Do any of us know where we're going? Perhaps the lucky few who have discovered, truly, who they are might. But for the rest of us, I think just knowing where we are is the best we can do.
Speaking for myself, I've always found that "where do you want to be in five years" a terrible question. Who can know such a thing? Well, no one, obviously. So I'll rephrase--who has any inkling of such a thing? There are things I'd love to do--travel off of this continent, buy a house, pay off school loans. Those are my top three. But to put them in a time frame fills me with anxiety and throws into sharp relief the time I've "wasted" or spent otherwise.
And, of course, sometimes the universe has other plans for us. So. Back to the beginning. Knowing where we are, where we (sometimes, quite literally) stand, is, with whole-hearted certainty, the best we can do at a moment's notice.
I understand the impulse to eat the entire cake and begin again tomorrow. I get it and I've absolutely done it, from cake to cigarettes. But that beginning again tomorrow business has two fatal flaws: 1) the belief that you have done something necessitating beginning again (as opposed to just living your life with joy) and 2) the seductive darkness of the night before. Night can absolutely be peaceful and restful, but we're not talking about those nights. We're talking about the nights when it's just you and the darkness, your inner monologue, and your unrelenting guilt, shame, and sorrow. It's the nature of the brain, it's the nature of darkness. It closes in and throws wide the door to our demons.
Then there's this idea of having to start over, as if you've done something wrong in the first place. You haven't. But night and guilt and history and shame and media can trick us--can allow us to trick ourselves--into believing there's no other choice but starting over. Again.
Sometimes saying, 'no, thank you,' is the hardest thing you'll do. It's hard because we think we need to use more words than we do. It's a habit we've picked up, I think, (or a coping mechanism) because lying is so pervasive in our culture. Surface is pervasive, using is so pervasive that when we are sincere, it sounds, especially to an ear not attuned to the pitch of our sincerity, false.
So, the hardest thing to do, aside from saying 'no, thank you,' is leaving it at 'no, thank you.' We want to explain ourselves, to rip ourselves open, head to heart and say, 'Look! Look! I'm not hiding anything. I really am this lost/this uncomfortable/this wrong for this situation.' But we can't. We can't. Because we are not responsible for how we are perceived.
Okay. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe *that's* the hardest thing. Not the saying no, but the not being believed, the lack of the assumption of sincerity and genuineness from the other party. That's what hurts. Because we're all of us doing our...
You are not yourself at your most disparaging; you are not yourself in the midst of your most negative self-talk. You are the product, in those moments, of a hard day or a hard life and the insidious infiltration of the other we call media or societal pressure or fitting in.
We can forgive ourselves everything now, because we have not only survived but thrived--look at us. We're here to tell the tale, and goddess knows we need more storytellers with our heart and our experience.
A dear, wise friend--one who knows me and all my neurosis and history and loves me still--said to me that we are too old to continue to believe that there are things we *should* do. It was the most freeing gift I've ever been given and exactly what I needed to hear.
So, to pay it forward, I'm telling you now that aside from keeping yourself and those who depend on you alive and healthy, there is very little else you should do that you truly don't want to. We've been slaves to the 'should' for our entire lives. We're too old to buy into that limiting belief, and so let's grant each other the permission to live freely, to live with heart, to rest and to be lazy or active at will, to travel or not, to be brave or frightened, to be creative or appreciative of creativity, with no guilt and no regret and absolutely no should's.
Hindsight, while necessary to avoid disaster, I suppose, can be an evil, evil ability. Looking back and wishing for otherwise is as useless as trying to teach a toddler to walk by yelling, "It's easy! Just put one foot in front of the other!"
Everything seems obvious from a distance. But, you know, some things just have to be lived through. Some falls have to be taken, and though we may repeat our habits, our destructive patterns, over and over and over again, eventually we find a moment between them, and eventually that moment will be long enough for us to gain some perspective. The danger, though, is not forgiving ourselves in that moment.
Forgiveness is the antidote to destruction. Forgive yourself as often as you can and then move forward--no looking back.
God, wishing we had done things differently will be the death of us, won't it? How many hours of our days, how many hours of sleep have we lost to rehashing our pasts, combing over them looking for the reason we are where we are, cursing ourselves for our choices, our lack of choice, our blindness, our age?
I suppose the question is, how many more hours will we throw over that cliff? Of *course* I wish I'd done so many things differently. I have a litany of them, one I know so well I could probably recite it backwards. But I'm here because I made those choices, and that path has led me, apparently, to where I need to be. I hope. Well, no. I won't hope. I'll assume, because what other choice is there?
The thing is, where do we go from here? The gift of a troubled past is that we have--we hope--the gift of perspective, the gift of wisdom. Let's not leave that gift shoved away now. It's time to haul out that box, dust it off, and start putting it to good use.
We don't know why we go through these things. Maybe it's to make us more creative thinkers, more skillful strategists and navigators--I don't know. But I do know that, sometimes, misery is inevitable, but its value is that it launches us into action, into uncovering, as my wise mother would say, plan B.
And maybe that's the point in the first place--maybe we have to walk through fire to burn away the excess, the illusions, the heavy burden of long-held desires and wishes that no longer serve us. Maybe we just give up berating ourselves for lousing up plan A and move on, lighter, with our lives.
It's so hard to show up, to be present, when you're unsure, self-conscious, anxious because there are a million things going on in your private life over which you have no control, but still--STILL! You have to show up and smile and be competent and social and it's so very hard, petals. I know it's so very hard.
And I wish I had an answer--for me, for all of us--but I don't. So, instead, together, we'll keep breathing. We'll keep carrying our talismans in our pockets and hope and will and believe that one day soon--this year; why not?--we'll wake up without needing the pep talk, without needing the talisman, without the overwhelming desire to stay hidden and safe and secret. Soon we'll see progress.