Of ‘Missing Pieces’

“I dwell in Possibility.”–Emily Dickinson, #657

“We make ourselves up as we go.”–Kate Green

Periodically, along the way in our lives, we become temporarily, sometimes permanently, aware of missing pieces. These moments of awareness of things and people missing in our lives haunts us from time to time, alternating teasing and frustrating us in our daily lives.

When we are young we first become conscious of missing pieces that we desire, these being typically external. On a basic level, we may lack healthy food, clean air or water. Perhaps we are born into a lower economic level with none of the toys and possessions that some of our friends have. Or that we may find ourselves in a single-parent situation, wondering why we don’t have a mother’s or father’s presence to complete our sense of what a family ought to be. As always with missing pieces, we believe that our lives will somehow be better if we have the particular absent thing or person.

Later in school, we may find ourselves wishing we could be or do better in certain school subjects or in athletics. Perhaps we long to be the star of the school play, the valedictorian, and so forth. For many teens, however, the main goal is an inner one of belonging, social acceptability, respect, and having friends outside of family. Unfortunately, those kids that are shy, handicapped, different, or from a very different culture may find themselves ‘on the outside’ of many of the social situations and approvals they long for, which, in turn, may become the missing pieces of their formative years.

In adulthood, the missing pieces might be such things as having a place to live independent of one’s parents, owning one’s own house, being married, having babies, raising a family of one’s own, or having a good-paying job with ample opportunities for both career advancement and job satisfaction. It is important to recognize that, by this stage in life, adult missing pieces often have to do with autonomy, relationships, success, and achievement.

Eventually, by mid-life, concerns tend to become more ‘inner’ once again. With age and aging, people typically become more aware of matters of the heart and soul that satisfy and sustain us in the midst of an oft-corresponding decline in mind, physical powers, and a lesser emphasis on materialism. It is at this stage that many become aware that there is more to life than making money, ambition, performance, and success in its more obvious external forms.

The missing pieces we ultimately crave then are usually about being understood, accepted, and appreciated for who and what we are. They are also about giving, loving, and sacrificing for others and those values or things we consider to be more personally meaningful and, obviously, deeply satisfying.

Life usually becomes more interesting and fun when we address our missing pieces. This process itself can lift us out of the worst depressions and doldrums. Acting on missing pieces usually requires boldness and confidence that one is doing something that is right and best for oneself (and perhaps others). Choice is not enough, though; one can, of course, simply wallow in mere desire and longing. The courage to be true to ourselves and to actualize ourselves is inevitably an individual transcendence of self, mere facts, and the limits of whatever contexts. What is required, ultimately, is a will to action, personal fulfillment, and self-completion.

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”–Shirley Hutton

(previously published here September 19, 2012)

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