Shards from the shattered remains are strewed throughout the open space like a giant exploded glass bust. Indeed, the shards were from what could be called a bust, a carefully planned and designed sculpture that was to be the young man's life. Now that sculpted bust is broken into a million tiny pieces and thrown to the edges of his known world (and for that matter beyond the edges, though he did now know anything existed beyond those edges so he could never go looking for them). Looking was not the first thing he wanted to, nor the second. Indeed, looking to pick up the broken pieces was not even on his list of things to do. Somewhere near the top was "Panic", either before or after that (no one could tell for sure) was "Cry" which blurred into "Ask Why" like a bad cursive script.
The young man, after waking up some time later—not just in the sense of getting out of bed in the morning, but actually waking from the nightmare he just survived—will look back at this experience not with fondness but with a strong respect for what happen and for the strength and courage he developed to survive it, it being part of his self-journey of discovery.
This young man is not alone in his journey: many others, indeed most of us, at one point or another suffer a situation as he did, one that forces us to stop and assess where we are and where we are headed.
I recently returned from a trip with this young man, a trip meant to allow him to shift his focus from the broken remains of his failed dreams to set new dreams in motion. It was a wonderful trip and I must admit that I enjoyed distracting myself from the realities I confront every day and, for just a moment, be able to soar wonderfully on a great adventure. While he was searching for himself, I took time to reflect on my own, similar searches and the great journey that has resulted. This trip with my friend was one of introspection and spontaneity which helped both of us to find parts of ourselves that we had grown out of touch with.
As I looked back through my life and in particular the times that I dedicated to finding myself, I began to notice a pattern or cycle of discovery. I found that these cycles coincided with the disparate nature of my journey. While I do my best to balance my life out; life seems to oppose such balance and always finds a new way to throw me off and force my self-discovery anew. I have gone through many of these episodes throughout my life (and I think we all do): as a child, as a teenager and as a young adult. While each of these moments brought painful realizations, they also brought with them a new perspective that afforded me a grander view of my own existence.
I think that the pain that drives the introspection comes because my then current frame of reference was breaking down. The realities that I had been living with no longer fit well with the experiences I was having. Ideally one would simply adjust their reality thus allowing them to adapt to the changing truths they are experiencing, but sometime we are too stubborn to accept the changes and other times we simply choose to not to recognize what is before us.
The pressure of continued exposure to the harsh clash between our reality and our perception erodes the integrity of our life, we are forced to choose to either rebuild our perceptions to better accommodate our reality or change our life to better accommodate our perception. For if we choose to do neither then the pressure will eventually destroy our life as we know it and force the change to occur. I call these moments a “life crisis”.
During a life crisis, such as the young man experienced, we must begin to question everything that before that moment had been assumed true. Suddenly, everything is dubious until proven otherwise including and especially our own personal mantras that we had so carefully and painstakingly developed since our last life crisis to reassure us that are perceptions were as true to our life as can be and that our life was as true to reality as was desirable.
This questioning is part of, and indeed critical to, the process of self-discovery because our perceptions and realities have grown too far out of sync with each other and the resulting discrepancies have grown so disparate that our life can no longer accommodate the two. This means that they must then be reconciled and rebuilt in order to allow life to continue in any form beyond the broken and shattered state it is currently in.
Through the process of careful analysis we must identify the weaknesses of our previous framework that had been born of experience and had served us so well in order that we might build a new framework that can account for the new experiences our current reality is providing to us and build new perceptions that will allow us to interpret these realities without becoming so overwhelmed by the reconciliatory processing needed to otherwise justify our current framework that is built upon our pool of past experiences against that new experiences that we can no longer live life and compensate for reality.
This means that the process of self-discovery—or rediscovery as the case may be—is less of a matter of distracting ourselves from reality and more of a matter of relearning reality in a liberated manner that allows us to build a new perceptional framework that we can use in the future. We must rebuild our old ways into new ones; we must relegate our old mantras to the past and create new ones; we must let go of our old life and begin anew.
Perhaps the hardest part of this process for me personally is not the actual rebuilding but rather the process of recognizing and accepting that the framework that I carefully built upon year after year—the framework that I cared for, tended, mended and loved for so long—is no longer valid and thus needs to be retired with little recognition of the effort put into the framing. This conflict within me results in a period of self-denial in which I refuse to accept that my reality and perceptions are in conflict until the crisis is in full bloom and prevention is too late.
During this period of defiance, I often find that the best way to defying the need to change out my framework is to simply deny that there is any conflict at all. Though not effective in the long term, denial of the current situation is a great short term solution. I find that I am not alone in such denial. Generally, we would rather deny than accept and this is perhaps the greatest flaw in our attempts to prevent the crisis from occurring. Such denial may even accelerate and enlarge the process. Perhaps, instead of denying anything is out of harmony, if we were to embrace that truth we could begin converting out old framework over to a new, workable frame that would allow us to preserve much of what we care most about and continue operating without shutting everything down and rebuilding from scratch.
(I suggest this because much of the underlying issue of a life crisis seems to stem from current experiences that outstrip our current experiential pool while they occur so frequently that they outpace our ability to adapt to them. The simultaneous outstripping and outpacing overloads our cognitive processing capabilities which then causes us to turn off our emotional processor for a cool down time and then slowly rebuild our cognitive processing until we are again at full capacity, and perhaps even at a higher capacity, and are again able to handle the new experiences without being overwhelmed. The realization that our experiences are outstripping and outpacing what we were equipped to handle is never a comfortable realization—knowing that you are unable to process a current experience because you have built, for whatever reason, an inadequate frame of reference is tantamount to a slap on the face by life itself, something that with each increasing year we are supposed to be more adept at preventing—such a realization is ever humbling and can start us on the path of expanding our individual capabilities that will afford us greater processing capacity in the future.)
Our strong desire to maintain our current framework may well be motivated out of fear. The entire experience may be so incredibly frightening because it is so rare and infrequent in our lives that we experience, in short succession, several experience of such substance (or a singular experience of massive intensity) that we cannot process them which results in feelings of vast helplessness. If so, it is in those very moments of feeling helpless that we must learn to discard our careful planning, put aside our personal desires and suspend our current believe system so that life itself can rewrite our course and redefine what we have known, or what we thought we have known, into a new reality, often a reality more in alignment with the overall scheme of the universe.
In these moments we find that we can do nothing to adjust or alter what is happening. The time for our changing and altering, putting in our orders for future changes has come and gone and like the enormous stirrings within the granite earth, these changes are the culmination of all that we have done since the last great change. The changes have already happened; they just have not manifested themselves until this one moment.