Wednesday, September 14, 2011
In the midst of a recent two day road trip with my dad he asked the question. Most men still on speaking terms with their fathers know what I'm talking about. He did his part to keep it from sounding "disappointed father nagging-ish", which I appreciated. The paraphrase went like this: Don't take this the wrong way, I don't have any problems with the way you live your life, but I'm curious. How do you feel about being your age, unemployed, without money, and having no plan?
My response: That's a fair question.
Five years ago, I'd have been defensive in my response. Now, not so much. It WAS a fair question, and it wasn't meant to be confrontational. Oddly enough, my life is a lot less "together" and I'm more at peace about that then ever before. It isn't that I've given up caring, it's that I've slowly figured out what I care about. Letting go of, as best I can, the other stuff I do care about but have no real control over has helped as well.
In the movie City Slickers, Jack Palance's crusty old character Curly offers some advice to Billy Crystal's character Mitch:
Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?
[holds up one finger]
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit.
Mitch: But, what is the "one thing?"
Curly: [smiles] That's what *you* have to find out.
At 14 I wanted to know what the answer was, what other people said the "one thing" was. At 34 I get what Curly meant, and it's true, you do need to figure out what it is for yourself. As a christian, I believe the true answer is ultimately the same for all of us, but why it's the same is different for each of us. Being told what I should care about more than anything else, while convenient, defeats the purpose of actually caring about it.
In the past, the defensiveness creeping into my response was anchored to split relationships. Worldly expectations and values mix with everything else, Christian and otherwise, to create a picture of a "normal/respectable/successful life" that may or may not have anything to do with who we are. We end up tearing ourselves apart and undermining our happiness and identity by walking down three or four paths at the same time. We embrace insecurity by pretending to be all things to all people, rather than figuring out what the "one thing" is and living as if it were true.
My life might look more a mess than ever before, but the foundation is more secure. I can't help but think this is a good thing, perhaps even a slow creep towards maturity.