“Finally I see…life has been patiently waiting for me”
From the song “I’m Movin’ On” by Rascal Flatts.
The song I’m Movin’ On and I had simultaneously visited the same space many times, but being in the same place with an idea, or a person, does not mean you are friends…or even acknowledge one another’s presence. It certainly does not mean you are in love. But one morning I began a love affair with the words “life has been patiently waiting for me.” I have learned to listen carefully when words touch my heart, and these—in that moment—surely did.
The more I reflect on them, the more hopeful, valued and beautifully incomplete I felt. The hope comes from the sense that, even as I bid adieu to middle-age and approach elderhood, life was still willing to wait for me. I am not too late. I feel valued because I am important enough to be waited for, and I am not being waited for by something insignificant—life itself is waiting! Finally, I feel beautifully incomplete! Yes, beautifully incomplete. To be complete would imply there was nothing left to my life. Nothing left to learn. No one left for me to touch, or to be touch by. Incomplete never felt so wonderful.
Or so confusing and frightening.
Questions emerge. Who is the “me” life is waiting patiently for? If I am incomplete, are there parts nearing completion? Are there parts I have yet to even begin to know? If I “know” many things about who I am, can I be certain which are real and which are impostors? How, over the course of my lifetime have I learned to tell the real from the false…the identities that are me, versus those my ego inappropriately apprehended many years ago and is unwilling to release?
There seem endless questions, but one in particular captures me. The “me” life is waiting for…is it someone I have within my power to create, as a sculptor fashioning form out of amorphous clay or stone. Or is life waiting for me to reveal and live into the person I was always meant to be, as a landscape is revealed when curtains are gently parted? These suddenly seemed two very different views of what it means to grow as a human: to sculpt a person I envision, or to gently reveal the person envisioned from beyond.
I wonder whether a very common vision of human life—perhaps the pervasive Western view—is wrong, or at least horribly incomplete. I was raised to believe that humans are born tabula rasa—we arrive as a clean slate on which our story is written and we are the primary authors. Born as nothing more than potential, we are presented with an untold number of years on this Earth during which to create ourselves. “You can be whatever you want to be,” I was told in so many ways…and by so many people. The evidence they use to prove that life works this way can be compelling. Look at the legions of role models whose lives seem to verify that worldview—politicians, entrepreneurs, religious leaders and community organizers who made something of themselves. The story line is that through their effort they made themselves into something they would not have been if they had not carefully sculpted it from an amorphous presence.
I am no longer certain that is life’s most compelling story.
And what be might a different story of life? A story of emergence more than one of creation. I wonder if life is about growing into who we are meant to be rather than creating who we wish to become. I wonder if life is about allowing the core of who we are to emerge. Taking a metaphor from nature, an oak tree emerges—it does not create itself. A rose blossoms, it doesn’t endeavor to be something other than what it is destined to become.
The image I have in mind is that Roger Breisch has, and has had since conception—or earlier—unique, strengths…characteristics…personality traits…gifts, as well as deficits and weaknesses. The perfect descriptors escape me. Regardless, what’s important is that the quality of my impact on the world is in direct relation to the extent to which I show up through those gifts and weaknesses—naked and absolutely authentic. To the extent I insist on showing up without them, to the extend that I try to co-create the world with those around me as someone I truly am not, I am lost, ineffective and superficial.
There is perhaps a different way of envisioning the metaphor of the sculptor…different from one who creates. I have heard it said that Michelangelo was asked how he could find the magnificent image David within an amorphous block of stone. As I recall the story, he said the task was easy…he simply chipped away the parts that did not look like David. That is an image of discovery, not one of creation. Perhaps that is a more powerful way of envisioning our lives…as a process of chipping away the parts of the stone that no longer look, or feel, like us.
That is a life-long, difficult task. I trust that life has enough patience.