A Shared Life of Wrestling, Growth, and Discovery

A Mini Life-Lesson

A writing piece for my August 25th Writing Group…Topic: Lessons from the School of Life

It’s been an intense couple of months in the School of Life for Pat and me. So much is changing, and so quickly. Being open to bigger and faster changes has in itself been one of the key lessons from The School of Life for us these recent months.

So let me describe the School of Life mini-lesson connected with coming up with a writing piece for today’s group. Yes the writing group IS meeting TODAY!

I have been enthused about our chosen topic, Lessons from the School of Life, for several weeks now. About a month ago I created a Word document and during the month added ideas to it that I planned to incorporate into this writing piece.

Then, with a week to go, I began creating a first draft that, as it turned out, used none of the material from my carefully gathered ideas. My thoughts had shifted significantly – as if I had learned a lot from the School of Life even in the short time since beginning my list of ideas and reflecting on them.

So I got into this first draft, and, after several days of off-and-on writing, this draft grew to be four pages long – twice as long as my normal two pages. I edited and reedited – gaining insights, and enthusiasm, as I wrote. But the length kept creeping up, though by reducing fonts and margins I could keep the piece at four pages. So this is where I was with this writing Thursday evening, the day before our writing group. It had been a fun and educational process for me. With our group meeting today, Friday, I hoped this “final” draft would “work” – especially considering the hours I put into it over this week.

As usual, I let Pat read my piece – all four pages. After reading it, she was speechless. … But not in a positive way! So now what to do!

But there was some light at the end of the tunnel: Pat thought the three-paragraph Epilog could work. Perhaps I could simply work with that, throwing out the three and half pages that led up to the Epilog. A humbling, but helpful idea. Let me sit with that.

This morning in our morning meditation and sharing time Pat and I talked about what this experience of sharing my writing with her had been like for each of us. I expressed the enthusiasm I had experienced all week in writing the piece. I had really gotten a lot out of writing it. Pat said that she had a very challenging time following the piece. She could not find continuity in it and found the writing even chaotic in a way. She was relieved when she got to the Epilog, which she experienced as clearer and more focused. It revealed more of my emotions and felt to her to be more alive, raw, and vulnerable.

I then spent time in our morning conversation explaining what I had learned about my life in this writing process as I had reflected on my life through my 75 years. Unlike Pat, I did see threads of continuity and themes in the piece and they were meaningful to me, AND I could also hear her impressions that it was a bit chaotic. I further shared that perhaps my writing was chaotic because my life has been chaotic, especially with the changes going on in us over the past six months or so … actually for the past 20 years.

Our conversation about my piece was light and open. We realized we could each have our own opinions – this was progress for us. I did not have to feel judged by her and throw my writing in the trash. And she was free to tell me that it just did not seem to work for her, and that it helped her this morning when I explained my experience in writing the piece. Pat offered her further opinion that perhaps now I could use the 4-page version exactly as it is after all.

I offered that to me it was feeling like two separate pieces of writing were emerging – first the 4-page piece that I had titled, Courses in the School of Life, and a second piece describing our process and experience in creating and discussing Courses in the School of Life. After all, this sharing last night and this morning had been still another mini-course in the School of Life, and hence was still “on topic” for our group. And I would also share the epilog just as it appeared in the 4-page piece. So this is what I have done!

Epilog

In all of the courses of this School of Life, every experience seems to be a teacher. For example, last week Pat saw the movie Maudie, and after seeing it she thought I would enjoy it and that we should see it together. So we did – not once but twice (her third time). I was deeply moved by this movie, especially the character Everett Lewis, a fisherman. The acting is superb, and I was deeply touched by the quite-visible emotional growth of Everett as he grows out of his orphanage childhood with all of his resulting attachment issues and steps into life as a humble fisherman and evolving lover of this unique woman Maud.

Everett was confused by the experiences of love he was feeling in the beginning with Maud, even resisting the experiences of love – resisting both on the giving end and the receiving end of love. Yes, I could relate! Everett’s issues and challenges fit mine perfectly.

So keep moving, Gary, keep moving. And remember from your Lutheran roots the closing of 1 Corinthians 13 – in choosing from among “faith,” “hope,” and “love,” remember St. Paul’s closing words, “the greatest of these is love.” So perhaps I’m coming full circle back to my early spiritual roots. Yet even now this “love” feels both present and distant – opening in new ways, moment by moment, day by day, … and I suspect, lifetime by lifetime.

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So now, on Friday, let me smile, run off copies, and shut down my computer. And you my writing buddies are the benefactors of a piece more normal in length, while I am the wiser for having gone through this additional last-minute mini-lesson in the School of Life – another mini-lesson in connecting with Pat.

Shared with love, Gary

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Gary Vollbracht