June 17, 2011

Making Sense (or Not)

You know how when you're thinking of buying a new car and you've done your research and have one in mind, suddenly you see that car everywhere?

I wrote recently about making peace with not having all the answers. I even managed to turn Woody Allen's new film into a meditation on embracing the uncertainties of the present instead of longing for the narrative of an idealized past. So, when I came across Dani Shapiro's post at HuffPost, I couldn't help but see a huge neon Lesson-Alert sign.

At a time when she faced major upheaval and uncertainty in her life, Shapiro lost her grounding. She found herself questioning everything.  As a writer, she has a natural tendency to look for the narrative arc of her life, for the certainty of cause-and-effect, for chapters whose events resolve themselves neatly. Shouldn't life "make more sense?"  Well, she decides, not necessarily:
Sure, there are the fortunate few from whom the journey has thus far been smooth sailing, but for the vast majority of us, there are fits and starts, hiccups, confusion, mistakes, wrong turns, U-turns, graceless moments. Life's road is nothing if not strewn with pebbles, potholes, unexpected surprises, both happy and not-so-happy ones. As one of my dearest friends, the Buddhist teacher Sylvia Boorstein says, "We are always accommodating to a new situation." That ever-changing new situation is, in fact, what makes up the shape of our lives. And that shape assumes its own kind of integrity, over time. This is how it is, how it has been. The truth of who we are is all we have to offer each other. (my emphasis)
And so it seems that the answer may well be to embrace the complexity of our lives... We are all here, trying our best, muddling through. We make choices, we re-group, we deepen. We learn from each other. We all make sense.
In other words, we may have to accept that the "answer," such as it is, is that there is no answer. Surprisingly, I find this strangely comforting -- and yes, admittedly, a little disquieting. And, that I suppose, is part of the lesson: that experiencing conflicting feelings is natural, and that watching those feelings shift over time is simply part of "accommodating to a new situation."

Don't know about you, but to badly mangle a metaphor simile, I suspect that this topic is like a car-buy that I'll be researching all my life.

P.S. If you haven't read it, I recommend Shapiro's recent book, Devotion: a Memoir.
Image by morten gade, at Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

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