Still Working on Me

In a M*A*S*H episode I was watching last night, one of the last scenes had Hawkeye walking into a wooded area with his medical bag to help a sniper that had been firing at the 4077th.  The sniper was hit by a shooter from an American helicopter and finally waved a white flag.  Not knowing what he was walking towards, Hawkeye performed his duty as a doctor without a thought for his own safety.

I started thinking about how many people have experiences that significantly change their lives and make them who they are. I don’t mean short-term changes like going on a diet, but life altering experiences like the loss of someone dear to you, an encounter with death, profound occurrences in war, or incarceration.

Someone did house made pop tarts, and now others are doing them too.  I guess imitation is easier than innovation.

Years ago, The Miami Dolphins started the wildcat offense.  It worked because defenses were not accustomed to dealing with it.  Other teams started using it, it worked for a bit, then defenses adjusted.  No one does it anymore.

The Caprese salad is still done, even in Winter.  The defenses have not adjusted to the Caprese, so it’s still a thing.

I get distracted easily sometimes.

Anyway, I was looking at my own life, and thinking about my recent post They Call Me the Squanderer and I started to wonder if I have squandered any opportunities to make significant changes as a result of monumental events in my life.  I really haven’t changed who I am, or how I conduct myself at any time during adulthood.  I have given things up for short periods, I’ve wrestled with the existence of an omnipotent being, I’ve devoted myself to various long-term tasks, but I have never had a moment in my life, or an Earth shattering event that has changed the course of my life or who I am.  Have I missed something?  Was there something in my life that should have been bigger, and I just didn’t respond?

My sister Elaine died of cancer in 2000 at the age of 43. I held her hand as she took her last breath, and my life didn’t change.  My brother Dan died 5 years later at 48.  I would have been present at his death if it were not for a selfish act by his wife, who I’ll despise for the rest of my life.  Still, no change.  Perhaps I’m resisting change, perhaps I simply have a weakness that won’t allow me to be affected by such events.  My detesting my brother’s widow might just be a sign that I’m too steadfast in my ways, and that my inability to move forward is a stubbornness that will not allow me to evolve.

Other events have occurred.  My father died; I had a sister-in-law die at 38.  My first wife, Theresa’s mother died at 48.  Still, I see myself as me, and have never felt an epiphany that had me taking action towards real change.

I wonder, was I simply shaped early?  Or, as I suspect, am I just too hard-headed to make any meaningful changes in my life?

An alternate possibility is that perhaps people don’t all make changes the same way.  Some have monumental events that shock them into a new way of life, while others simply respond to major  events with slow and methodical adaptations in order to deal with occurrences that have a profound effect on their well-being.

The gradual changes are harder to detect, even for someone who prides himself on being self-aware.  I know I’m affected by the deaths of loved ones, by events in my career, and by the ups and downs and lack of retention of valued relationships, and by my mental health issues, but I still seem to be the person I’ve always been.  Perhaps I’m still adapting into a better person with a better grasp on the events that have dotted the landscape of my life.  Perhaps the process isn’t complete and at some point, I’ll wake up one day and be able to say “yes, the episodes I have experienced have changed me.” I don’t see or feel it yet, and maybe I have work to do in order to facilitate positive changes, but until then I just have my doubts that I’m able to use life’s experiences to help me to develop a better understanding of who I am and who I want to be.

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