Composing A Life

February Purge DeClutter The February purge continues here at my house.

I’ve long since stopped trying to understand why some things have been saved for as long as they have. Regardless, if it doesn’t strum the heart strings in February 2013, out it goes.

I’ve found old photos which have since been posted on Facebook and are getting some good laughs; there are letters from assorted family members, some poignant and heartfelt while others reflect someone just being silly. Much of this is still save-worthy.

Stashed in a box alongside these mementos was a Xeroxed copy of the introduction to Composing A Life, a book written by Mary Catherine Bateson, daughter of anthropologist Margaret Mead.

The book was published in 2001, and I have no recollection of how/why the copy of the introduction came to me, or for what purpose it was saved. But on this – another– snowy Sunday I sat with a cup of coffee and recognized the value of these 11 pages.

The introduction, beautifully written, states the author’s essential observation: the world no longer supports a single, monolithic vision for one’s life. Improvements in health and longevity, technology, economics, and changes in society have forced us move past  “Plan A” and require us to now be able to perceive—and then create — a Plan B, C, D, and beyond.

How do we learn “improvised living,” being flexible in the face of the certainty of change, learning to become creative with “what is” as we cobble together a life of meaning and purpose? Are we even capable of it?  Bateson writes:

            All too often, men and women are like battered wives or abused children. We hold on to the continuity we have, however profoundly it is flawed. If change were less frightening, if the risks did not seen so great, far more could be lived.

           …when you watch people damaged by their dependence on continuity, you wonder about the nature of commitment, about the need for a new and more fluid way to imagine the future.graspinghand

That phrase damaged by their dependence on continuity really struck me. There is an essential “truth for our times” if I ever heard one! And the words are even more relevant today, twelve years after they were originally published.

The world we have invented now forces our hand. We’ve done this to ourselves, via science, technology  and social change, have called it “progress,” and yet we buck at the notion that there is no longer ONE correct path for our life!

It isn’t even about doing it efficiently and gracefully, but about being able to move past the familiar, to improvise rather than play the notes correctly, to think abstractly rather than recite from rote memory, to communicate spontaneously rather than have the “correct answer.”

Like it or not, IMPROV is the name of the game in the future that we’ve accidentally designed for ourselves, so we’d all better get on board.

I know I’m going to be musing on the ways I am damaged by my dependence on continuity.

How about you?

Jeanne Fiorini TarotWorks http://www.tarotworks.comJeanne Fiorini is a self-employed Tarot-reading, football-watching, yard sale-ing neat freak comedian who’s just trying to make sense of things. 
She’s NEAT



  1. Josephine Mori said,

    February 25, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    From Janet Evanovich’s, “Finger Lickin’ Fifteen”. Stephanie asks ex-special forces op, Ranger, how he feels about his current, civilian life:

    “Do you like doing this? I asked him. “Do you like running this security firm?”

    “I don’t love it,” he said. “But I don’t hate it, either. It’s a phase in my life. It’s not so different from being a company commander in the military. Better work condiditons. Less sand.”

  2. Karen said,

    March 4, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    I LOVE this piece, Jeanne! “We hold on to the continuity we have, however profoundly it is flawed. If change were less frightening, if the risks did not seen so great, far more could be lived.”

    funny – I, too have been rifling through old photos and papers, and both tossing and discovering gems… seems there is a subconscious knowing that moves us to hold onto some things – even if it is just to come across them one more time, and get whatever message they hold. . . in some new and refreshed AHA!

    So – is your comedy act improvised, too?! love, Karen

  3. Karen said,

    March 4, 2013 at 8:54 PM

    p.s. YOU are an exceptional woman!

    • March 4, 2013 at 9:37 PM

      Thanks for checking out the recent posts, Karen. This particular article came out of the blue, but that introduction positioned many thoughts! Plus, that de-cluttering bug REALLY is making the rounds these days. The comedy is not improv, more of a “bit,” but it sure brings a new part of my personality to the surface, whoa baby!

      • Karen said,

        March 5, 2013 at 6:16 AM

        I might just have to forgo family Easter, and come laugh at you! XO

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