Being in love with not knowing

I read an article the other day in the Writer’s Chronicle magazine. It was an interview with American poet Camille Dungy. I have to admit, before reading the article, I had never heard of Camille. Now, I’m seeking out her work. And as I read her interview, I felt compelled to pull out my pen and underline some of her insights. They resonated with me in my reflections of my simple desires. Here’s is one in particular that stood out:

“Look, life is one long terror from the birth canal to the hospice house. In between there are a few moments where you think you know what you’re doing and you can rest. But, of course, you don’t and you can’t. I have chosen not to be afraid of writing into that terror.”

Okay, perhaps to look at life as one long terror might come across as frightening and depressing, but there is truth here. None of us really know where we’re heading. We’re all just doing our best, and at times the road can be pretty scary.

fork in the road

Embrace the possibility of not knowing which way to go next.

Of course there are times when we feel we have some clarity, and we get excited and start running down the path like excited little children, leaping and skipping freely along the way. Until suddenly we don’t anymore, and the path splits into five possible directions, and terror rears its ugly head again because the choices are overwhelming and we can’t see what lurks around the corner. Sometimes the path is dark and menacing, or foggy and murky. But that’s what life is. That’s the journey and it’s up to us to decide how we’ll walk our path – in terror of the unknowing allowing it to paralyze us to stay in one spot, or to become in love with it and embrace the unknowing for all of its possibility.

Recently, as you can tell from my last blog post, I’ve been choosing the former. I’ve been frozen on the path, having no idea which way to go next. But, after writing that post, I finally invited Ariadne back into the ring with me, and together we’ve pulled some good punches on Anders. He’s not looking so buff anymore 🙂

I have finally realized that having no idea which way to go next is actually a very beautiful and empowering thing. The beauty of reaching “no idea” – absolutely having no idea – means you are now open to any idea, and you therefore have to live in faith because there is no other choice. Faith is free. It frees us to be more than we thought possible and releases us from a need to know.

When I let Ariadne back in and embraced my not knowing, my world instantly opened up and we finally brought Anders to his knees. But man, did I resist it and I allowed myself to wallow in my terror of not knowing, begging for answers, frantically seeking for anyone/anything to show me a clear direction to take. But my path – everyone’s path – is ever evolving and sometimes you need to go through the “I have no idea” stage because the answer cannot yet be given. You have to just take one more step and then another one, letting go and trusting that that path will become clear again. All you have to do is keep moving forward.

So, my new simple desire is to have absolutely no idea, but to be committed to taking one more step, and with that, I can once again be free and open to new possibility and light.

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Reflections on friendship, possibility and change

Every once in a while we meet someone who shifts our world a little bit. Someone who sees us in a way not many others can. Someone who accepts us more willingly and openly than most. And when we are blessed to come across such a person, our load becomes lighter and we see new possibility in our lives to which we had previously been blind.

I’ve been blessed over the past couple of years or so to have had such a person in my life. A colleague who quickly became a friend because of her generous, warm spirit. On days that were dull and tedious, she brought light and purpose. On days that were stressful and heavy, she brought laughter and levity. On days that were joyous and fun, she delighted in the moment.

I am writing about her today, because as of yesterday, my friend is starting a new journey in her life in her well-deserved retirement. A new journey she’s not sure she is completely ready for, but one I know will see her fly in ways she never thought possible.

Starting a new phase in life can be terrifying – whether it’s retiring, becoming a new parent, starting a new career. The fear of the unknown is daunting, but it is precisely in these moments of great change when the greatest discovery of self takes place. It is precisely at the time when our carefully crafted foundations are rocked that we discover more deeply who we are, more clearly what we are capable of and can stand more firm in our new knowing.

Change is powerful because it forces us out of our comfortable selves where we tend to settle for less than who we are and shows us what could be. It breaks down the constrained definitions we have of life, and shines light in the dark corners we worked hard to conceal. But what is funny is that on the other end of a significant change, when we get past the initial denial, anger, and resistance, finally stop fighting and learn the lessons the change has taught us, what was once the unknown becomes familiar and we begin to settle again.

So instead of hiding from change and the unknown, let’s seek it out. Instead of fearing the uncomfortable, let’s embrace it. Instead of holding back from new possibility let’s boldly walk toward it.

I desire this for my friend as she walks this new path. I desire this for myself when I am faced with the unexpected, and I desire this for anyone who seeks to be more than they are right now.

As I read back these reflections, I recognize they are not so simple desires. I know I will not always be able to live up to what I hope for myself and for those around me. I can only continue to seek and try, and when I come up short – as I very often will – I can only hope that I will remember the gifts from my friend, the lessons she taught me, and the simple desires she inspired today.