Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It Is The End… Or is it?

"Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end."
This line is from "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel", an excellent movie that I went to see with my wife/best friend within 24 hours of returning to North America. Of course, life just doesn't simply work out "all right" all the time for everyone. The good guys don't always win. Accidents in fact do happen and they don't always end up better than was planned. Life is not a fairy tale, particularly for those who have degenerative, chronic and incurable diseases. The movie theme line seems absurd. Or is it? 
The movie is about a number of senior citizens in their "golden years". Euphemistically, this refers to those of us who have arrived at the seats closest to the exit sign. Each of the characters in the movie question his/her, own values, deepest fears and uncertain futures. They each ask in their own way, "How then shall I spend my most precious nonrenewable resource, time?" Having recently reached the seniors discount age of 60 (got me into the movie for $7.50), and having completed the biggest item on my bucket list (my round the world trip), I'm left with the same basic question, "Where to from here?"

Most people who grapple with this question realize that it is really not one question. It leads to a multitude of inquiries. In my case, it starts with, "How do I prepare for reentry after being away for such a long time?" "What are the risks of 'burning up on reentry', having a rough landing, or gliding easily into the reality that I let go of temporarily?" Realistically, it is bound to be a mixture of reunions, storytelling, and bumpy patches on the runway. Okay, but how can I best prepare? 

First, I won't waste time worrying about things I can't yet deal with. Second, I will not engage in the actual reentry until it is time (unless my involvement is necessary). I've managed for over two months not to get drawn away from the experiences I had planned for. Why change that yet? Third, when tempted to live tomorrow today, remember that I only have today, make the most of that. Finally, start thinking about the next adventure. It's like coming to the end of a vacation and, at the same time, beginning to plan for a new one.
Another area leading from the question, "where to from here?" requires an evaluation of my experiences over the last 2 1/2 months. What did I learn about myself, others, my fears and dreams? What lessons will I take with me? In what ways do I build upon the experiences and relationships? Clearly, these will take some time to process, but the answers will inevitably inform the future.

Yet another area resulting from the same question must build the answers to the first inquiries. In other words, if life is a journey, an adventure, what choices do I need to make about the next destination, the next big challenge.

This all brings me back to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". For those of you who have not seen the movie, you might want to stop reading now. For those of you who have, you will recognize the specific characters. How did each of the characters respond to the question, "Where to from here"?  Graham, the retired judge, pursued an unfulfilled obligation before he died. Jean, a high society woman, retreated to what had been "normal". Muriel, a gruff difficult personality, found a way to use past skills and abilities to find a renewed sense of purpose and value in living. Two characters, Madge and Norman, both incurable philanderers, pursued self-indulgences in an attempt to cling to prior glories. Yet two others, Douglas and Evelyn, romantics at heart, redefined life's potential for new adventures. The characters' choices became alternatives to the movie audience. Which answer to the question, "Where to from here?" would you choose, and why?

While the quote referenced at the top of this post may be absurd at one level, it represents a way to answer the question, "where to from here". It is a perspective that allows each of us to decide, despite our circumstances, that today is not the end. We can choose the way forward and do what we can so that "Everything will be all right in the end".


  1. Congratulations Bob - It was a real pleasure to read of your experiences and impressions on your around the world adventure. Your blog was one of the top sites that I checked each morning, always excited to read of where you are and what you are going through. You have got a lot of guts and definately an inspiration for me. We'll have to chat later to get more details of your trip.

  2. Bob I enjoyed meeting you and hearing you speak in Auckland. I have enjoyed your blog also. I have attached the link to my humble effort (which has been a looooong time coming)- which I launched just prior to leaving for the Australian conference in Brisbane. I hope you enjoy it. Best wishes, hope to see you in Montreal next year. AJ

  3. Sorry - I forgot to add the link doh!! www.youngandshaky.com