Author, Author

I tend to read two books at a time — one serious, one fun — because that’s just how I roll. A few weeks ago, I was delighted to discover that both books I was reading shared a similar, and important, message.

First, from “Hola Papi” by John Paul Brammer:

“We can’t change the events of our lives. They happened, and there they are. But the lines we draw to connect those events, the shapes we make and the conclusions we reach, those come from us. They are our own design.”

John Paul Brammer

Second, from “Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:1

“But these transformations require that a person be prepared to perceive unexpected opportunities. Most of us become so rigidly fixed in the ruts carved out by genetic programming and social conditioning that we ignore the options of choosing any other course of action. Living exclusively by genetic and social instructions is fine as long as everything goes well. But the moment biological or social goals are frustrated — which in the long run is inevitable — a person must formulate new goals, and create a new flow activity for himself, or else he will waste his energies in inner turmoil.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Brammer book is a funny memoir by a gay advice columnist; the subtitle is “How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons.” The Csikszentmihalyi book is academic and ponderous. It explores how people can achieve a state of flow — that’s what it’s called when you’re totally engrossed by an activity — and the implications for sports, academics, creative pursuits, parenthood, religion, and society at large.

So, yeah, two very different books. I don’t think Csikszentmihalyi brings up the subject of gay porn even once!2 But notice how the two messages resonate on the same frequency. The authors say we may not be able to change things in the past, but we get to choose how we interpret them, define them, and what meaning to derive from them.

This is my takeaway: No matter what has happened, or what others have told us, or what expectations have been set for us, we can create our own narratives and forge a path forward that is fulfilling and makes us happy. And it’s up to us to take action and make that happen.

That’s a message that bears repeating, rewriting, and rereading as much as possible.

1 He recently passed away. Check out my flowbituary.
2 An unforgivable oversight on Csikszentmihalyi’s part.