I listened to a writer describe, as only a word painter can, the ordinary beauty of an Australian rural landscape. I thought of my friend who had a year teaching in Australia and the life altering impact it had on her. At the time, I thought, she was destined to return when she was ready to reclaim that true life thread of her destiny, the one that ultimately would bring her most joy. But how was that unlike my own attachment to Rome? I jest that I lived for 6 months there and never got over it. I have always believed I would return some day and relive that time and the mosaic of emotions and experiences. But today I clearly understood that I can no more relive that time than I could relive any other moment. It was thinking about my friend that opened my eyes from the trance of nostalgia. My friend and I have not remained static any more than those beloved places have. We have grown. Returning to those places is possible but not to the time,  just as we can return to places of our childhood, but not to being children.  To expect that we can, invites grave disappointment.  The longing is what is to be given up. It is ok to swim in the memories that make us happy. But there is a distinct physical sensation to a contented sigh of happy recall that differs dramatically from the ache of longing.  The ache of longing seems to me to be associated with loss and a desire to recapture that loss. Usually, it is about a view of the past as representing positive emotions, including freedom. We, of course, never lose the experiences. They are ours forever. But what we are really mourning is not the loss, but the lack. And upon closer and truer inspection, we find that the memories of the experience we crave are not all positive. The experiences that impact us the most are the ones that we might judge as both positive and negative. In fact they are more positive, and more negative than the scale of our lives previously measured. So what is significant about those times (not necessarily places) is the expansion of our experiences, pushing the boundaries in ourselves to greater highs and deeper lows. What we crave is not the familiar territory of old haunts but the yet unexplored horizons of ourselves. One might revisit with the anticipation of discovering the place anew, open and fresh. But why? There are so many wondrous places yet to discover. I think a definition of a mid life crisis is when we wake up to the overwhelming complacency of our lives. We go to a great deal of trouble and expense ( on many levels) to increase our comfort and convenience but grow less and less content. I’m not advocating adversity but perhaps I am advocating diversity and perhaps a faith in the unknown, the uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I believe our joy comes from meaning we make of our experiences. It is a risk for sure but one that paradoxically has a guaranteed payoff.  The growing pains are worth it.  

Keep the faith.  December blessings, All.


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