When Less Is More

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring

will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.

 ***

I played Bonnie Parker, the other-half of the infamous bank-robbing duo “Bonnie and Clyde,” in the 5th grade wax museum at Pond Elementary School. My teacher, Mrs. Lewis, had made this suggestion; she must have known that playing this character would satisfy my propensity for the dramatic. At 11 years old, I was certain I would grow up to be an actress. With the lights off, standing on the top of my desk as a wax figure, along with the rest of the 5th grade class, I came to “life” as Mrs. Lewis turned her high beam flash light on me.

As I shot my cap gun at the audience and blew the smoke from the tip of my pistol, I delivered my opening line, “My name is Bonnie Parker; I was born in Rowena, Texas.”

I concluded with what must have been memorable details to my young mind, ” I died in my sock feet, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” Somewhere I still have my old note cards.

I never did become an actress. My closest brush with fame was probably seeing Phillip Seymour Hoffman on the street in downtown New York City. As I grew up, my interests evolved and changed many times over, setting me on a much different path than I anticipated. I wasn’t bothered by this because I made the choices that set these changes in motion; where I ended up from there on was a result of my own growth and development.

There have been twists that in my wildest imagination I would not have planned on in my life these last few years. While my personal circumstances have included some dramatic turns, the nature of the experience is not unique to me. I think we each come to a point in our journey through life where we consider what our expectations had been up to a certain point and how our reality often differs from the trajectory we predicted for ourselves, for worse or for better. We may feel deeply satisfied by our successes and continue to plot out the course ahead. I, on the other hand, am a bit mystified by how comfortable I am becoming living with less–less ambition, less goal-setting–where less suddenly feels like more.

Especially here in this country where we are so privileged with what often seems like limitless options, we can become fatigued by all the possibilities to be whatever we want to be . . . because we can . . . and because other people think we should (or we think they think we should), even if we aren’t particularly inclined to do so.

I heard it said once that potential means you just haven’t done it yet. Sometimes it’s hard to live with the undone things we know we are capable of in order to absorb the moment in which we actually have all our needs met and are not just present but available to the people we care about.

When we come to the end of ourselves, no longer impressed by our own accomplishments, no longer plotting our future success but, instead, standing squarely in our limitations and yet able to celebrate the goodness of the moment at hand, here is the beginning. What we might have deemed once as being at our worst suddenly becomes the place in which we can become our best selves; the choice is ours, however, how to navigate uncharted waters. We are free to choose between self pity and disappointment at what we have not or cannot do or, rather, to recalibrate, adjust our expectations and set out towards new horizons without the road map anymore.

I know for one that my flare for the dramatic was not lost on me. I’ve learned that I am a competent public speaker, learned how to creatively express myself in words, and sometimes make my kids bust a gut with nonsense inspired by the actress in me. I’m o.k.,though, not being center stage or aspiring for any silver screen. What I might once have deemed as feeling “stuck,” feels more like maybe I’m in God’s keeping. And for a spell, I am going to enjoy resting here.

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