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Monday, November 09, 2009

Days of Reckoning

I’ve long pondered the disintegrations of the human soul I’ve witnessed in the workplace, among acquaintances and intimates.

Each story is unique, but there’s a commonality: the death of expectations.

It is no small matter to confront the knowledge that one is not to be what one had dreamed to be. To understand that one will never experience or hold whatever once was held so dear.

A redefinition of “self” is in order. That’s quite the challenge when the slate is no longer clean, when doors are barred, bridges burned...
and dreams have lost their luster.

There’s the awareness (either shabby or inspiring) that one’s life story will unfold along unanticipated plotlines.

* * *

He was my direct supervisor and I was still a young pup (career-wise). A talented man he was. Intelligent. Considerate. Yet, curiously disengaged. I didn’t understand him. His arsenal of abilities surpassed those of his superiors, but he seemingly lacked ambition. And the lack thereof was palpable to all.

I didn’t understand him, for I was young and I was driven.

I don’t remember how the conversation started, the particulars of the how’s and why’s. What I remember is this: He mentioned he had always wanted to be a veterinarian. That he had just embarked upon his studies when WWII began. That he left the university and took up arms and waded onto the beach at Anzio...and into the savagery that followed soon after. I remember asking why he didn’t return to his studies after the war? I remember his answer: “I couldn’t stand the sight of blood”.

I never forgot that conversation. Never forgot the man. I remember when he retired, having served at the lowest tier of management his entire career. I wished him well. And never saw him again.

But he had made an impression. He left me pondering for decades.
He fathered this post.

Methinks the specific expectations don’t matter. Only that they were held most dear. Methinks the average human life is a road trod upon broken dreams. Methinks there comes the inevitable day when the shards take their toll. When reality trumps and rationalizations can’t suffice.

I also happen to think that the way in which we negotiate these treacherous times, these storms of doubt, these darkest of dark days, the abject humiliation or utter despair...these days of reckoning...
come to define us.

* * *

We can face our failures, regrets and sorrows, with bitterness or dejection.

We can face them with a measure of humility, spirituality or grace.

No matter one’s circumstances in life...all I know is this:

there will be days of reckoning.

* * *


Blogger Woman in a Window said...

Jonas, holy shit. What's up? I just left another blog that was talking about work and my mind had already arrived in the parking lot of what you're writing of. Strange when things like this happen.

I think we are a screwed up lot to inappropriately believe that our lives should be defined by our work and yet it seems to be such a response to how our Western Society is structured. Instead, I propose, we should be defined as who we are inside of whatever it is that we do. To hell with the notions of measuring self and day by title or duty. Instead let's measure our days by spirit.

And yet I realize that there is another side to this, many sides to this. There is a feeding of spirit, or starving of spirit, in relationship to work. This man you speak of might have had his spirit fed full if he'd have touched animals all day long. And I'd be a fuller person, I believe, if somehow I could make it through life writing or taking pictures to buy groceries. But instead I'll sign off and dry my hair and go and be bored to tears in a small room selling retail. But inside of this small room I will bring a notepad and hopefully feed my spirit. My eyes will shift the walls all day long hoping.


Mon Nov 09, 06:12:00 AM  
Blogger deb said...

I think that's what mid life is for, a time to look back and a time to look forward. What we have been doing usually doesn't work anymore for us, it's time, for me anyway, to live a new way, more honestly, more truly what I want and need.

Last night I thought about returning to school. Perhaps.

Mon Nov 09, 09:28:00 AM  
Blogger Kass said...

Did you really post this at 2 am? It's beautifully written and shows a lot of empathy. I personally believe the greatest writers are those who can closely identify with any of their subjects, but keep the necessary distance to be objective. Narcissistic writers are a bore. You are not boring. Your writing stirs, whips, juliennes. Again, I'm a fan.

Mon Nov 09, 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger Christella said...

Your post today was so timely because it mirrored my feelings today. Beautifully written.

"It is no small matter to confront the knowledge that one is not to be what one had dreamed to be. To understand that one will never experience or hold whatever once was held so dear."

My days of reckoning are here.

