Some days life feels so easy to navigate. I bound from one occupation to the next, a smile on my lips, the sun shining on my thoughts. Obsessive questions and doubts huddle piteously in the dust of shadowy corners, knowing they’re not needed, not wanted. In fact on such days, I am barely aware of their existence. Energy flows copiously, unimpeded, until it’s used up and I fall into a tired heap of contentedness.
Then there are the days when almost everything I do feels effortful. A heaviness defines my movements and especially my thinking. It’s as if I’ve filled my tank with the wrong kind of fuel. I sputter, stutter, briefly move forward, then stall. A toxic chain guides me, as I flash from one hopeless vision to the next. It’s a tired, worn path that I wander down time and time again. My eyes rest nowhere long enough to contemplate what I see. My jaw chews mechanically, even frantically, as I seek comfort but forget to give thanks. My body turns stiff and brittle in the black cloud of static, exacerbating my imagined fragility.
Stepping back from myself, I am sometimes able to recognize that it is the nature of my thoughts which blocks out, so very effectively, the inner sunshine. I cannot blame the gray skies and omnipresent rainclouds where I live. Nor can I claim to be victim of any twisted plot. As strange as it is to consider, I am the one who has continued to feed the monster all these years. I have tread and retread the paths leading nowhere, like a blindfolded fool. I have accepted the unforgiving stare, looking back at me in the mirror, day after day and year after year.
A spring cleaning unlike any I have ever attempted seems to be in order. Though now that I consider it more carefully, it will not be unlike the work I’ve been avoiding, that will once and for all eradicate the stubborn stacks of boxes and bins that hide sheepishly behind my sofa. These boxes contain the hardest-to-part-with stuff. Quite often, it’s stuff I’ve become attached to as it follows me from one home to the next, but which serves no purpose other than weighing me down. Some boxes contain the most fearsome kind of mix – their contents have nothing in common with each other, but just happened to cohabit the same cluttered, abandoned surface until the day I was expecting company and tossed the entire lot into the dark confines of a brown box, to be dealt with at a later date.
Indeed, when I contemplate the rummaging and excavating I need to commence, in the holy war I must fight in the name of peace in my own troubled kingdom, I see it will take time, patience, honesty, and tenderness. And constant stepping back, to observe from a place of clarity, through a special lens that has the ability to focus on that which is invisible. Noxious resins form a transparent film that covers the stiff, dusty figures in my personal theater. Once I detect them, I can begin to scratch at them, slowly but surely unearthing and restoring what truly and purely belongs there.
I know of no better way to proceed than using the written word. Its solace accommodates the most frightful of characters. Its flexibility gives the gift of open arms. Its unhurried pace bestows patience and confidence. From here, I will launch my expedition. A shovel in one hand, for laborious digging, through layer upon layer of hardened sediment. A sieve in the other, for separating the raw jewels (that I must believe I will find) from the prolific crud and dust, as well as the hard bits of rock posing as something better, something valuable, something I wouldn’t want to live without.
I must prepare to embody, all at once: a scientist – directing a neutral and observant gaze upon the worksite and all that it produces; a historian – offering pieces of the past to help with the puzzle; a nurse – cradling and bandaging that which emerges from the digging with scrapes, bruises or the simply the need to be held; a poet – finding in the smallest of discoveries the greatest of messages and thus underscoring the value of carrying on; a musician – sending out universal vibrations from a place of intangible human experience; and an artist – gathering in my arms each and every precious find, and melding them all together into a new creation that gives light and has a heartbeat of its own.
It is no small challenge, the adventure I seek to embark on. And yet, I cannot see now why I would choose to turn away from it. The work promises rewards, the pain promises healing, the shift of focus promises new vistas. The idea of peace reigning in a dark and dreary place that has been scarred by civil war is utterly beautiful and inviting.
I do have fear about what I will uncover. Yet even more frightening than that thought seems to be the letting go that must be done. The terrain where I’m headed is criss-crossed with roaring brooks and vast, placid rivers. Bridges offer passage to the next bank, and though they are, of course, two-way bridges, I know that there is no sense in crossing one only to come running back over it the following day. Accepting to be carried to the opposite bank, putting faith in the bridge to guide us to safety, is necessarily accepting to leave the bank where we’ve been, and to leave it for good.
Letting go seems to be the scariest part, for me. Despite the knowledge that much of what I’ve been holding onto so desperately is clearly harmful. Releasing this firm grasp on my old ways must happen. It is the only way to secure the space and freedom I will need for this mission. I remind myself that letting go of my tattered ropes and rusty keys is quite the opposite of a suicidal leap from a high cliff. It is an invitation for new growth to put down roots and prosper, new paths to appear amongst the tall grasses, new horizons to emerge from beyond the mist, beckoning to me.
Must one also discover why one holds onto that which is harmful, or does it suffice to see that the harm is being done, and learn to live otherwise? Perhaps I will encounter my own answer to this question in my quest for lightness, joy and peace.
Trial and error is the way of life, the way almost everybody manages to get anything done, from the smallest accomplishments (though who’s to say what is small) to the great and impressive stuff, and it will also be my approach. Just one caveat: if my so-called “error” sheds new light on my path, and comes from a desire to be true to myself and others, than it isn’t a mistake, it is just a chapter, and perhaps it is even more right than wrong. Many wise people in my life have pointed this out to me of late, and I have no choice but to come around to this way of seeing, too. For otherwise, the fear of making mistakes, walking down the wrong path, disappointing myself and others, and not achieving greatness on the first try, is enough to paralyze me in my well-worn tracks, for now and for always. Onwards and upwards I must aspire!