Definition: De·noue·ment [dey-noo-mahn] noun
“A final part of a story or drama in which everything is made clear and no questions or surprises remain.
The final stage or climax of a series of events.”
The meditation facilitator asked, “Who or what are you resisting?”
This was a good question for me now, I thought. He suggested that we ask it of ourselves exactly like that, “who or what are you resisting?” and not “am I resisting?” Asking this way allows us to be receptive to hearing an answer rather than cognitively searching for one.
Is this one of those solutions in search of a problem? This quandary (perplexity?) was part of my meditation for days. In other words, am I going to dig up resistance to the question posed by the facilitator just to please him and feel like a good meditator? I wanted this to be the answer, naturally, because whatever I was resisting was resisting the meditation. Exhale. Let the conflict flow out, the muscles loosen and sink into the chair. Days were spent not in meditation but in contemplation of whether I was willing to accept the premise that I was, in fact, resisting.
The walls started crowding in a little, and the things that I beat myself up over and over and over, flooded my mind like water on a ship that found a weakness in the hull. The committee in my mind went wild. “Well, you won’t accept that you can’t drink caffeine because it’s not good for you. And why won’t you go to sleep at a decent hour, and you haven’t been writing enough? And what have you really accomplished anyway?” The self-lashing was relentless. Something tells me that the purpose of this meditation, on acceptance and resistance, did not have as its purpose to make me accept, and stop resisting, the fact that I have totally squandered my potential as a human being.
And then, remembering what the facilitator suggested, I posed the question, “who or what are you resisting?”
The answer that came to me first, was “denouement.”
At 62, I’m looking at my life’s goals with a horizon line that is in view. A couple of years ago I flew to Dallas for my Uncle’s funeral. All the people in the generation ahead of me, my mother and her generation, were not getting old. They were old. I saw them marching in with oxygen tanks, walkers, and wheelchairs. The unassisted bimodal walkers of that generation were in the minority, not the majority. With utter dread, I realized that my generation is up. We’re next. My mourning, I hate to admit, was as much for me as it was for my deceased Uncle, my Aunt, and my cousins who had lost a father. I saw my life slipping rapidly through the sands of time. That image and feeling has been working on me for a couple of years.
Add to this already self defeating realization of my limited time left, that two of my very best lifetime friends are gone, having died of natural causes much sooner than we had ever expected. This abruptness of life’s end has me seeking an exit from the fear I have, not so much of death itself, but of the denouement. How will I tie things up? I like things to be tidy. They are not. They have never been.
I am one of those very rare people who has known since I was a child exactly what I want to do, and to be, when I grow up. At age 10, having started reading Edgar Allen Poe and writing poetry of my own, I knew I was destined to be a writer, and write I did. I have written throughout my life, but I have not been a writer, making a living with my written word. I haven’t produced multiple novels to date, just one that rests safely on a shelf, unpublished.
At fourteen I read “The Fifty-Minute Hour” and knew that I wanted to be a Therapist.
Going to college with my duel dreams in tow, I majored in psychology and minored in English. Once graduated, I followed my heart and future bride to NY, and after a few years of stumbling alcoholism I got sober, took my series 7 and became a stockbroker. That is what I did for 20 years, forgetting the dreams of my youth. And then, at 47, I went back to grad school, got my Masters in Counseling, and built a therapy practice which I engage in today.
There is so much more I have to do.
There are two literary projects I’m working on, an aging mother whom I don’t make enough time for, a teenage daughter whose life I don’t want to miss, and a grown daughter whose family is a blessing that I want to spend more time with. Finally, there is my wife, who when I leave (assuming I am first), I want to be set financially, and that is not true yet.
It is not tidy.
It occurred to me, a couple of weeks into the meditation on resistance, that my concept of denouement has been too deeply influenced by modern cinema and literature. The story line goes like this … conflict, conflict, more conflict, and resolution; the end. Life goes many different ways. The end is one over which we have varying degrees of no-control. For my friends who died in their early 60s, their end was completely abrupt. For my uncle, who died at 95, it was as well ordered as it could be.
The truth is that the denouement is its own story, and has its own beginning, middle, and end. As with all the stages of life from the triumph of standing and taking that first step to the missteps I’ve made in marriage before getting it right the third time, life is a process. The denouement is its own process and for me, the beginning was at my uncle’s funeral. The middle is now and how I deal with it. The end is at the end. By resisting the middle I do not put off the end. The denouement flows through me now, unhindered by my resistance but yes, there is still a healthy (I believe) dollop of fear. That fear is the end. When I break through that, the resistance finally will be gone.