three steps back…

I dined last night with one of my favorite people. He’s here in town from San Francisco, his home since he moved back from Japan some years ago. Where he and a bunch of other friends from completely unrelated circles all live within about 6 square blocks from one another, in the Mission District, which was affordable when they all moved there.

It is no secret to you, Gentle Reader, that I have recently been through some difficult times. That I question my ability to make a mark on the world, or even to live up to some of the expectations of my success generated by my years of formal education. That of late I have felt whiny and bitter and unpleasant to be around, as though disappointments and failures, heretofore unthinkable, had twisted my sense of self beyond bearing; like a skier after a limb break, trying to relax into the necessary fearlessness to get over rough terrain, and hitting every bump.


Besides, it was colder off this couch. Just sayin’

I have talked here and there about the problems I have with depression, which run enthusiastically in my family. I will write more about the wreck they have made of my last few years at some other point, but here I will merely refer to the inability to see beyond my sofa of an evening for several winters past. As though everything beyond the circle of my floorlamp was invisible in the dark.


How grad school treated me, second time around

But more relevant here are the disappointments that got me there. The loss of a job I loved when a new position was designed above me, the no-man’s land that working on my PhD became without enough guidance. And a few heaping teaspoons of my own arrogance that I could do it all: take 3 graduate classes and perform competently at work. I’d always excelled before, why not at this as well? More romantic disappointments than need be described, all while watching my brother have exactly the simple (in terms of involved parties, not lack of work) life I wanted and couldn’t make happen. I’d simply never met my limits before. Slamming into them at top speed was humbling.


Photographing our cocktails at Fine & Rare, like ya do

Blake recently suffered a break with one of his oldest friends. I’ve had a few of those, and the sense of betrayal, of confusion over values, intentions, and commitments is as bad as losing one’s marriage. It hurts. One need look no further to the rhetoric of our recent Presidential election to find this dismay between expectations and actions writ large. It recalled to me conversations with my BFF when she was reevaluating her circle of friends around the time they all hit 30 or so. Truth is, not all relationships are meant for the long haul. Sad, but there it is.

Like a higher divorce rate, changes in circles of friends are a cost of living longer, I guess. Probably also the cost of having a life of more diverse adventures, as Blake does. And we simply need and want different things when we are 52 than we did when we were 19.*

An interesting Quora (1/30/17) post by author Marshall Karp put this pointedly:
“This rut that you’re stuck in, this life that you’re trapped in, who planned it? Not you. Not the YOU you are now. Most of us form our life’s plans shortly after high school. Maybe we’re 16, maybe we’re 23, but for the most part we’re still kids. And then once we make a plan, we stick with it.” The point is, we have to evaluate and choose more often than every 20 years. Sometimes as often as every few days or every action, other times, when prep for a course of action is underway, maybe only every few years.


Ernie Banks, watching for an opening to steal the next base

But another point that keeps getting swept under the carpet in all this talk of mindfulness, is that we make mistakes (as perhaps, someday, Blake’s friend will realize he did, thinking I could do as much at one time as I tried), unexpected things happen (Hurricane Sandy? Pennsylvania ran out of coal? No one whom I felt was a good fit wanted to date me 10 years ago?), or our goals changed over time (BFF learned to value different aspects of her friends’ personalities and habits? Every breakup and divorce you’ve ever come across…) The only thing we can do is keep evaluating the goals and the possibilities. Kinda like athletes, playing from a slight crouch so as to be able to change direction quickly as needed.

We also need to learn to forgive ourselves as we forgive others.

*The difference between what someone needs vs. what same someone wants is well beyond the scope of this post.

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