In the world of finance, businesses try to grow by joining forces with other companies. Sometimes the stronger company picks the pieces of the weaker company it wants to keep and sells or tosses the rest away. Wall Street refers to those arrangements as acquisitions. Sometimes the joining is between equals and Wall Street dubs those arrangements as mergers.
In the business arena, life is a form of play, with winners, losers, and the chance to start over. What we do matters more than who we are, and how we behave is how we are judged. In our personal life, the opposite prevails. What we are willing to reveal about ourselves to others is the way we are judged and who we are trumps what we do.
As we get to know who we are, we become acutely aware of our weaknesses and our strengths. There are always parts of ourselves that we want to transform or improve, just as there are strengths that we want to preserve or enhance. In a sense, it is a form of acquisition and discard, mimicking elements of business. When we grow from new experiences and blend them with our core traits, mergers are taking place. When new experience put us in an uncomfortable place, we make adjustments or start over.
We have been adding and dropping pieces of who we are our entire lives. That process is selective, with our peripheral qualities easiest to shed or preserve. In our younger years those changes seem to occur at an accelerating pace. The youngster who goes off to college is not the same person who graduates. War affects the DNA of soldiers in combat and changes them in ways that can be brutally destructive and terribly powerful. Marriage and children bring us change in torrents. Small events yield small changes. Big events yield big surprises. We can embrace the changes that events bring to us, fight those changes, or encapsulate them so that they do not overwhelm us. At different times we have used each of those approaches, and each approach insinuates itself into who we are in unique ways.
As we mature, the pace of change lessens, as routines create their own repeatable rhythms. In my own case, there was a time when Helen and I shifted residences bi-annually. Sometimes it was triggered by a desire for better schools and sometimes it related to work. As my work stabilized so did my mailing address. Although we moved from the East Coast to Oregon in 2015, that was the first time we changed residences in 20 years.
Throughout the process of change, we are trying to get to center – our center – so that the pathways that become our terrain are familiar, repeatable, and consistent. Values that we once eschewed we now look at at with more compassion over time. What we once labeled as the “other” we now recognize as a companion in our journey. We become aware that parts of what we despise in others is an element of who we are. When faced with a crisis of self-assessment, we are forced to concede our frailties, and surrender our artifices.
At this level of being, we are burrowing towards our core. Our life is a discovery process, with twists and turns that take us over old ground and venture into unknown territory. Into these experiences we drag old habits and new resolves. Each experience holds the possibility of a profound adventure that we can either welcome into our lives or shrink away from as unsettling. We are at the edge of change and the question is how we respond. In our deepest expression, we may be open and inviting, as we say “welcome change, welcome to my home.” In our lowest expression we may aim a kick at the solar plexus and shout “begone, we have no use for your changes that threaten my being.”
There is no road map, no formula on which we can rely, no App we can upload, to see if we are dancing, standing still, or in full retreat. Until now, our movement has moved in an outward direction. But what if our gaze went inward, exploring who we are, nurturing who we might become, loving what is, and holding firm to our potentiality?
The guidance we seek may be in the form of meditation, in the invitation to silence, or in the nature of prayer. We may not know the words or hear the melody. But when we are weary of false steps and deep pain, we can turn to the universe, asking for guidance, for patience and for understanding. It is a silent prayer that we offer in our loftiest moments and our most menial experiences. When we are ready to embrace the joy of truly knowing who we are, we will have the whole universe as our companion.