"Do you know what the secret of life is?" Curly holds up one finger, and then says, "This." Mitch is mystified. "Your finger?" Curly shakes his head. "One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean shit." Mitch asks, "But what is the 'one thing?'" Curly just smiles. "That's what you have to find out."I always like that scene because I think we are all searching for meaning of life. Or maybe that's most of us. When we have enough to eat, shelter, the
In City Slickers, Mitch has the life he had been taught he should want, but he's unhappy. He feels trapped, and he's sliding into middle age or already there. The cattle drive is where he hopes to find what he feels he's been missing. He wants that one thing and does not know where to find it. It turns out it was inside him all along. It just took the cattle drive to bring it out.
Always after I watch the film (which is worth watching for me just for its great western theme music), I think about the one thing for my life.
Some people are born with the one thing drilled into them from seemingly birth. It does not change. They might do other things alongside it, but it's the driving force; and for a lifetime, it will be the same. Some never find the one thing and maybe don't care about it. They are satisfied to just get along and be happy. They don't need a driving force.
For me, at least in one sense, the one thing has changed with my years. I suppose I could say that it was being creative as that has been with me my whole life, but often it took a backseat to other things, and I didn't mind. I didn't have to do it. I just did do it generally with a lot of variety through the years.
I believe for my first twenty years, my one thing was to get to be an adult and be ready for being on my own. It was growing, getting an education, learning how the world worked, finding some friends, experiencing as much as I could to help me figure out what I'd want for the rest of my life. That was my driving force for those first twenty years or so. During that time though I told stories. As a child it was play. When I got older, it was writing down short stories. Even riding in a car, I'd be making up stories in my head, while I was traveling somewhere with my family. For me though, it wasn't a one thing. That was getting myself to being an adult and launched into the world.
Then came a shift and my one thing was raising my children. It became everything to me even though I continued to write, paint, sculpt during their growing up years. Those though were not the one thing for me. They were. Holding my children in my arms, making their lives as good as I could, giving them the experiences I had had growing up, experiences that would help them figure out what they wanted for their lives. That was my one-- maybe even obsessive-- thing. I continued to write down my stories during those years but didn't care if I did anything with them because the obsession was my children. I believe that lasted about thirty years until they were both launched.
The shift from an obsession can be rough, and they don't call it the empty nest for nothing. In one sense, I was prepared for it if you ever can be. Before I had my first child, I had read Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique. She said (paraphrased) that your last child had to be your creative work. She didn't call it the one thing but she might as well have. Still, when you see your children launched into independent adults there is both loss and satisfaction. I knew I needed something to replace what had consumed me.
For the years after they left, I think I drifted a bit without a recognizable one thing. I spent several years doing clay sculpture, painting people, and continued to write stories. At that point, I saw none of them as the one thing. As I look back on it now though I see they all revolved around telling a story of life. I kept this work mostly to myself. I did not have a need to have it be seen. I knew some was not exactly societally acceptable. I mean I painted and sculpted nudes, both male and female. As I created each one, always I thought of them as telling a story. Those were also the years I went through my own explorations of the spirit and made huge changes in what I believed spiritually. I explored my femaleness and took photos that I couldn't ever share with the world. (no, not porn but definitely sensual and sometimes daring at least in my thinking). While drifting, I experienced things in life that I never had before.
I consider those years of drifting, without a one thing, as very important for what would come next-- when again I would have a one thing, and it was writing-- possibly the underlying story all along for my life. When writing became the one thing, it involved also acknowledging myself as an author by publishing and promoting my work-- the step I'd not taken with earlier creative endeavors. Writing, and all that goes with it, today is the one thing. It took some doing, but I finally accepted it as mine, acknowledged publicly the work, and owned it as being me.
That doesn't mean I can't do other things like be involved with family and friends. It does mean there are times where the writing is all I do. Then I need to step away to take care of the human part of my reality. A one thing can be an obsession, but it does not have to be 'everything' in a person's life-- at least not in my life.
Some people need a one thing that lasts a lifetime. They will fit their children into it or maybe put off having children for it. They will do whatever they need to do to bring it to fulfillment. Some don't need a one thing at all. Some though will be like me-- the one thing changes with their changes or remains dormant until the right time.
The photos of the lambs are not the one thing for me ;). They are a seasonal reality right now. They illustrate growth, change, and a part of my life. Having them was one of those life goals that got fulfilled-- and incidentally fits nicely into the one thing!
Finally, I'd be interested in knowing. Do you have a one thing? If you do, was it always there or did it change throughout your life?