Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Cycles

Last time we met I suggested human life is more usefully chunked into three 'halves', not just two as previously thought.

I also mentioned that each segment lasts about thirty years and I labelled each with a general theme: the first consists of what is done to us; the second of what we do; and the third of wondering what It is all about.

This time, let's explore the quarters within each cycle. In fact, they are the quarters of all living cycles.

First Quarter:

A seed bursts from the gound with nary a clue of its mission. We depend on instinct, putting one foot in front of the other, noticing and reacting to whatever is happening all around. The attitude is pretty carefree, no judging, condemming, or infernal commentary. We gradually substitute conditioned reflex for some of our riskier traits, but the structures we grow or adapt to at this stage, including roots, labels, and learned behaviour are largely dictated by 'others' among our ancestors and environment.

Second Quarter:

Slowly, like a dawning, careless abandon gives way to recurring thoughts, and mere hunches become visions of a growing theme of what this cycle might be about. Somewhere around the middle of this quarter, we grow increasingly convinced of the mission and begin working towards it on purpose.

Third Quarter:

At the top of the clock, we lay the golden egg. The structures are complete and the mission is obvious for all to see. We spend the next seven years dispensing the fruits of those structures, completing the mission, playing the role, enjoying the satisfaction and accolades of a job well done.

Fourth Quarter:

The momentum and glow of success persists a little into the beginning of the fourth quarter. We don't notice the transition at first. Fleeting moments of feeling like we're just going through the motions. Our persistent enthusiasm isn't entirely bogus, but it needs to be tweaked sometimes to keep the ball rolling until, eventually, we realize something has indeed changed. Previously effortless tasks become routine, even a chore. The structures we set up for the mission begin coming apart at the seams. We often run into real trouble and find ourselves looking over our shoulder. What's gone wrong? Why the hell are things falling apart?

If we are exceptionally clever, we figure it out on our own, but most of us hold on desperately to those crumbling structures until the Universe comes along and says, "Uh-uh, nope, not anymore, cuffs us smartly on the back of the head with a two-by-four, rips us out of our precious routine and casts us unceremoniously into ... you might have guessed, the first quarter of the next cycle!

This last pattern, the ripping out, the cuff on the head, the puzzling abrubt change forced on us beyond our wanting, is the subject of those interviews with 29.5 and 59 year olds I suggested you conduct as an experiment during an earlier discussion in this series.

There will appear to be exceptions to the rule. A few people will hold on to the structures of the first cycle past thirty-two or thirty-three years old until life hits them very hard indeed. Even fewer people, and they stand out so clearly, manage to hang on to those early structures all the way through the second cycle. They are the ones we describe as never having really grown-up. They remain on automatic pilot, never managing to challenge the restrictive admonitions programmed into them during the first cycle. As often as not, these unfortunate folks play the same outdated recordings through the third cycle as well.

Which brings us back to the theme of this series, the deeper purpose of Club 6290.

You nearly 29.5 year olds and 59 year olds have to decide whether you will keep looking over your shoulder wondering what has gone wrong, or look forward, noticing how life is grooming you for the next cycle. Don' be shy. If this conversation seems a little dreary, you can safely jump ship right about now because there are a thousand wonderful blogs out there to spur you through your frenetic and still exciting mid-life journey.

You are welcome to return when your time comes of course, but this space is dedicated to my grumpy, curmudgeon contemporaries, who have crossed the threshold, who have passed the point of no-return and are well into the third cycle... trying to figure out who they really are after all the scripts and all the roles and all the stock narratives have fallen silent.

In the event you are one of the latter, and still reading, here's a small graphical representation of the above paragraphs to tide you over until next time.

Take care.


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