Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Next Thing

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

"I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die."

Lately my life seems to be an ongoing marathon of practicing an immense amount of patience. My distant past life is, well, quite distant from me in time and space now. What my future will be is not yet at all clear. I feel myself to be in this state of limbo where there is nothing more I can really do but wait. I have to wait for my current efforts to come to fruition. I must find a way to accept the reality that some amount of time must pass before what the next phase of my life will be becomes clear.

I am reminded of this one movie called Cast Away. The movie featured Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt. Hanks played a FedEx engineer, Chuck Noland, whose life is irrevocably changed when he boarded a plane to attend to a work matter and then found himself instead crashing into the South Pacific and somehow miraculously surviving the plane crash. He washes ashore on an uninhabited island. No search and rescue operations ultimately find him. So he is assumed to have died. His circumstances are so disempowering that he doesn't even have the "proper" means to end his own life as he feels compelled to do at one point. And so he...exists. He lives completely cut off from human civilization for over four years. He prevents himself from going insane due to his isolation by talking to a volleyball named Wilson.

The movie flashes forward over that four year time span to show Hanks' character continuing to live an existence rather than a life. The look of resignation on his face in one particular scene conveys all the viewer needs to know about his state of mind. He could not kill himself but he cannot live the life he was intent on living either. He exists in a state of limbo foisted upon him by circumstances so much larger than himself.

One day something extraordinary happens. And yet interestingly enough it appears to be very mundane. A piece of trash washes ashore. The trash happens to be a piece of a port-a-potty. It seems fairly clear at that point in the movie that Chuck was a fairly intelligent engineer. So Chuck creates a sail out of this piece of garbage. He fashions a "boat" of his own and is finally able to escape...into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean. He is finally able to escape the island that has been both his home and prison for over four years. But his escape is into something that makes no promise of rewarding him with being ultimately found.

For a time the viewer is left wondering what will become of him. His "boat" is badly damaged by storms he encounters out on the ocean. He loses his friend Wilson at another point. In a still later scene Noland is portrayed as giving up; he resigns himself to never being found. He expects to die at sea. And then he is found. Life grabs him out of his unintended exile and he is rescued.

But the life he finds when he returns home to Memphis is gone. His life could never be the same again because time did not wait for him. His girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) moved on with her life and is now married and has a child. They are unable to reunite because a chasm of time inserted itself between them and cast them in separate directions. I found it so painful to watch their reunion as they both struggled to reconcile themselves to the reality that what once was between them could never be again. Time had moved them both onwards...separately.

There are so many scenes in this movie that strike a deep chord in my heart. But one in particular rises above the rest. After his return to Memphis Noland is shown on the floor of his hotel room illuminating a watch that Kelly gave him before his fateful plane crash. He clung to his memory of Kelly as a way to inspire him to survive in complete isolation. But that picture of her was a snapshot in time. Time didn't wait for either of them. The memory he had of her helped him survive. But the beauty and nourishment he found in that relationship as symbolized in the photo ultimately perished. Their memories of each other were not enough to bridge the gap that time had placed between them.

I did a ritual this last weekend to honor the fact that my own life is at a crossroads. Like Noland at the very end of Cast Away I find myself not yet knowing where I am going next. I have been applying to a number of opportunities in very different places. I want to set roots down in a good place. I likely will not know where I will go next until approximately August 1st. What I do know now is that I have a bone deep feeling that I do not belong in Minnesota any more. This phase of my life has served its purpose. I have done what I was meant to do here. I feel I simply must move on - I just don't yet know where to.

I so identify with that portion of the movie between when Noland discovers what would be his sail washing ashore and when he is ultimately found drifting in the Pacific Ocean. He did everything he could to escape. Something outside of himself had to reach towards him and meet him. He was compelled to wait for something. Was it grace? Was it God? Was it luck? Whatever you call what ultimately happened the bottom line is he was compelled to wait and allow himself to be found and brought back into the fold of humanity.


I have some advantages over the character of Chuck Noland. I am not trapped on a deserted island. I have friends who love me and can help me with my transition. I can choose to leave Minnesota in search of what is next even if everything I am applying to produces no results to get me to move on. I have that relative freedom. But I will not stay here to witness another winter come to grip the state of Minnesota. My own growth necessitates I move on.

What I appreciate now is the limits of my own power. I can do everything in my power to produce a certain result and I still might not get what I want. This is the reality of life. I believe part of the process of developing what my therapist has called a "mature adult self" is learning to appreciate the truth that we have power and yet we have limits. We sometimes must wait for the next step of our lives to clearly unfold. And sometimes that waiting period can feel excruciating.

I pray for patience and good things to come to me. I pray that my efforts to create a new life be rewarded. I pray that I be led to live the life that will be my best possible life.

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