“With everything that has happened to you, you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” ~ Wayne W. Dyer.
It is a crisp Spring morning in April and the world is still waking. The sun is up, the woodpeckers are busy as are the chirruping squirrels and the honking geese. I coax the pups outside with me and sit on the steps and enjoy the view of the distant river teeming with life as I quell the complex conversations of my busy mind. This is my life. A dichotomy of calm serenity and constant swells of anxiety, nervousness and just plain old feeling awkward. I am at times such an odd duck in my own feathers so easily ruffled that I seldom know what is real, what is good, what is OK and what is not. I live increasingly in a world in my head that I sometimes honestly don't know what to say, how to interact or just how to play well with others. I think at some level I have always been this way. It is what the Buddhists would call my "monkey mind" that place of uncontrolled, spiraling out of control thought and confusion. My response is to nestle in protected solitude with my oddities and eccentricities in a narrowing exclusion of others. It is both unnerving and comforting. This too is the real me, the one who is at constant battle with the outgoing, gregarious, affable being who inhabits the real world and who walks among the living. I am fighting my inner recluse and it feels sometimes like a losing battle. The more I set out into brave new worlds, the more I want to retreat from them and the ways these experiences change and shape me. I am resisting the vulnerability of transformation.
It isn't easy for any of us who are starting over again after the myriad hardships that befall us in a lifetime. We search for new meaning as we pick up and begin marching down unchartered pathways only to find ourselves at the juxtaposition of what we once knew as our lives and what we are meandering into as new territories. At each turn there are bright beautiful experiences that excite and entice and hold promise, new people to get to know, new problems to solve, new opportunities to embrace and for each one we try, there are old heartaches and remnants of pain not yet gone threatening the landscape we hope to explore. How do we navigate these new places in our lives, wear these new clothes over indelibly inked experiences? Let's face it: some things you just can't shake off, and others you can't erase without help. Even the most astute of us who venture into therapy, counseling or even self-help know that sometimes the only way the old painful stuff surfaces is when it bumps up against someone else's old painful stuff at the new job, the new living situation, the new friendship, partnership, relationship. Sometimes you just don't know until you know. Sometimes when you do know, it's because you've found out the hard way and blown the new job, the new place, the new friendship, partnership or relationship because the hidden stuff unexpectedly surfaced. Part of self awareness is knowing that this may happen and that can be half the battle won.
Despite being semi reclusive I have set my intention to walk through open doors. It is both a freeing and exhilarating process while being one which could be marked with great trepidation. Let's face it, change and the risk that comes with it are not easy undertakings. Yet, I have learned and embraced the knowledge that everything happens for our Highest Good despite what appearances may seem. It is truly my faith which keeps me moving forward. I know unequivocally that something good will come out of whatever I experience. Even the most painful experiences hold promise. This understanding helps me break free from the painful stuff I have encountered over my lifetime, some of the uglier lessons of which I unwittingly and often unconsciously still embrace. Every moment is a life lesson, granted some of them I would rather not have, but they become necessary pieces of the painting of my life. While I may long for the unmarred or at least less disturbed canvases of my youth, the reality is my life is a series of paintings some lovely some not so much, each one more detailed than the last. It is this one I am in that I am working on with forethought, intention, clarity and a better working relationship with my Co-creator. Through this experience, I have become increasingly self aware and am making the self corrections necessary to create the beautiful life I seek. As I observe others I am grateful to learn from their shared experiences.
One of my friends spoke recently about her desire to slow down in a developing attraction in her life. She exhibited a self awareness that can only be appreciated. She knew where her triggers were and where she might be vulnerable and volatile. Another friend was taking months to house hunt, not just because she couldn't find the "right" place, but because she really wanted to understand the communities where she was seeking to live. She wanted to understand how she would move in and through these places; what she might find when she got there, not just logistically, but in ways which were fulfilling and meaningful. One recent conversation revealed a friend's inner turmoil, "If they only knew," she responded when someone commented on her calm and peaceful demeanor. She is keenly aware of her inner chaos and conflict and how it might impact and inform the world around her. So she chooses calm and works through the issues that surface in other less volatile ways. I admire these women for the work they have done around acting with intention and in choosing the lives they wish to lead in the ways they wish to lead them. Their conscious choices and deliberate actions have reduced the crazy making that happens for a lot of us who often fly by the seat of our pants. That isn't to say that what they choose is not a difficult path or that they don't have challenges. It just means that their challenges don't manifest the dilemmas some of us create in our lives. And let's be clear; we do create them.
I am an unfinished masterpiece. I am highly aware of the rich brush strokes my Creator has given me. I know there are a lot of details left to fill in and when I am completed I hope that many will gaze upon the Master's brilliance in awe and wonder. In the meantime though, I continue to figure out how to move with intention in my own life, how to become the person I so long to be and better integrate those parts of me that feel crazy and sane, difficult and easy, curious and knowledgeable, vulnerable and open, awkward and confident. I pray I haven't missed too many opportunities to relieve me from my self-imposed retreat. I am learning how to be gentler with me and as one of my friends often says, "How to teach others to treat me." I'm not easy, but I'm not that difficult either. Like many of us of a certain age, I have war wounds, battle scars and occasional minefields that can really mess up the lovely picture I create for myself if I let them. The key is in understanding that they are there and that they have potential to be something other than what I would choose. I fully believe in the possibility of a beautiful life because of the war wounds rather than despite them.
The pups are snoring softly now; full of fresh morning air and breakfast we will take the walk to the river. I will laugh at the busy beaver, wave to the rowers, giggle at the gaggle of geese, greet the joggers and dog walkers we pass and continue in my quiet contemplation. I'd really like to get this right. So, I continue to fight that desire to go in and close the doors behind me while watching the world from across a windowsill. I stand in this place of open and reflective vulnerability, take risks and hopefully learn from my missteps. I will work on my self judgments and remember that we are all masterpieces in various states of completion and that being unfinished simply means I am still alive in a life worth living. Mostly, I will continue as I walk through open doors and quiet my monkey mind to be in awe of each of these vast experiences, take in from them whatever they bring: joy, peace, love, happiness, lessons and embrace it all joyfully. Change, they say is constant. I say, it is growth and it is all good.
Robin G. White is the author of two published collections of poetry, the award-winning, Resurrection: A Collection of Work and Reflections of a Life Well Spent and one collection of erotica, First Breath. She has authored The Omphaloskepsis Guided Writing Journal, an eBook, When Love Departs: Writings of Transition, is completing her first collection of short fiction, Intersections, and her memoir, One of These Things Is Not Like the Others, a collection of love poems, Bois Like Gyrls, a healing collection of transformational poetry, Metanoia and is editing a family collection of writings about Faith Hope and Love called, These Three Things. In addition she is the pseudonymous author of seven children's books. Her work is widely anthologized. She is educator and a speaker on the power of faith and transformational living. She resides in the Greater Boston area.