I was thinking this morning about a conversation I had with a friend last night about personal responsibility for the choices you make, how they affect your destiny and how your ability to use perspective to…well…to put things into a perspective that can get you a view to help you make sense out of the pitfalls, the missteps and that feeling that someone or something has done you an injustice along the way. Of course, sometimes injustices happen, but it’s how you deal with them that makes the difference in all aspects of a person’s life.
The last couple of books I read were “Pale Fire” by Vladimir Nabokov and then “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun. Both had themes of paranoia, the wanting so badly of something the characters couldn’t define and of self-sabotage. When added together with the conversation of last night, it became apparent that I needed to pay attention, to at least reflect on the why of it all. So that’s what I’ve been doing this morning.
We are all products of our youth, of our journey. That being said, at some point the wheels of life need to move along, unchained, and it’s up to each and every one of us to recognize our inner chains and work to cast them off. In the end I think the casting off of chains is quite easy…it’s all the fumbling with knots and locks or sometimes the invisibility of the chains that becomes cumbersome. Just like old Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol”, we craft a chain of choices and actions and the weight of those links can build our inner strength or destroy us.
The other day I was in a grocery store lineup and had just started to unload my large cart of supplies onto the conveyor belt when this woman came up behind me, with a few items in a basket. There were several “Express” lanes open, so why she decided to stand behind my big load of groceries was perplexing, until she started talking to me. I think she was lonely, clad in a sorry old coat, a hopeful but unsure smile on her wrinkled face as she said to me, “Well you must have a very nice kitchen!” I looked at her and smiled, not quite knowing what to say. “Yes…yes it is! Thank you…” Looking me up and down, appraising, “And you’re so strong! It must be wonderful to be so strong…” Nodding at my cart, “You have a lot of groceries…I don’t buy many groceries any more, at my age…” I smiled again, feeling a little guilty, “Well, I still have a family to feed…I guess it’s about the stages in a person’s life…” At this point I had her pegged to be about 85 years old. “Well,” she said morosely, “at my age I don’t eat that much…now that I’m 63, my appetite isn’t much…” 63!!! Sixty-freaking-three?!!! She was 10 years older than me!! The same age as a few of my friends who certainly don’t carry their age the way she was. And the sadness!! As I paid for my groceries I said “goodbye, have a great day”to her (and the clerk), she looked at me like I was on acid, as if such a thing as a good day could ever be possible!
Now I know there are many people who suffer from depression, who just can’t get it together, because of a chemical imbalance, although many of them, if you go back through their lives, have been hurt or neglected or abused in some way, which I think maybe leads the body to defend itself by putting up a shell, literal or figurative, to keep it from happening again. But I can’t help but wonder about the difference between someone like the woman in the store, and someone who might have gone through very similar experiences in their life time, but because of attitude, of the ability to put it into a perspective that they can find harmony with, to “always look on the bright side of life” in the wise words on Monty Python, they take strength from their chains instead of letting the chains drag them down.
I haven’t always been able to look at these things in a positive way, and I’m still working at batting 100. There have been many times when I have blamed just about everything but myself for the situations I got myself into, for lost opportunities, the times when I got so close to my “dreams” I could taste them, and then something always happened to put a speed bump or a “do not enter” sign on my path. But one of the consolations of getting older is, hopefully, figuring this stuff out.
The opportunity “buses” have routes that keep going around and around, in eternal loops, and we are all in control of whether we get on or off. Sometimes we’re looking at our cell phones and a bus passes us by, sometimes we’re at the wrong bus stop…and there’s times we party too hard and get there too late and miss the darn thing! But they keep going around. There are love buses, career buses, friendship and dream buses, all kinds of buses out there. What that ride can do for you is directly linked to how prepared you are to climb those stairs, pay your fee and get on with the journey.
The way I look at it, my perspective, is that, for instance, if you have a crush on someone, you really have to look at yourself honestly and say, would that person look at me and feel the same way? And if you can’t get the answer you want, you have to ask yourself why. Then you have at least two choices: get on the bus where the other passengers like you just as you are, even if they aren’t your ideal choices, or look at the person you have a crush on as an opportunity to embrace change and take that route. Same thing with career opportunities. I recently gained perspective on my own talents and abilities this way: If someone called me later today and said, “Kirsten! You’re never going to believe it! “So and so big star” was booked to play tomorrow at Carnegie Hall, and they have to cancel!(I know this is a crazy storyline but just play along:)) We would like you to take their place…the hall is sold out, and the audience has all of your dream musicians and industry types…the band is a magic band, and they already know your music…so! Can you do it?“
Well, when I asked myself that a few years, even months ago, I was a little sad, because I knew the answer wasn’t what I’d hoped it could be. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t ready like when Spencer Davis asked me to sit in on his set 25 years ago. I wasn’t ready like when I was asked at the last minute to sing the American and Canadian anthems at the Grizzlies/ Chicago Bulls game. I wasn’t ready, and if I wasn’t ready, there would be no bus ride for me, that much I knew. But with accepting that law of individual responsibility and seeing it with a perspective that let me practise my butt off and not look at missteps as failures; with my eyes and ears on the art and not the outcome, I can safely say that I’m still not quite ready…but almost. I am almost there. Although, just like mountain climbing, the closer you get to your destination, the farther away it starts to look…seems I will never get there, because every time I get close, someone moves the goal posts:))
There’s a kind of freedom that comes with a healthy perspective. When you stop looking at others or circumstances as chains that hold you back, things get light pretty quickly. When it’s all about you, your choices, the negatives start to melt away, the excuses become dead weight, easier cast off than carried. If I’m not ready for the bus when it comes, there’s only my own reflection I should be looking at…maybe it was the wrong bus, maybe I mistimed things; the bus was full, moving fast and maybe I didn’t have the courage and strength to jam myself in with the other passengers, to make my right to access undeniable, not to anyone else, but to myself.
The good thing is that I have control over that. Yup. It’s all about perspective:)