Have you ever paused to consider how different life might be if you allowed yourself to view it from a more youth-filled perspective…say from a child’s or beginner’s mind?
According to Suzuki Roshi in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” (and in “The Places that Scare Me” by Pema Chodron)…
“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but for the expert there are few.”
If in your youth, you had the skills and knowledge – from an intellectual, learned perspective – of a more mature you, would your choices – and, therefore, your life – be different now (consider the story of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button…)?
Approaching life in a more open and refreshed way tantalizes and teases the palate and offers a more expanded palette – a landscape that beckons one to taste, envision and paint their own life pictures – drawings much larger and immensely more satisfying than those determined, imposed or defined by the culture or society within which we find ourselves.
In 1928, the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead focused her research on adolescent girls in Samoa. Her intent was to tackle the question of whether “the disturbances which vex our adolescents are due to the nature of adolescence itself or to the civilization.” She was also curious to learn whether “under different conditions does adolescence present a different picture?” She concluded that the passage from childhood to adulthood (adolescence) in Samoa was a smooth transition and not marked by the emotional or psychological distress, anxiety, or confusion seen in the United States. In the forward of her book “Coming of Age in Samoa,” Mead’s advisor, Franz Boas, wrote:
“Courtesy, modesty, good manners, conformity to definite ethical standards are universal, but what constitutes courtesy, modesty, good manners, and definite ethical standards is not universal. It is instructive to know that standards differ in the most unexpected ways.”
Each day – while at the gym, on the bus heading to class or even during daily exchanges while running errands – I overhear numerous conversations between older adults (ages 50 and beyond). Despite their outward appearance – healthy, active and engaging – they boast about embarking on their “retirement planning” – literally putting a stake in the ground for their inevitable demise. They proudly “tout” how they’ve placed themselves on a “waiting list” for space in an “assisted living” facility.
As this chatter travels through my daily auditory space, I’m inclined to wonder…are these folks unhealthy and truly concerned or are they following the mandates of a society or culture which promulgates that at a certain age – regardless of one’s physical, mental or financial state of being – they must surrender or resign themselves to the inevitable process of faltering and thus fading into the sunset?
While I’m a strong advocate of planning…this type of pre-emptive strike seems a bit extreme, abstract – even absurd. Pondering these conversations causes me to drift back to a time several years ago when a friend expressed anxiety surrounding the onset of “menopause.” Believing she was “of that age,” she worried incessantly. She even become somewhat terrified in anticipation of when “it” might strike…when the inevitable monster would invade, encroach and take possession of her body…plaguing her with hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and so much more. When absolutely NOTHING occurred, she became even more troubled. Was she a freak of nature? She then started to share feelings of “being left out” or “not fitting in”…and wondered when the proverbial axe might fall…and ravage her. IT never did! To this day, she’s a vibrant, healthy, active, beautiful woman – both inside and out!!
After reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In,” I paused to wonder what, as she states, might be the reason “women were hesitant – even reluctant – to grab the essence of who they are and reveal what they want…and where they want to make their mark” – either within their work world or their personal lives. Could this fear be self-inflicted – self-induced – or might it again stem from the some type of standard being set by the culture/society within which they/we live and work? As a seasoned, professional business person – in corporate, non-profit, and entrepreneurial settings – many more issues capture my attention and concern (i.e. generating revenue, supporting staff, etc.) than a few socially crafted words that might be tossed my way (i.e. “bossy”). If the job or task is not completed on schedule and within cost…no one gets what they need – pay or product – whether bossy or modest! As I read, I wondered who actually owns the space for crafting these words that define, influence or invade each of us?
As I absorb and process all of these ideas and details, I wonder…can one still learn and reinvent themselves in ways that are more fulfilling? Or, is it too late to reinvent one’s life and work toward creating a life that truly reflects one’s ideals and values? Then the phrase by Eleanor Roosevelt comes to mind…
“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”
In the end, it appears to be all about one’s perspective – and revolves around individual priorities and values worthy of focus and attention on one’s own personal journey.
Crafted, researched and written by: |LIZ CARLOCK
The Write Resources, LLC™
© 2014 EM Carlock