Anything Is Possible. Or, Your Whole Life Ahead of You, Take II

Once upon a time I believed I commanded my destiny. Does that have to change?

Once upon a time I believed I commanded my destiny. Does that have to change?

“I feel like a teenager again,” my friend Carrie tells me.

“Really?” My answer is a face full of nose-scrunch and eyebrow crinkle.

This is not something I hear my friends say, especially friends in their fifties, especially women who are undulating through some very non-teenager body changes.  

Yesterday I spent an inspired afternoon with my friend Carrie. Carrie is a business owner, a mother, a partner; she is devoted to family, to deep thinking and is one of the most active listeners and quick wits I know. She has a big all-American smile, a full and easy laugh, a cool-regal poise and she goes deep, fast. We might not see each other for a few weeks, months or even years. But when we are back in the fold we settle immediately into a deep and broad satiating conversation around the joys and struggles of being a developing human and doing our work in the world, whatever that means at that time. I feel like our conversations are like a fountain bubbling and rushing in some Euro-garden of perfect un-tendedness. I want to use the word “font.”

No falling asleep in the garden of life for us!

No falling asleep in the garden of life for us!

I met Carrie on a sunny Friday afternoon.  We took her dogs Summer and Dindi for a weave-y walk through Ravenna, stopping to admire the well-tended gardens, magnificent trees; to pick up a poop or two.

The theme of our conversation was around work, and some of the desires and shifts we’re feeling at this stage in our lives and careers. We are both exploring. I left a fun, four-year jobby-job this winter to return to building my own business of coaching and writing—and not really knowing how either will flesh out or look. Carrie describes some of her new ventures as, “trying to find the unknown thing that’s calling to me.”

Our meanderings came back to: being of service, supporting the goals and desires of others (individuals, businesses, leaders). We rejoiced in being liberated from the ego strivings of our youth (e.g., title promotions move over for meaningful experiences; personal successes are boring compared to the community successes we now crave). All of which circles around a topic I’m endlessly fascinated with:

Midlife ambition

One thing I wasn’t prepared for in life, among many other surprises, was how ambitions change. It hit me in my late 30s, around the time I went to graduate school for creative writing. While fired up about my writing I was also coddling an enormous existential funk, no longer revved by the same self-serving goals and activities that entranced me in my semi-narcissistic youth. Boy, was I thrown for a frickin’ loop! There is so much beauty in moving from a self-centered focus to one that turns a person out to the world, but it’s still a change, and what do we do with change?

Freak the fuck out!  

I am 53; Carrie is 59. Our need to strut our ego-accomplishments is like a squashed, semi-dead bug on the path behind us. It’s replaced by an earthy desire to be of service in a way that makes a difference in other people’s lives. We want to find the answer to: “How can my experience help you?”  We are pitched forward in the Seat of Life, knowing and not knowing what we want, where we want to go—and going with it!

Carrie and I ended our walk and sat at her dining room table drinking a cool glass of water, breathing in lilac perfume from the open window and talking about a new venture Carrie is pursuing. She was able to step into it by applying the improv approach of “yes, and—“. Instead of applying a black-or-white decision that she was either In or Out, she told a group that Yes, she would participate AND here were her boundaries. “This is all new for me,” she says, giddily.

And this is where she drops the beauty bomb:

“I feel like I’m a teenager,” she said almost glowing. “Like I have my whole life ahead of me and anything can happen.” Her smile, the eyes calm and light—I could imagine anything happening for her, and any other person who shared her belief.

Still, I had to stage a mini-objection. “Really?”

“Oh yeah. You know that feeling, when you’re a teen and still innocent and you feel like you can do anything? Then you lose it and get cynical. But now I feel it’s back. I’m almost 60 and I feel that same excitement for what’s ahead. Anything is possible.”

Anything is possible.

I sat there admiring Carrie’s handsome face, looking out the window behind her to the waving lilac bushes, the neighborhood houses, all the way out to the Cascades far on the horizon.

It was a simple thought: Me too. I want “anything” too.

If one other person, a person like you, or me, believes anything is possible in the second-half of life, what could we make happen--individually and communally?  

I drove home on a Friday afternoon, over Montlake, through honking horns, with Mount Rainier in the distance, cars on all sides of me, saying to myself “Anything is possible. Anything is possible.”

This is a midlife ambition-cry I can get behind. To be alive and believe in anything, in this crazy beautiful terrifying sad hilarious anything-is-possible world.

Who’s with me?