Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Zen Toon: Our True Selves
Today's Zen Toon addresses something I've been struggling to come to terms with at the newly minted age of 45. I could let it slide up until I hit this number, but there's something about inescapably being in the midrange of your forties that forces you to look at some things:
*I'm closer to official retirement age than I am out-of-college age.
*That bald spot is getting bigger, and Rogaine is my unapologetic friend.
*Running a half-marathon five years ago was perhaps the mountaintop in my rear view mirror in terms of my running game.
*I get to work twice as hard to stay half as fit.
*Things hurt for no better reason than "I slept wrong".
*My parents are turning 88 and 87 this year, and the prospect of that scares me.
*Small fits of insomnia are creeping in for the first time.
*I've been at the same job for 20+ years now. Am I staying put? Is there even an option?
*I've pretty much become the person I'm going to be. Or at least I think so.
Yet, it's climbing the daily mountain to face these things - the realities, the disappointments, the fears, and yes, the subtle joys and surprising subplots - that make it all ok.
The guy in the yin-yang shirt probably hoped to find someone else when he got to that high spot in the Tibetan mountains: someone more carefree, someone less buttoned down, someone who wasn't shrouded in the chains of conformity, yet, there he is. Briefcase, tie, coffee. Check, check, check.
I was on an acting gig in Chicago a couple of years ago and - for the first time, really - asked myself 'what if?' What if I had followed that urge in my mid-twenties to find an apartment there, knock on the door of Second City until they let me in, and devoted myself to being a single, carefree actor in pursuit of a high profile career? Well, my first mistake was thinking 'carefree'. I don't know any carefree actors. Hell, they're all in therapy and debt. They're happy, good people, but that tightrope walk wasn't for me. I lacked the moxie at 24 years old. I lacked the verve and the chops. It would have ended like an improvised version of "Midnight Cowboy", I'm afraid. And, sadly, that's how Second City alumni Tina Fey missed out on the chance to become Mrs. Tommy Housworth.
Then, as I walked down the endless Chicago avenues, I realized what that guy at the top of the Tibetan mountains really looked like: a dad, a husband, a writer, a little league coach, a sort-of runner, a son finally figuring out how to relate to his parents, a slightly balding dopey looking dude who was completely and utterly content with what he'd found on his search, foibles and all.
The climb up the mountain is an important one and one we all must take. But when we get there and take a close look, it's our job to be very accepting of who we find. There may be things we want to change or enhance, but the fact is, the climber and the 'true self' are the same person. That wanderer in the yin-yang shirt and the five o'clock shadow reads Kerouac, goes on a daily spiritual quest, has youthful ideals and dreams he's determined to finish before dawn, and still rages against the machine in his own respectful manner. And you know what? So does the dude in the suit.
We are both, the seeker and the sought.
Put 'em together and you've got True Self.
Put 'em together and you've got you.