Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Transitions....Or on Relationships and Other Profound Crap

I have been thinking a lot about transitions lately. Mostly because of my own life and the many changes in it -- those that have occurred, are occurring, or will occur -- but also because of several conversations recently with dear friends about their own lives.

Life is a constantly moving target of course -- one which is never easy to pin down or even understand. That much is obvious. But is anything else?

There is the ever popular quote:
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!
-- Maxine (Cartoon)
Probably especially since it did originate in a cartoon (other versions come from Hunter S Thompson, Bill McKenna, etc), it is particularly profound and meaningful.

Yet, despite it's lovely thought, it can be hard to live up to that attitude -- especially in the midst of transitions, which are not always positive. Let's face it: change is difficult. Even if it is for the best, and truly a positive situation, it is still hard to leave the comfort of what we know, what we have always experienced, what we have come to think of as "what we are"....

The "Theory" (and yes, that's capitalized thankyouverymuch because I have articulated it formally and therefore it is a Formal Concept) that I have always held onto is one which I call "The Sliding Doors Theory".

Sadly, it is not a theory based upon some profound, deep, complicated literature or ancient philosophy. I, in fact, would actually prefer to not admit the "founding principles".... Well, especially due to their source, "founding principles" is a bit too strong.... More like the "tidbits of concepts that when mixed with large doses of alcohol mellowed into deep profound thoughts that eventually became founding principles for a theory of life"....

But yeah, that's a bit of a mouthful. So I suppose "founding principles" will have to work.

I'm still a bit embarrassed by the sources of the initial concepts, but....

~ahem~ ~ ahem~ ~cough~ ~ cough~

I was actually deeply moved by the concepts in the movie "Sliding Doors" with Gwyneth Paltrow (read more here) and one paragraph in "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert (read more here).

More information:

Yeah, I know. Hang my head in shame.

But in my own defense, I read the book when it was first published, so prior to the whole every one going gaga for it, the movie, the crap. And at the time, while I enjoyed it, and it was perfect timing for my own life (my wedding had just been called off), I did pointedly tell people that "this was not great literature that was going to be around in 100 years".

Ahem. See? Proof I actually do have taste.... 

And the movie was in a friend's collection of movies, so was a random chick-flick-and-wine-girls-night event.

Really. I have an excuse.

But more to the point...

The movie follows a simple but profound concept: the idea of how different our lives could be or would be if just the slightest thing changes. In this case, whether the heroine makes it through the closing doors of a subway car on her way home, or has them slam shut in her face.

In our lives, it could be anything -- small, little, insignificant. How different would our life be if we had made the light? If I had decided to take the Tunnel instead of the Pass, and so the car accident would have happened in front of me, not behind me....

And the book provided this insight regarding relationships:
"And please don't laugh at me now, but I think the reason it's so hard for me to get over this guy is because I seriously believed David was my soul mate."
"He probably was. Your problem is you don't understand what that word means. People think a soulmate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that's holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it...."
So take these two thoughts, mix with copious amounts of alcohol (for this sort of thinking, I personally recommend wine), let sit and mellow, and then think....

In my own wine-induced philosophical musings, I came up with the following thoughts:

Life can be altered based upon the simplest differences -- differences that we may not appreciate at the time. It is not just that we may see the differences as negative, and not be able to see the big picture or the long term results (hence the old "hindsight is twenty twenty" saying) -- but that we may not even appreciate that some tiny tiny thing actually completely altered our future.

For this reason, it is important to always look forward, and not "wallow" so much in our pasts. Many of us have experienced traumas or horrors or difficulties. But they -- our past in its entirety -- does not actually dictate our future. As any tiny change, any simple shift, can completely adjust the path we are on.

Our yesterdays shaped us, but they do not control us.

In fact, the only thing that controls us is ourselves -- and we only control ourselves. We cannot control, change or alter others. But we can control, change and alter how we respond to others.

Speaking of "others" in our life, it is also important to treasure them for "what they are" -- not what we think they are..... Or should be.... Or what role we think they should play in our lives....

The idea is that people come into our lives for certain amounts of time -- it may be minutes, days, years or decades. And for that amount of time they may play THE.MOST.IMPORTANT.ROLE.EVER, period.

But then it all may just "end". A falling apart, a distancing, a death, a whatever. It may be nothing, it may be huge and dramatic. It may be a bang .... or a whisper. It does not matter.

But the "end" does not take away from the meaning they had while they were in our lives.

I believe strongly that the concept of "soul mates" is not just about lovers, but about friends, family, others. And I also believe that some people, some friends are incredibly important, critical.... EVERYTHING.

But that it all may end (suddenly or a long slow transition -- happily or painfully). And of course, no matter how "amicable" the ending, it often will be painful simply because they were that important to us.

Yet just because they were important to us during that time does not mean it should not end. It also -- and this is very important -- does not mean that they were not as important as we thought they were.

Just that they had a "purpose" (for lack of a better word) in our lives for that moment, that period of time. And now we have moved on from that purpose. Maybe, as the quote above says, we have "revealed the other layer of ourselves to ourselves" or "learned the lessons we needed to learn".... Whatever it is, they were an important part of our life, and always will be -- but that doesn't mean they have to be a constant part of our life....

The best way I can think to sum it up is: It's like when someone close to us dies -- we mourn, we despair of our loss, but we also must focus on celebrating what we had, what we learned and shared --- even if we'll never have that again....

And to me, the same is true of our pasts: we mourn, but we must also focus on what we learned.

Life is a constantly moving target, it is a journey, and it is about making the best of it, and of those who share the wild ride with us.... Transitions are never easy, but they are important -- and they are excuses to take a moment to learn even more about ourselves. 

Either that, or just add wine and mix well.......

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