A New Life

A New Life

What’s a new life, and how do you get one? So many people have been saying to me recently, enjoy your new life; but if I have a new life, it’s news to me. I keep looking for the landmarks of change and missing them. Either because I don’t know what I’m looking for or the fog of reality is too thick, I can’t latch onto the outlines of things that will make me recognize the new life’s arrived; insinuating, although it’s never said, a happier one bringing peace and fulfillment. The new life people hype is clearly meant to be an improvement.

What is it so many others think they see so clearly? As much as my recent move from the huge home my husband and I once owned has relieved much tension and stress, I’ve found the old life I’d call uniquely mine still with me. It seems I’ve carried it from age to age and place to place even though I often tried to leave it behind. No matter what I do, it’s still my same life along the way. Walked or run away from like a piece of old luggage one hopes never to see again, I still find that familiar, crumpled old valise is always right there with me, a shadow attached to my side. Peter Pan couldn’t fly away fast enough to escape it.

In my quest to figure out where the new life is and why it’s eluding me, I’ve done some research with the professional proponents of ‘new life’ acquisition. Many appear to be Christian faith ministries, though all forms of healers get into the act through Yoga, Meditation, psychiatric counseling and even social media platforms. Also,  a couple of ‘creativity experts’ suggest they’ve found the path to a new life, which comes cringingly close to some of the work I’ve done myself in the past, without much success I might add; though no one ever admits that.

The gist of all of these, what they all share in common, is the notion that something is missing from your current life; that you must add or subtract something in order to have a new one.  Change itself, it’s suggested, is enough to gestate the new entity; and oddly enough, I believed that because I wanted to. I knew all the good wishes from others for this new life were only well meant bromides, but I hoped the sheer volume of support would make them effective. Yet even Peter Pan figured out it took more than a few stitches to attach a shadow to your side, and I have a feeling that what J.M. Barrie knew about living the life we’re dealt was lodged in Peter’s inability to leave Neverland.

“I like to call it the Peter Pan Syndrome.” One of my writer friends nodded knowingly as I complained about the elusiveness of the new life everyone thinks I’ve acquired.

“Why? Because I won’t grow up, or something?” The involuntary shake of my head suggested I wasn’t convinced—yet. My friend has a way of seeing things differently than anybody else, so listening can be unusually valuable.

“A bit of that.” He was reassuring if nothing else. “What’s ironic about his growing up is the way Peter Pan was born.”

“You know how Peter Pan was born?”

“I do. Barrie pretended to be his brother who’d died as a child…” I could tell I looked shocked, “…for as long as his mother needed to believe it in order to recover from the loss. She recuperated fully, and James went on as himself to write wonderful books and that special play. But he brought the child who never grew up, his brother, with him everywhere forever, so even though he had his own life at last, he never really did completely. You see?”

“Maybe; if what you mean is that he might leave Neverland behind but Peter is still himself, with all his hang-ups about facing reality he had before and after. I wonder if Barrie’s mother ever figured out he was aiming Peter right at her.”

“I told you it was his brother he was trying to bring back.”

“We’ll never know the answers for sure, but I think he was aiming Peter dead center at all of us, and especially at his mother. She needed to face the truth about the brother or she’d never have a life.”

“Ha! You’ve just convinced yourself!”

My friend was clearly feeling immensely clever. He was smiling when he got up to leave.

“Typical,” I muttered under my breath. “Leaves before he finishes. Wait, wait. You mean ‘needing to face the truth’; figurative mental change rather than literal somatic change to have a new life?”

“That’s close enough,” he said as he walked out.

“I’ve always thought Peter Pan was held hostage in that damned Neverland,” I said to no one in particular.

Whether or not we can move on to a new life has everything to do with how we deal with what held us in the old one. I don’t want to go shadow-less, like Peter, so I’d like to take it nimbly and freely with me rather than have it tie me down, wherever I’m going next.  And I admit at the moment I have no idea where that will be. Maybe, “second star to the right and straight on ’til morning…” as Mr. Barrie would say. But I don’t want to carry any luggage with me.

6 Responses to A New Life

  1. There is no new life. Only the one we are living in. It changes as we travel different roads with different people who cross our path.
    Some stay with us, others just for a brief time. But our life remains the one we have lived. If we had a new life then the memories of the old life would vanish and leave us a blank slate. Oh, I wouldn’t want to be a blank slate. All the information that makes us whole is who we are. And who we are makes us better. Never forget.
    Peter Pan played an enormous role in my growing up. And his dog, Nana an even bigger one. Although they are gone from my everyday life their presence still echo’s in my DNA language and makes me who I am. Never forget.

  2. I had to think about this one a lot. I’m still thinking about it. The Peter Pan facts are fascinating — I never knew Barrie pretended to be his dead brother for his parents’sake. I think you cover very well the trauma and necessity of change as well as the growing pains it entails. Most of all I was glad to read in the previous essay, but related to the “new life” them, that you’ve found such a nice (gateless) community at the new house. I too have these new life moments which are less drastic than yours of course but the theme is universal – my kids are getting older and spending more time in school, I’m going back to work and starting a different career at 44, and looking ahead, the kids may be away at school and then in college,and then I’ll have another sort of life. And that’s just what I can foresee, not what may come up unexpectedly! But to your point its carrying over what is intrinsic and leaving behind anything that holds you back. So hard for some of us (like myself) who have trouble saying goodbye to anything. As Marie Kondo suggests, ask if it brings you joy, and if so, keep it.

    So as usual, you made me think!

    • You certainly feel that pull of change, Rachel, and even anticipatory anxiety. My problem with the ‘keep what gives you joy’ thought is figuring out why some things give us joy and if they’re really worth holding on to. I do agree that it’s easier for some than others to ‘get rid of things’, but we all have trouble with the awkwardness of the new…things, life, emotions. Meeting that discomfort head on seems the only way to make new discoveries, and it sounds as if you do it unstintingly. Good for you!

  3. On F. Scott Fitzgerlad’s birthday, I add a quote from the screenplay of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

    “I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”

  4. Thought provoking essay. Lots to ponder and try to resolve, which is great sign of good writing.
    Makes me think that while your exterior is changing in dramatic ways, the inner self is relatively stable and like your shadow and old valise is familiar over one’s entire life. Perhaps as you suggest we need to get familiar and comfortable with who we are, which is the big and significant change, not the changes that are the outside world bromides.
    Nice work, Paul

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