Let destiny lead
Breaking free is rooted in the American psyche at least as far back as Frederick Turner’s frontier theme. It evokes images of cowboys riding out of town on horseback, leaving entangling relationships behind and heading to parts unknown.
Psychologically, breaking free means becoming aware of old established patterns and realizing that one does not have to be imprisoned by them. An example is the adult child of an alcoholic who finally realizes that he/she can stop taking care of everybody. That behavior pattern is not the same as his/her identity.
Spiritually, it involves laying claim to our freedom, a true authentic freedom that departs from the Frontier Dream in that it is not freedom from responsibilities but freedom to the fullness of my truest self, my destiny.
All of this floats to mind as I prepare to celebrate my 70th birthday (on September 28th; in lieu of flowers, just send money). As the great Ram Dass once said, “Aging is a stage in life that’s especially ripe for us to get free.” A mutual out-of-town friend of Linda’s and mine celebrated her seventieth with a party invitation that said, “How heavenly, Flo is seventy”. She obviously saw the bright side.
The take home message here is: don’t close the curtain on your life before the undertaker does.
In spite of some aches and pains, perhaps an in- your- face bladder (that was awkward, wasn’t it), and those irksome senior moments, this is a time in life that another friend of ours calls “the heart of the melon”. It’s a time for destiny (not fate; destiny is what you birth from your passions; fate is what clubs you if you don’t) and for filling in the blanks in our development.
When I turned 60 it was of some importance to me, as a former priest, to credential myself in what usually is described as the “real world” (ask Buddha what he thinks of that) and so I got certified to teach in the public schools and spent seven years imposing Latin on adolescent minds. Seven years of a three hour round trip commute to eastern Loudoun County was enough of the “real world” but I did fill in that blank in my development. My main blank is in the realm of the sensing function and so when I was sixty we moved to this otherwise glorious house in Ledge-Lowe and I was forced to learn householder skills. This was fate clubbing me with what I would have loved to avoid. I can’t say that I’m relishing it but I have learned a few things and place greater value on such matterssort of. I have noticed that the more I surrender to it with a measure of grace, the more my psyche celebrates a certain feeling of balance. (Don’t tell my wife!) And of course, it’s a great house to live in.
On the destiny front this year, I have combined my passion for spiritual development with capitalism’s demand for income producing activity by becoming an adjunct at Shepherd U, teaching “Psychology and Spirituality”. I am really enjoying the interaction with my students and the feeling of generativity (giving back) is wonderful.
As usual I am running out of my permitted space. To close, I think I swim in the great ocean of life somewhere between Simon & Garfunkel’s “so terribly strange to be seventy” and John Denver’s “It turns me on to think of growing old”.
To be continued. Happy autumn season and/or autumn of your years and remember to get out of any old ruts lying around and break free! It’s destiny time!!
(Bill O’Brien, M.A., M.Div. is a spiritual mentor. He and his wife Linda have lived in Shepherdstown for ten years. Still newbies!!)