Never Change

Lately I’ve been thinking about high school yearbooks. It drove me wild (in that silent, repressed way) whenever someone wrote, “I really like you. You’re great. Don’t ever change!” Well, they usually wrote “Your great,” which also drove me crazy, but for different reasons.

I could not wait for my life to change. I graduated from high school, went home, packed up my stuff & moved out the following day. A couple of months later, I left Sanford, Maine without a backwards glance. I kept in touch with one or two people for a couple of years & then closed the book on all of it (until recently).

I left with a determination to change my life fundamentally. If I could have erased myself & started over, I would have. These days, I’m more likely to get over it and resolve to do the best I can with what I’ve got. (I still can’t find the karmic eraser, anyway.)

Given all that, I was recently startled by a thought. What with aging and all, have I gotten less likely to make a Big Change?

On the one hand, this may be natural. Perhaps we become old enough to know we are not invincible. We come to know that it hurts (longer)  when we fall & a band-aid will not cure-all. The old Once Bitten Twice Shy phenomena rears its head.

Perhaps I should personalize this to say that I may have become risk-averse in recent years and the realization pains me.

Within the last month I made a Big Decision, which I approached thoughtfully and in consultation with several people whom I trust. I made what seemed like a reasoned & reasonable decision. But when the curtain was flung aside, Big Truths looked like Flawed Assessments. At least Dorothy had the comfort of her glittery shoes. I feel like I am standing barefoot in a big room, holding a bag of promise that could be empty.

The thing that really gets me is this: the decision came down to a dichotomy. Perhaps it was my Defining Decision-making Dichotomy:

Do I do what feels idealistic, energetic and cultivating growth, but risky?

OR

Do I do what seems value-based, but safer and represents conservative progress with an eye on long-term stability?

I chose to stay close to what I know and in the end, it feels like I have been granted a diploma signifying The Acquisition of Middle Age, somewhat devoid of wisdom that should have accompanied my need for expensive eye cream.

Do grown ups get do-overs?

In the absence of a do-over, I’m off to buy an overpriced bit of youth restoration cream. Maybe not losing any more ground is the best I can do at the moment.

Salty or Sweet?

Doesn’t it seem like we get asked a lot of This or That questions? For example:  Do you prefer cats or dogs? Are you a spontaneous/right brain person or a logical/left brain person? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Active or passive? San Franciscans: Do you prefer fog or sun?

Dichotomies abound!

This line of questioning is a conundrum for me, because I am rarely This or That. I prefer food that has at least two things going on, like spicy/sweet or bitter/sweet. I’m an extroverted introvert. I’m a doer that thinks, while my husband is a thinker who does.

I experience a similar This/That aversion regarding fields of study. A lifetime lover of the word, particularly the written word, I have pursued studies and positions that involve communications in a variety of formats. But there also lurks in my heart a love of earth science. My recent writing has somewhat unconsciously given both loves a place to bask in the sunlight.

Before submitting my Master’s writing project to the university library, I am looking at it with fresh eyes. I’m thinking about my writing process and noticing where the words shimmer, as opposed to getting the reader from here to there. The poetry comes into my writing when the sanctity of nature is explored.

The Piscataquis River is an important presence that runs through this body of writing. The fictional characters live in communities along the nonfictional river in Maine.

Giving the river presence and voice helps me step into the writing with a spirit of reverence. Immersion into the river-as-character creates a ripple effect that deepens my exploration of the surrounding characters. Humans are complex, human interactions much more so, and doing them justice is hard work.  Honoring the natural world is how I can float into more challenging, deeper writing.

Intersections are rich for this very reason. They are places where what we know gets to interact with something less familiar or comfortable. Where things that were once distinct can co-mingle and evolve.

I was puzzling about dichotomies and intersections of seeming divergent interests, when some illustrative images fell into my lap. Don’t you love it when that happens?

Art & Science, as related to the Midnight Heron, found within twenty feet of each other on a recent walk:

Examples of a science-inspired art can be found on Bernie Peyton’s website. He’s a wildlife biologist who creates amazing paper sculptures inspired by the animals he has studied.

My friend Bob McCauley is a gifted and respected painter who finds inspiration from the natural world. Bob’s work was described by Poet Laureate Billy Collins as “realism that is haunting and full of ambiguity.” Rather than using words, Bob paints thoughtful, beautiful metaphors.
It is a rich intersection.

What makes a hero?

Since I started blogging, I’ve noticed that there are times when “themes” emerge in the public discourse or in the small circles through which I move. Themes are great for blogs, so my antennae are on alert for these gold nuggets. I’ve recently had cause to think about people acting heroically, in part because of this man:

Last week Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker ran into a burning building to save a woman who lives in his neighborhood, which I think is amazing. I mean, who (besides our everyday hero, the Firefighter) has the fortitude to run into a burning building? Talk about serving the public…

In thinking about heroism, I recalled a moment of personal cowardice to put things into perspective. Although, there are times in my life when I have done The Right Thing, I haven’t always played my A game… When I first left Maine at the tender age of 23, I lived in Santa Cruz for a couple of years. My grandmother June came to visit me and we went out on the Wharf, where we were amazed to see a pelican perched.

As we stood a few yards from it, snapping pictures and marveling, it took flight, straight at us! I shrieked and hid behind my grandmother, who was in her 70s at the time. We had a good laugh about it all, but it was a moment for me. I had a little chat with myself:  You don’t jump behind Gram, you jump in front of her. Got it? Good.

My March 6 post was about seeing a young man in a restaurant perform the Heimlich Maneuver on one of his dining companions. When I first realized what was happening, he was doing it without success and he began to panic. He stopped and asked the people in the room for help. My husband stood beside him and calmly told him he was doing the right thing and to keep doing it. He resumed his efforts and a moment later his friend was gasping for air.

Sometimes being heroic takes a team. In the above case, being heroic meant doing what is needed–an active role for some, a supporting role for others. And just because you are the right person at the right time doesn’t mean you know how: you may be the one who figures it out.

Can you think of some everyday or extraordinary heroism that you’ve seen recently? What does heroism look like to you?