In my last couple of posts (Feeling lost about feeling lost and Can you do a psych profile of yourself?), I’ve been talking about how I’m doing these days as I’ve hit a COVID isolation wall. Mental health, resiliency, a bit of mid-life crisis maybe, general squirrel-dom, it’s hard to define, but my brain is wrestling with some issues.
I’m reading the Robert B. Parker Spenser series and it has that Western / gunfighter feel to it at times. Manly but sensitive men doing manly things, relying on themselves and others, living by a code. Some of it is macho BS, some of it resonates.
One of the key elements in some of the early books is about how Spenser is generally “self-reliant” as well as “self-contained”. That resonated with me given my own back history of my five-years of “tadpole status” where I ripped apart my psyche from age 28-33 or so and rebuilt it in a different way, figuring out who I was and who I wanted to be. Like Spenser, I was self-reliant, but I knew that I wanted to eventually get married, have kids, etc., and to do both of those things, you have to let people in. Which I did. But in doing so, you trade off some autonomy. Not in a bad way, or unwelcome way, but a part of your soul goes with it, at least it does if you do it right.
But I feel like I’ve dropped too many balls in the last couple of years. Some of it started with my change in job at one point, something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but would be a change I might make differently now, if offered today. Not a regret so much as more info than I had, and no guarantees that the other choices would work out better or worse. I like to tell myself that I’m going to retire in about 4+ years, but I haven’t worked all those details out yet. It might be another 5 or 6, could be 9 or 10 I suppose. I feel like I don’t have a plan at the moment, and that lack of a plan is a bit endemic to my age and position. It isn’t a failure to plan, it’s that I know any such plan has way too many variables to be useful right now. The right thing, so to speak, is to go with the flow.
So, if not a plan, then what?
One option, as I described in earlier posts is to think of it as simply a journey:
- Where am I now?
- What is my destination?
- What are the available routes to get there?
It’s an option, but when you are not as clear about the second and third parts, it’s not that helpful.
Another option, as per my last post, is more of a character test…who am I? What are my strengths and weaknesses? How does my mind work? In short, the psych profile I did. As an aside, I find it a bit intriguing, that post. In the history of everything I have ever written, that is probably the rawest. It is not the rawest thing I have ever done, some of that is the stripping bare of my soul in my tadpole days, the parts I didn’t even show my friends, but it is most likely the rawest, purest thing I have ever openly shared about myself and how my brain works. I got a couple of likes or hugs, and zero comments. Yet I know people read it, I can see the stats. Did I bore them? Was it mere mental / emotional masturbation? Or was it too raw? I’m not throwing a pity party that nobody commented, I’m really wondering who knows…I sure don’t. But I digress.
Another technique is a bit more challenging. It is, in a word, imaginative. You essentially try to answer the classic question of “Where do you see yourself in x years?” but with a much more pointed outcome in mind. You ask yourself a far more pointed question, one built not just in your own mind (internally focused) but on what others would say about you (externally focused). A balance between the yin of how you describe yourself and the metaphorical yang of how others describe you. Some people do it with a five year timeline. What would you like people to say about you in 5 years? Or they use 10 years. Or the inevitable, at time of death, what would they see as your legacy?
There are some risks in attempting this process, of course, not the least being some forms of toxic masculinity and stereotypes. The macho stoic man who never cries, never shows emotions, provides for his family, never backs down, blah blah blah. But if you’re careful, some of what can be revealed is intriguing.
Another risk is looking more for superlatives and adjectives than something that is a bit more pointed. “A good husband, a good father” are common catchphrases, and they show up in lots of obituaries. A friend to the people, cared about his community, etc. A thousand different phrases and they could apply to almost anyone, or more importantly, to two people who are completely different yet would have the same phrases said about them at a funeral or wake.
Ten things for your obituary
Over the next month or so, I’m going to write ten posts about things that I hope people could and would use at my funeral. Things that I see and that I hope they see. A yin and yang balance of perspectives in some form of objective reality. What would I want my legacy to be, beyond biology?