Life as a Labyrinth

It is official.  I step across my line in the sand on August 17, 2017.  It has been a 44 year journey to this last step.  To tell you I am taking that step without fear would be a gross distortion of the truth.  Of course there is fear.  Ironically, I have held myself out as one who knows how to deal with fear and have prided myself in taking fear out of the equation for many people over the span of my career.  I even intend to write a series of blogs about it so stay tuned if you are one of my followers.  But here I am, ready to take the step, even committed to taking the step but fear still haunts my thoughts and dreams.

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The fear I face is simple.  Will I find the peace I have spent a lifetime looking for and in that peace will I still find fulfillment?  I know that the fulfillment I seek will only come if I feel I still have purpose.  I do not fear wasting away in the La-Z-boy watching hours of TV.  I know I have too much restlessness for that to happen.  But will I still feel that sense of purpose I have thirsted for all my life?  Where will I replace what I do now, with what I continue to need going forward?

So why the title of this blog?  I just returned from church where we rededicated our labyrinth.  Before I go too far down this road, for those of you who don’t know what a labyrinth is or maybe think of it as a maze, it is not a maze at all and certainly not a corn maze.  For a deeper understanding here is a link to a history of labyrinths and also a site to find labyrinths if you become so inclined to walk them.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labyrinth

https://labyrinthlocator.com/

Ours comes up at the second site if you list Madison, Wisconsin as your search criteria and then scroll down to “New Life” church.

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The effect of any good labyrinth is that you are walking a path that at times brings you oh so close to the center , while at other times, the path actually moves you further away.  From the standpoint of Christianity, the center represents your relationship with God and the walking sometimes brings a sense of peace, while at other times at least a sense of re-centering.  I prescribe to both the church aspect as well as the metaphysical aspect of the labyrinth.   I will not preach here but rather just try to make my analogy work.

When I think of the labyrinth as a representation of life, I view the circular pathway as our journey through it.  We are all looking for something.  Monty Python said it most humorously in their film “The Meaning of Life”.

(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python%27s_The_Meaning_of_Life)

For most of us it is our “purpose”.  At times, on our journey, we feel we are close to finding it, or maybe better stated, as perfecting it only to find ourselves moving further away and wondering if we were destined to do something else.  In my life, I changed careers in part because I questioned my purpose during one of those periods when I felt I was just  moving away.  The amazing truth is that I changed to a different career and yet my purpose remained the same.  I was just moving back toward the center again.  I found out that financial planning was a career just as teaching had been.  Only the audience had changed.  The purpose, it turns out, was solving problems for anyone that would seek my advice and becoming a mentor to anyone who would take the time to listen.  It was peace that continued and still continues to elude me.  Solving problems requires a great deal of personal involvement in not only the process but the outcome as well.  It can leave you in a constant state of anxiety.

So back to the labyrinth.  If the path is the purpose, then the center is the realization that you have discovered your purpose and there in lies the peace that comes with the knowing.  For the restless spirit, reaching that center may likely not happen until you finally take that last step of the journey, retirement.  And so I prayed today as I walked our labyrinth, that I would find not only that peace in understanding my purpose but that there would be a way in retirement to be affirmed for what I had accomplished and the opportunity to still fulfill my purpose.

Do I fear it?  Of course I do or I would not be who I am.  Walking the labyrinth and seeing it as my journey through life has helped.  I recommitted myself to never stop looking for opportunities to fulfill my purpose in any form or way that presents itself and I think I took one more step toward the peace I am looking for.

I am retiring, but I am not “gone”.

PS:  Get out of your La-Z-boy and go walk a labyrinth.  Even if nothing comes from it, you will at least have gotten some good exercise.

I Was Childed

I am flattered when the cashier of a grocery store asks to see my ID for the “adult refreshments” I am buying.  Given my age and even my appearance, I really don’t look that young, they are either strictly following the rules or playing on my ego.  One way I accept willingly, the other I suck up just as it was intended.

This weekend I will be inviting my 3 year old grandson, Jackson, to go on an outing with me to the movies.  I am hoping “Cars 3” just came out or is at least still playing as I intend to end my dry streak of missing out on Disney and Pixar films.  I have decided it is time to return to my inner child.

But I have this question.  If they card you to be sure you are old enough to buy the adult beverages, do they have some sort of screening for going to a Disney flick?  Now I am not talking about Jackson, I am referencing me.  I am imagining this scenario.  I go to a Disney film alone and when attempting to purchase my ticket, the usher states “Sir, I will need to see your child.”  I will then reply that I don’t have a child and that I was just wanting to take in the show.  Things will escalate to the manager who will explain that these movies are for children and that without the proper child escort, I am going to need to leave the establishment.  And there it is, I have been successfully childed.

Hopefully you have humored me to this point and are not ready to question my sanity.  I just find it an interesting premise on the other end of the scale.  I am looking forward to taking Jackson to the movies with me but I know that I could attend alone.  I would stand out and I am sure there would be questioning stares, but I would deal with it for the shear pleasure of enjoying the wonderful world of cartoons and especially the peppered seasoning of innuendos.  But why go alone when I can take a child.  Especially my grandson.

And so I will ask Jackson to come with me and when they child me, I will proudly point to Jackson and say “I think this one should do nicely.”  And then Jackson and I will settle into our seats with a big tub of popcorn and enjoy the wonders that Disney will lay out.  He will laugh appropriately while I will snicker at the innuendos and hope I will not be asked to explain.  And for an hour or so I will be back in time, sitting with my two daughters at my side savoring the memories and drinking in the emotions they evoke.

So go ahead AMC, child me.  Jackson I are ready and excited to entertain our inner child…and maybe some popcorn.

Looking Great at 241

Happy birthday USA.  You are 241 years old today and you don’t look a day over 200.  A little gray around the edges but that’s just because we haven’t been doing our best lately to keep you beautiful.  Some would say we need to make you great again but I for one don’t think you ever weren’t great.  You are the most recognized country in the world and a leader in every aspect.  You are a trend setter when it comes to the definition of Democracy and an example for any emerging country that would care enough about it’s populace to protect their freedoms.

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None of this came without a cost.  You have had your share of conflicts to resolve and growing pains when you learned to stretch the definitions of personal freedom.  Through it all, you have kept your poise.  Your fifty children have followed your example and each in it’s own way adds to the beauty of your legacy.  Freedom and diversity are the cornerstone of that legacy.

So what’s all this about making you great again.  Don’t take it personally when someone would imply that you had lost a step.  You still are and always will be the land of freedom and opportunity.  As such, you have always striven to offer those opportunities to all who would rise to the challenge.  And rising to the challenge has been exactly what you have done.

As your song states, from sea to shining sea you are a land of majesty and beauty.  From the mountains on your east to the peaks on your west coast, you rise majestically and scenically to the skies above.  Your plains roll rhythmically across your midsection seaming the country together with their softly flowing rivers.  You offer a vista of awe and wonder at every corner.  Your interstates keep us connected and your back roads rise up to meet us when we leave the beaten path.  Your cities afford us culture and style, while your towns and villages offer us history and Americana.

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Happy 241st birthday, and with calm and sane reasoning, many many more.  You are great and no amount of rhetoric can hide that obvious truth.  Life is good and you continue to afford us the opportunity to live, love and grow, in and because of that goodness.

Let’s think about this the next time we Pledge Allegiance or sing the National Anthem.  Let’s pledge ourselves not to making you great again, but keeping you as great as you already are.  Let’s celebrate your birthday with fireworks and envision them as the birthday candles lit for you today all across your night sky.

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Happy 4th of July, 2017.