Archive for the 'plans' Category

Temptation

November 29, 2011

Someone in an email group I belong to included the following, which may be commonly known, but I had never heard it before: “‘A woman has to be in the mood; a man has to be in the room.'”  There has been much discussion, much in a jocular vein, about this ever since, among other members of the group.

But I actually found it helpful in a more pedantic way, because it said to me that maybe some men don’t trust themselves and that’s why they avoid certain kinds of relationships with women.  Which in turn got me thinking about “What Temptation Means to Me.”

For me, temptation is usually about signing on to someone else’s view not just of the world and how to be in it but of me and how I should be in it.  The (mis)step I take is something like, “Oh, they must know something I don’t” and I jump right into their idea of what I should be doing.  A good example was when my son was struggling in high school and I called all the right people for advice and they told me to convene a meeting and it turned out to bring things to a head in a way we were not prepared for (and not what was supposed to happen — many rules were broken, but as I learned, unless the student and family have the resources, including time, to go through a hearing process, there’s not much that can be done when the rules are not followed — more than one lawyer told me, “Yes, you’re right, there really is no accountability there, they are used to that, and that’s a large part of the problem.  Muddle on.”  We muddled until he graduated.).

So, one of my temptations is to take other people’s advice, and when it means adopting a worldview that actually doesn’t work in my context, if indeed it actually works for anybody — sometimes I think it just becomes more obvious in my life because the issues tend to get played out in heightened ways — I end up sitting on the ground inspecting my bruises and trying to accept that what may be appropriate for other people may actually not be what I should be doing, and that it’s part of my contribution to the situation that I asked for and took their advice.

Bruises are one thing.  I can get back up on the horse (elephant?) and keep going.  It’s when the advice tells me something akin to, “You shouldn’t be riding that horse,” or any horse, that I risk trouble.  My sense of what horse I should be riding I think has to come through me, I don’t think I can take most people’s word for it.  When I sense I’m on the wrong one, I do have some success asking someone like Gita, who does see other people’s stuff pretty neutrally, about why I feel confused.  It usually even then takes my actually seeing it for myself to accept it, although the suggestion about where to look is invaluable.

The temptation with which I am currently struggling involves the perennial favorite question, especially in middle age, “What should I be doing with my Life?”  I don’t feel like a failure, the way a relative recently reported to me she feels, but I do feel tired and that I still haven’t found a modus vivendi since Willy died that feels like it works for me.  I have opted for the “function and be responsible” part of the program, and hoped that eventually I would find the opportunity to regroup in a way that would feel more comfortable, especially since in the long term I need a way of living that is less exhausting.  I don’t know.  Maybe I am too loathe to abandon my responsibilities in favor of something else, or maybe the lesson is to find a way to meet those responsibilities without becoming so exhausted and with discovering a way to find contentment in my life as presently constituted.  I do somewhat better with answering the smaller question of, “What should I be doing right now in my life?  What is next?”

Plan B, or maybe G

November 23, 2011

I have a neighbor up the hill who used to tell me how frustrated she was that her life seemed to be going according to not even Plan B (the first alternative), but Plan C or Plan D or beyond.  I think her concept was that we’re all, collectively and individually, on some sort of Plan G in the world right now.

For myself, I have no idea how my life relates to lives I might have had.  I tend to see the sense I sometimes have had that it could have gone this other way as like a pencil study that precedes the eventual painting.  I love Richard Shindell’s language (in his song “Transit”) of Sister Maria having to stop to change a flat tire on her way to her gig leading a prison choir, because I have the sense that I spent from my early twenties until about thirty years later fixing something that needed fixing before I/we could go on with the traction necessary for making forward progress — I think it was a lot like fixing a flat tire, but I think it was not unexpected, that there was really no definite expectation that Plan A would work.

It took me a long time to change the tire — the tire did not want to come off, despite the fact it was flat, so to speak.  It took me two separate attempts.  And I sometimes think that, in the metaphor of the song, I’ve arrived rather late for my gig.  I also suspect I’ve arrived in a state as if I got hit by a car while I was changing that tire on the side of the road, probably multiple times, in fact.  And, given all the factors such as how long it took, how imperfect, perhaps, the repair, how extensive the damage to me and others, I think our Plan G, or whatever iteration we’re on, is a bit of a compromise, kind of a kluge maybe.  But I can also see it as being a beautiful fit for the circumstances, maybe because it calls on us to dig deep into ourselves, to get out our best clothes or our best dinnerware (it’s almost Thanksgiving), so to speak, and not keep them stored away in mothballs for another time — to be our best, our most thankful, most giving, most loving, and least selfish, selves.