Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In search of the Binary Sunset

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
Norman Cousins

“A path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you . . . Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself alone, one question . . . Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't it is of no use.”
Carlos Castaneda

Growing up with the original Star Wars franchise, I remember being completely enthralled with the worlds that were created for me to watch up on the screen. At one point I made a homemade light saber. My brother had the coveted model Millennium Falcon. Star Wars was a big deal in our house.

One scene I remember in particular was where Luke, anxious for more adventure in his life, steps out at dusk and sees a binary sunset. The scene conveys a sense of longing for something more that was one of the most powerful in movie history.

And watching the scene, I always wondered if I would ever have an adventure, or if I was doomed to spend my life longing for a life different than the one I seemed stuck in at the time. I wanted to grow up, to move away, to be older and take trips and get out of my little town and my little life. Sometimes I would even look up at the sky in search of the binary sunset.

I never did find my sunset, but I did manage to see the world. I realized a lot of my dreams while some others never quite materialized. And now I find myself working as a Psychologist in the city of Chicago, a place I always wanted to go to growing up watching the Cubs play on WGN. It was one of the places I always wondered about on those evenings such a long time ago, and now I’m here. The dream materialized, but I still kind of feel the same. When is SOMETHING going to happen?

What I have come to realize is that nothing ever happens when we don’t take the initiative to make it so. Watch any movie and you are reminded of this. The hero doesn’t get the pot of gold without failing, probably getting his ass kicked a few times, and falling down, and the pretty girl doesn’t just fall into your lap. You have to go get these things.

What separates those who do get these things is that these people demonstrate an unusual ability to persevere, despite the setbacks. These are the Michael Jordans, cut from their High School basketball teams, who go on to become the greatest ever in their sport. The Ray Krocs, who failed over and over again, who ultimately created the most successful restaurant of all time. Ultimately this is the quality that seems to predict much of success. The ability to endure. Too many of us, including myself, have a tendency to give up when things get hard, and our gratification is less than immediate.

But this life is fraught with peril. We focus on what’s wrong with our lives, our families, the world around us, and our lives become one constant complaint about the things that we don’t have. Perhaps George Bernard Shaw said it best, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

I sometimes catch myself being one of these “feverish selfish little clods of ailments and grievances” and when I do, I usually laugh at my arrogance and try and make an attitude adjustment. I ask myself, what are YOU going to do to change the circumstances in your life? No one else cares that much.

So ultimately, I think I have come to find my own adventure in helping other people try and find their own. Of course I understand that people truly suffer from depression and anxiety and any number of other conditions, and I will continue to treat these things with the seriousness that they deserve. In the end though, I hope we can all come to better catch ourselves in the moments when we are pouting and whining about how the world won’t change itself to make us happy.

It’s just not how it works.

My hope is that at least one person who reads this will contemplate how their own personal adventure may have gotten derailed, and the personal choices they can take responsibility for to begin fixing these detours. It’s not too late. It’s never too late. So if you’re hesitating, enroll in that class you’ve been thinking about, volunteer somewhere, get to the gym, extend a kindness to someone, pick up the phone,  get out those old paintbrushes and find a canvas.

It’s your choice..

And may the force be with you..