Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Circumstance of Opportunity

“Lorin, don’t you dare…!”

“Ok, Grandma, I don’t tell anyone the guy in the picture is Lee.”

(And I’m not gonna, either.)

The trip the boys and I took to Grandma’s ranch this summer marked a turning point in the life of each of the four of us, for varying reasons.

For starters, it was the first time my boys spent more than maybe 24 hours at the ranch in the summertime, much to my embarrassment. Grandma and Grandpa bought the 88 acre piece of land in 1976, and I have spent probably more time there than anywhere else, excepting my own individual homes. So yes, that my sons are 11 and 13 and just now spending several days at the hunk of hot land, which I secretly refer to as a private haven… Yeah, Mom of the Year, right here.

Secondly (or thirdly, if you count the boys individually…), Grandma came out of her shell in a way I had never seen before. She had been re-arranging her photo albums, and it appeared as if she had been eagerly anticipating the opportunity to share her memories.


As we perused the albums, she remembered such detail, that I was genuinely surprised. My grandma is not a young woman. Family, girlfriends… Guy friends… (Notice I did not say “boyfriends”?)

Grandma was engaged to a young man who went to WWII. The story I had always remembered was that Grandma’s fiancé died in the war while she was waiting for him to come home and marry her. I guess I didn’t learn that story from Grandma, because that isn’t what happened.

“Well, Dear, your mom assumed whatever, and probably just because I didn’t tell her the rest of the story.”

Well… Grandma did tell me the rest of the story.

When Grandma’s fiancé came back from the war, things didn’t exactly work out for the two of them, and they broke up the engagement. He did live through the war. He died later, but it wasn’t in the war while Grandma was waiting for him back home, as I had always believed. He passed on in a more “typical” way. (Is death ever really “typical”? Hmmm…)

But this other guy, the one Grandma got all-a-twitter about? She was pretty sure that had she been unattached, they would have dated. But back in that time, the young soldiers left for war, often planning to return to marry his bride… It was a Quixotic time.

“Lorin, all I have to say is that I wish I would have known that when my fiancé returned, it would not have worked out. I couldn’t have known that, so I wish I would have just… Done things differently.”

We talked at length about people having the tendency to hesitate, to wait for something which hasn’t happened yet. Planning for things which aren’t quite within reach, or, in other words, waiting for just the right circumstance. Of course, the “right circumstance” never comes. Things are never perfectly planned. But the circumstance which does come is really simply an opportunity.


When we sit and evaluate our life and decide when X happens, I can do Y. When I do Y, then I will feel Z. (Z typically representing happiness, of course.) And so many people say X is the circumstance. They wait for the world to change around them, so they can do Y. Y is action. Whether a decision, an outward-reaching action, or a change in perspective… Y is what we do to accomplish Z. The elusive (to some) Happiness.

So… What’s wrong with going straight to Z?

(Another topic for another day, I think…)

Ok, so maybe people aren’t always happy with the hand they’ve been dealt. Despite that we are all are generally responsible for the station we each are in our life, I’ll accept that opinion. It’s true, actually. I know there are some things I would like to be different about my own life. I think everyone would change some things if they could. So, making that change is the Y. If we are in control of the Y to get to Z, then why do we need the X?

I mentioned before that X is the circumstance. That which many people rely upon, to create the right environment for Y to be possible. (Or, at the least, comfortable.) But why does X have to be what happens around us? Why can’t X be opportunity?

(I haven’t strayed too far from Grandma, trust me.)

If X is circumstance to most, why couldn’t the circumstance be the circumstance of opportunity?

Here’s the cool thing… We don’t have to wait for opportunity to find us. We already have opportunities in our back pockets.

When we reach in and pull out an X, we can go through with Y. That will get us to our Z.

Me, I’m a Z Girl. I reach for the opportunity.

When we keep our eyes and ears open, and connect to those around us, we are constantly filling our cache of opportunities. Well, potential opportunities. It’s the person you met at a dinner party who happens to be a publisher, the dad of a friend who happens to have an advertising firm, and bumping into a graphic artist at the grocery store… Maybe not all contacts are opportunities we can jump into at the moment, but opportunities with potential.

I guess that’s what Grandma saw with her, uh, friend. Opportunity. With potential.

Back in 1942, Grandma didn’t engage in anything “inappropriate” with this friend of hers, of course. But the opportunity for a relationship might have been there, and there’s a part of her that wonders what would have happened if it had been realized. (I can tell you that if she had, I probably would not be around to be having the conversation over 65 years later…) But Grandma is one tough cookie, who has taken on her fair share of opportunities.

“Dear, all I have to say is when you see your opportunity, you’d better take it. You never know what will happen if you do, but you’ll never find out when you don’t.”

I guess that makes Grandma a Z Girl, too.

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