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The relativity and meaning of our lives

     Seems like yesterday my mother was desperately trying to teach me to tie my shoelace into a bow. Last week I tried to do the same with my four-year-old granddaughter. I mention this because it has to do with relativity, not Einstein’s relativity, but with the relativity and meaning of our lives. But first, before discussing this rather illusive concept, let me direct your attention to the image above. This is M101, the Pinwheel Galaxy. On May 19th something unexpected appeared within a dark patch of the galaxy. The photons of a catastrophic explosion of a dying star occurring 21 million years finally reached my telescope. It’s what we call a supernova (see arrow above). And what does this event have to do with Self-Coaching? Well, let me explain.

    Our lives flow from childhood through adolescence to the middle years (I’ll get to the post-middle years in a moment). It’s the middle years (let’s say from our 30s to our 50s), which are typically spent in what we might call the acquisition phase of life. That’s where we typically go through an external whirlwind of doing, buying, competing, becoming, evolving, and so on (phew!). These are years of seismic growth as we form relationships, establish roots, careers, all the while enjoying an exuberance mostly for life’s external things–the seemingly essential things. How you look, how you dress, where you live, what you drive, who you can impress, how much money you make, and so on (again, phew!). Then at some point as middle age begins to—ever so gradually–yield to, let’s call it our post-middle-age (not to spook anyone). Now, if you’re not neurotically clinging to your lost youth, then you’ll be in a position where your previous restlessness to acquire more and more “things” begins to become less…well, at least less compulsive, less essential. The train, as they say, is pulling into the station. 

     Of course, for some the concept of growing older can evoke a deep rumbling of anxiety…insecurity informing us that we can’t control the inevitable progression into our post-middle-age years. Unfortunately, many feel disoriented if not depressed. But, as much as there’s a tendency to cling to what was, some do manage to transition effortlessly. What’s their secret? Well, it’s rather simple: they yield to life’s inevitable progression rather than resisting it. For those who resist, unfortunately, they’re in for a sad and challenging awakening—our lives cannot be reversed (a.k.a., controlled). Manipulated yes to some degree, but ultimately not controlled. 

     The fortunate post-middle-year individuals who yield to life’s inevitable flow recognize there’s more to life then chasing the shiny objects of youth (sorry Porsche 911 owners). Things that once seemed crucial to our happiness are now delegated to a junk heap of discarded–often misguided—pursuits and illusions. Don’t get me wrong, during the mid-years of our lives, we can’t expect to have the perspective, relativity, or wisdom that’s offered in the next phase of life. And yet, how sad to see someone, Sisyphus-like, desperately continuing to try to reverse the inevitable hands of time. And don’t think for one minute that they’re in the minority. The anti-ageing market in the U.S. is a 60+ billion-dollar industry! 

     Alas, my mother-in-law, who, in her 90s, had the right “yielding” attitude, “ya get old, ya get ugly.” (Did you just gasp?)

    By yielding we have the opportunity for true psychological maturity. That’s the ability to handle life head on, as it is, no deflections, no denial. It’s learning to live courageously by accepting what is, rather that what was. Living courageously is an important Self-Coaching concept. Very important.

     So, if you want meaning in your life, no matter what phase you’re in, recognize that trying to control life’s inevitable flow is a fool’s errand, eventually you must capitulate. So why not enjoy the ride by becoming more present? Tomorrow will take care of itself. What are you doing right now to live more correctly, courageously, and maturely? There’s no question that if you become responsive to life, opening yourself to the flow, each decade will shed more and more light on the meaning of your life. But please, don’t tax your brain trying to figure out that meaning, you won’t find it intellectually. It has to find you. I’ll give you a hint, when it’s time, like the supernova in M101, what was once invisible can suddenly appear. As the Zen adage goes, ‘when the pupil is ready, the teacher appears.’ Let life be your teacher.

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