Thursday, March 6, 2014

What About "Now?"

Seems I am always waiting. Waiting for summer. Waiting to finish this darned degree. Waiting until the kids are out of the house. Waiting until I find an agent. Waiting for the stars to align and the Universe to decide it is ready for me to do what I came here to do. Waiting for other things I cannot share. With so much time spent waiting, I wonder, what about now?

What am I doing with my “Now?”

I told a friend once that I wanted to do great things on a massive scale. This was the picture I had for my life. She asked how it feels when I make a difference in just ONE life, when I know that I have helped a person with a pressing need. I replied that it feels good, but that I cannot WAIT to be able to do that sort of giving on a grand scale, cannot WAIT to throw my compassion and kindness out to the world in mass quantity. “Isn’t that a bit arrogant?” she asked. “You are discounting that one life. You are suggesting that for that ONE individual the kindness you showed does not matter.” She had a point.

If I go out into the world and impact three lives, the world has changed in a positive way for those three individuals. That is NOT insignificant. Still, I want to move the masses dammit. I want to positively impact so many lives I have completely lost count. I want to make a difference.

So here I sit. Waiting. Waiting for the opportunity to do just that.

But what about “Now?” What could I do with my “Now?”

I have tried various tactics during my years on this earth to make things happen. I have tried pushing forward, plowing through obstacles. I have tried strategizing, plotting, navigating. I have tried sitting back and allowing, letting the Universe work through me as it will. And still, I have not changed the world. If I have in my head that this is why I am here, to positively impact huge numbers of people, then when is this magic supposed to happen? Am I to be content, I wonder, with the accomplishments I HAVE achieved, with the positive impact I HAVE made, the change that I HAVE effected? Am I to continue to WAIT for all aspects of my life to be perfectly in order, for the Universe to offer me a sign, an opportunity, a synchronistic meeting of events that align just perfectly that I might get on with my life mission, a big fat flashing pointing neon sign that reads, “This is it, sweetheart. Get your big girl panties on, and get ready. It’s gonna be a heck of a ride.”? Or, do I hop up off my fantabulous fanny and do, to paraphrase the great Teddy Roosevelt, what I can with what I have from this spot right here?

I think I will choose the latter.

My friend was right. If I can positively change the world for just one individual, I have done a good thing. Still, I cannot help but to think what would happen if I were to encourage others to positively change the world for just one individual? What if I could move others to go out into THEIR worlds and lift a neighbor or friend or stranger? Have I not, then, changed the world for the better for each individual who receives help? Have I not, also, taught others the joy in giving, the happiness that comes from helping a fellow human being? Have I not, in process of reaching out on a bigger scale, helped those who are doing the helping? I think I like the sound of this. Maybe, I CAN positively impact the masses. Maybe I can do big things, beginning "Now," right from this window seat in my corner cafe.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Serendipitous Conundrum

I was twenty-two and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had graduated months earlier with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology. The initial plan was to continue with grad school, but my husband had been offered a position with a big name engineering firm in New Jersey. This would take us far from our beloved Midwestern roots and from the Illinois college town we had come to call home. On moving, I had initially gone into retail management thinking it an easy job with possible potential. After all, I had paid many college bills with earnings from hours spent pushing Jockey briefs and Gold Toe Fluffies. How could merchandising teddies, bikinis, and push-up bras be much different? After mere months of this, however, I knew the retail life was not for me.

But what was?

I briefly considered returning to school. I never had a doubt that I would, at some point, continue my studies. My desire to earn my doctorate in psychology was strong. However, from our new home, my major college options were Princeton or Rutgers. Both were a bit out of budget. Besides, I wasn’t sure I was ready to make that kind of educational commitment even though I was certain it was what I wanted to do.

What then?

I decided to put my name on the list for substitutes at two of the local school systems. I had done this during college with a good degree of success. I believed substituting would give me some extra cash while affording me the breathing space to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that it would not be an everyday thing, but was okay with that as I desperately felt the desire to get a professional plan together. If Princeton was to be our new home, I knew I would not be returning to grad school in the near future. I also knew that I needed a career and not just a job. With just a Bachelor’s in psychology, however, my options were limited.

“Hey, Tam. It’s Bun.” It is six o’clock in the morning. The kindly older woman on the other end of the phone is the person in charge of calling substitutes for the school system that will turn out to be my favorite. She wants to know if I can come in to take over for a seventh grade geography teacher. I say sure. Bunny will become a familiar voice. The need for subs in this area is strong. I am called every day. I am scheduled sometimes for extended assignments, weeks out ahead. What I felt would be a once in awhile position has become a full-time job. The money is good. The work is great. But I have no time to think about my life. I have no time to plan or strategize. I am so busy teaching that I have no time to think.

Sometimes, in fact, I tell Bun that I have plans and that I will not be able to cover. These are the days I play hooky. I spend them curled up in my large bay window penning words and soaking in the sunshine. I write books that will never be published and which, after just a couple of rejections, I will toss in the trash.

Teaching and writing. I enjoy every minute. The kids love me. The teachers request me. I end the days with a smile. On the days I skip school, I tell myself that I am taking time to tend to my soul, taking time to create and relax and breathe. I tell myself that writing is something I NEED to do, something I HAVE to do. As with teaching, however, I see it as a frivolous distraction from my real mission.

What, for the love of GOD, am I to do with my life?

I see now, some thirty years later, that what I thought of as distraction was a simple case of serendipity. The solution to my problem, without great amount of effort on my part, was set before me. Sometimes the answer is not to strategize or to plan. Sometimes, the answer is to surrender.