Through life and laughter, love and longing, light and loss and lift I become myself.
Who said that? I did.
Many poets and thinking writers have writ of the dark woods, the dark night of the soul, the longing for meaning, the whole point of this life and I am one. I am not afraid, as the world is, of what the world calls the dark side. We all have one, we all know it is there with us even as we run from it. I don’t run. Unless the twin is recognised and acknowledged, the unit will never be complete, never whole and never at peace. Life and death are such twins, one we love and celebrate and repeat stupid platitudes about, the other is whispered and avoided at all cost. I notice it when a blog I write is not about the ice cream and candy side of our human condition. Less comments come through. Nobody wants to think about the pain they all carry, we all carry but cannot quite explain. We wish it away, cover it with sprinkles or ignore it hoping it will give up trying to get our attention. But, like a toddler on a mission, it will never do that. Turn around. Look at it. Say hallo, I see you, shall we talk awhile? It is a rare human who has that level of courage and vulnerability and yet it is the only way to fill the big black hole inside, the one we hope will accept the material wealth we throw at it – the millions of hours we take away from our families in order to climb the social or corporate ladder, in the foolish hope that this will be enough. It isn’t, wasn’t and never will be.
In my life now there is only me here to fill the hours. This means I can read and study, ponder and reflect without interruption. I have never known such a state, interruptions having been the norm for 68 years. I have even been that interruption myself, on occasions. These long stretches of time afford me space and peace within which to pursue whatever I fancy. I can follow the flight of a bumble bee, a dragonfly, a thought. I can read for hours until my bum is numb. I can wear my frocks back to front, inside out, eat banana with marmite on muesli, sing loudly in Portuguese and dance Tango with a chair. I know that the older we get the thinkier we become. It is as if we finally begin to understand the Elusive Puzzle – what the hell am I here for? Yes we work, bring up kids, do our best, learn how not to overcook sprouts and other important things, but even with a socking great list of lifely achievements, that list never really satisfies, never brings the aha we seek.
I spend a great deal of time saying thank you. For pretty much everything, the bad and the good. Why, you ask, are you thankful for the bad? Because the bad, so named, is actually of immense value. It is the shadow side, the dark side of the whole, of life in all her beautiful and mysterious self. To be thankful for all that happens, all that has already happened, warts, whips and wastes is to begin to understand the point of being alive, of being here right now wherever you are. Precious human, pointfull life-liver, valued, important, needed. Every single one of us. The mistake we all make in this life, and I include myself, is that we focus on what we get, or got, wrong. It feels like an impossible flight to make, the one that shows us all we do and have done right, those times we laughed with friends, with family, shared their joys and pain, engaged in a way that held us fully present within the moment. There will be zillions of those times in every single life. Why do we remember the times we ‘failed’? I have no answer but I do know enough now to consciously shift my thought plates into a new dynamic, one that affords my feet purchase on level ground and from where I can still be of good use to others, even at my age. If I am always slipping down my own slippery slope, thinking only of my faults, falls and failings, I am of little use to my own self, never mind that of others. Yet, in our culture of running away from our own darkness in the mistaken belief that we could ever outrun such a sentient presence, we simply exhaust ourselves, and then we slip once more down our own slippery slope.
We all know and remember how quick our primary caregivers were to judge us. To varying degrees, in surprising amounts, we all know. This decides our adult thinking unless we choose to build ourselves anew, once we fly the nest. It is not simples, not at all. It takes a ‘traveller’s’ mindset. We read that anything is possible if we just believe. believe in what? Yes, we can believe in what someone else achieves but in our own self? No, that is never going to happen. As I said before, it takes the willingness to be vulnerable and to find a strong source of courage, in spite of seeing nothing ahead but the dark woods.
A while back, I was asked a question. What would you be right now, if you could choose your life? No thinking, just a first response, thus not based on your own limited mental DNA, your own experience thus far. I didn’t think. A Tracker, I said. Good lord, where in the heck did that come from? Me, a tracker? I am scared of everything. I would be a terrible tracker, snivelling on the peripheries and wishing I was home by the fire with a cup of rosy. When we are put on the spot like that, no over-thinking-just-respond, we speak our own truth. Having come from a town, known pavements better than I knew any field of wildflowers or expanse of tundra, or wilderness, forget wilderness, this tracker thing is nonsense. I have been watching too many Pixar movies. But, hold. Wait. Why not? I see everything when I walk. I know every track, even the slide of a snake across my path. I see the flattened grass beside a kill and know it is otter or mink. I see spoor and know the night animal who passed this way, and when. I know. I know. I am a tracker. Then I remember how I am curious about how this person got here, how their eyes tell me more than their mouths will ever do. I see what others miss. I am a tracker. And my brain knows this.
Our lives are so much richer and deeper than we realise as we bound away from the shadow self. We are more than we think, more than the tight pants the world has told us are the best fit. The most joyful people I have ever met have done something outrageously courageous at the wrong time in their lives, according to the world. They said a big NO to corporate misery and went across oceans to work with dolphins. They said a big NO to a broken relationship and moved into the dark woods, though the long labour of renaissance and into a new light. They moved from city to wilderness, to a shack without power or running water and opened an orphanage for street kids. Their eyes tell me everything. They found their ‘tracker’ and it is good. Courage. Vulnerability. Are you who you really want to be? If so, I am happy for you. If not, check out the dark woods. the thing about darkness is that, pretty soon, our eyes adapt and the way reveals itself.