Mon Nov 09, 11:53:00 AM  
Blogger Smiler said...

I've been navigating these treacherous streams all my life. Always looking for my ultimate calling. It's been a bumpy ride. So many encounters along the way; a mix of deep satisfaction and utter despair. Unfortunately, the latter seems to take over all too easily.

Dreams of who we want to be seem so childish now. And yet without the dreams, we are just shells of who we could have been. Do shells have value too? Can they give birth to new life? I like to think my shell has been in a gestation period for the past 30 months now. It may give birth to something grand. Then again, it very well might not. Some people navigate these waters with complete faith, hope and even joy. It's been a bumpy ride for me. And on it goes...

Mon Nov 09, 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger Ponita in Real Life said...

It takes courage to turn dreams into reality... at any age. And sometimes, some people just can't summon enough courage to make those dreams come true.

Dreams keep us growing, even if they never materialize. But always striving to edge your way a bit closer to making those dreams a reality helps keep your spirit alive and shining.

My path these days is towards making something of myself that I never dreamed I could be... and it is working. I have managed to summon some of the courage needed, and continue to search for more. It is at times both terrifying and thrilling, but I am determined to make the most of this and see it through... because it means a life of purpose, of good, and of comfort. It's simple, but not easy.

Mon Nov 09, 05:48:00 PM  
Blogger secret agent woman said...

For me, it was great relief that I had no serious expectations of my life. I wanted to be a loving parent, a decent therapist, and so on, but I have no need to really excell at anything. It was very freeing.

Mon Nov 09, 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

You know, I was thinking just the other day about how many lives I've led in 45 years, and how none of them even resembled the life I'd expected, or even hoped for. ...but, the thing is, it's been a great ride. Sometimes unbearable - in joy or sadness - but...all in all, the good has far outweighed the...not so good.

Mon Nov 09, 07:23:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Gawd, I love the honesty reflected in these comments!

I was intentionally quite broad in my observations about dashed expectations. I wasn't talking about vocational aspirations exclusively. Like some of you, I had few of those. My own expectations resided in the emotional realm. Even so, heartache is heartache.

This particular entry was the end result of a few long conversations I had with several friends and former co-workers. My friends and I are of "a certain age". We tend to be a reflective lot. Several business acquaintances contacted me recently with tales of their career disappointments. We all have our days of reckoning...sooner or later.

And, yes, Kass, I "penned" this in the wee hours of morn. My Muse keeps odd hours. And thank you, again, for your praise.

Ah, Christella, I wish you peace of mind. You've paid your dues. You've earned it.

Yes, Smiler, I know what it's like to be lost at sea (I haven't yet spied land, myself, but at least my seas have calmed). I hope you find safe harbor. And realize your dreams.

You go, Ponita! I love this: "It's simple, but not easy."

There's nothing like the serenity of a Quaker Covert Operative.

I have to agree, Stephanie. Despite all, the ride was worth the price of admission.

Mon Nov 09, 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger L'uragano (The Hurricane) said...

very poignant. the words hit hard, the words hit home.

Tue Nov 10, 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Maria said...

I don't think you can reach my age (51) and NOT think about roads not taken. And yes, there are regrets. It is something that doesn't really resonate when you are young. You have different paths open to you and you choose to take them. Or not. And then, when you are 51, you look back and wonder, "What if I had taken that path? What would have been different? Would I have been happier, wealthier, wiser? We can't ever really know.

Wed Nov 11, 02:23:00 PM  
Blogger Selma said...

The death of expectations can also be viewed as a rebirth. It's like when you draw the Death card in the Tarot, it doesn't signify an actual death, more of a change, a time for transformation.

I constantly try and redefine myself as a way of keeping panic at bay. If I focus on dashed expectation my psyche will crumble to ash. So I draw comfort from the fact that even if I succeeded or failed, at least I remained true to myself.

Thu Nov 12, 05:25:00 AM  
Blogger Kass said...

Jonas - thanks for being the inspiration for the poem portion of my 'dissolving' post. and thanks for identifying with and appreciating something in my poemophoty.

Fri Nov 13, 12:54:00 PM  

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