“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell
Evidently, I was born without a biological clock.*
I got most all the basic parts as I rolled down the conveyor belt of gestation: brain, check; heart and lungs, check check; sturdy bones, check; fly-away hair, blue-green eyes, and a love of physical comedy, check check and check. But while other baby girls had a time piece tucked snugly between their heart and their gut that began nudging them ever more urgently toward motherhood, I don’t have that particular tick-tock myself.
At 33, I’d said No to a marriage that sucked the spirit out of me, I’d said No to the post-divorce relationship that sucked the air out of the room, I’d said No to a job that just sucked. At last, I’d taken my plane off auto-pilot and I was actively choosing my life rather than passively accepting whatever happened to plop in front of me.
In addition to saying No to some things, I said Yes to other things. I knew I wanted a job that felt more expansive and inspiring, I knew I wanted a relationship with someone who whistled in the mornings and wanted to hike and laugh with me. I said Yes to optimism and enthusiasm, I said Yes to nature and spirituality, and I said Yes to not having children.
After years of beating myself up about being neutral to negative about the whole child-rearing thing, I decided that being childless by choice was fine. After thinking something was wrong with me for a long time, I found myself in a peaceful place about not having kids.
Then I met Frank.
Morning-whistling, easy-laughing, optimistic, nature-loving hiker, Frank….who had two small children.
I’d finally taken hold of my life. I’d pushed some things away. I’d pulled some things in. But now, I realized, I had to let go and live the life that was waiting for me. I had to put down my plan.
Nope. My favorite scene is the snow scene: Loretta and Johnny are walking back from the opera and he wants her to stay with him even though she’s engaged to his brother.
Loretta protests, “A person can see where they messed up in their life and they can change the way they do things. … I can take hold of myself and I can say yes to some things and no to other things that are going to ruin everything. I can do that.”
But Johnny reminds her that life and love isn’t neat and safe and it doesn’t always follow the plan. “We’re here to break our hearts,” he says. He’s asking Loretta to stop the pushing and pulling, to put it down and surrender to the life that is waiting for her.
I think they are both right. There is a time for standing up and getting clear on my Yes and my No. There is a time for shaping my choices with my will and heart and mind. There is a time for push and pull … and there is a time for surrendering to now. There is a time for putting down the plan, the belief, the role, the story.
There is a time to put it all down to see what falls into your hands after you drop the reigns.
** In the mid-late 80s, there was a string of movies that I call the Can’t-Help-Who-You-Love Movies. My favorites: The Sure Thing (1985), Moonstruck (1987), Crossing Delancey (1988) and the Mother of Can’t-Help-Who-You-Love Movies, When Harry Met Sally (1989).