Sunday, February 19, 2012
From my earliest recollection, there was a distinct difference between us: I was outgoing and willing to take risks, while Norma Jean was shy and diffident, always willing to let me take the lead. As we grew older, it became obvious that we characterize the classic extroverted and introverted personalities. Of course I didn't learn the labels until much later, but as we grew up, I am pretty sure that we continued to make decisions based on our own natural inclinations. Even though we have been through a full lifetime of experience, we continue to follow entirely different pathways to fulfillment.
It's fascinating to talk with Norma Jean about shared childhood experiences and realize how different our memories of the same event can be. Since Daddy was in the military and we moved around a great deal, I developed a "new girl" persona so that when we moved to a new place, I picked up mannerisms that I would use to cope; I never minded it, but she agonized over leaving her old friends and the necessity to be singled out. I never looked back or missed anybody. Consequently I also never learned to develop long-term relationships and ended up going from one partnership to another until I had the good fortune to meet my life partner at the age of fifty. Norma Jean and Pete were married for almost half a century before he died last year.
Smart Guy and I are coming up on our twentieth anniversary, but we will never see a half century, since we got a rather late start. In some ways I am amazed that we have managed to find such a rich and satisfying life together, since I had to develop some new skills, ones which at first I didn't believe I had the ability to develop. It took many years of effort to find our way, but it happened, and I am now able to write from my favorite Sunday morning spot: in the darkness before the dawn, a cup of hot tea within reach as I struggle with my thoughts. He's still asleep next to me. On some level he must hear the tapping of the keys, but the sound is not unfamiliar and doesn't disturb his rest.
We met as skydivers. If I had never started skydiving, I would never have known him. If the internet had not come into being, we would never have encountered each other. Our spirits were attracted to each other before we ever met in person. (I wrote about it here, if you want to know the details.) My life trajectory has been permanently altered by several events in the past, as all people experience throughout life. But I continually thank my lucky stars for those two: skydiving and my life partner. Without those two incredibly important occurrences, I cannot imagine who I would have become.
That's the way of life, I guess. Things happen to us that cause us to take a fork in the path that lead us to places we can't even imagine. I finished re-reading "Of Human Bondage" yesterday, and I now believe that the reading of that book in my twenties was one of the events that opened my eyes to new ways of perceiving life. It's certainly not life-changing to the Me of today the way it was then, but now that I have read it a half century later, I can understand why it affected me so deeply. I was accustomed to living my life in a rather superficial manner, not delving very deeply into the meaning of life, and Somerset Maugham was able to write this book in such a way that I began to examine my reactions to life events in a much deeper fashion. It deserves its place as one of the best novels of the twentieth century, and as I re-read certain passages, I felt stirrings of my old quest to understand the meaning of life.
Although I still spend a few days every spring and summer with my skydiving friends, it no longer occupies the central place it once did. Everything has its time and place, and as I begin my eighth decade (yes, that's when you turn seventy) on the planet, my adventurous spirit is now looking towards new challenges, new ways to feel excitement without throwing myself out of an airplane. I would never have thought that it would become a familiar feeling, but after more than 66 hours of accumulated freefall time, it has indeed become old hat. These days, I look forward to the intellectual adventures that my spirit still craves. The writing of these Sunday morning posts has become a part of that adventure. Who knows what will emerge?