The other day I was hanging out with my pal, Danta, and his friend when it was time to drive them to a soccer game. In a flurry of putting on shoes and filling water bottles, as usual, Danta and I were having a ball talking to each other in silly voices, each one goofier than the last.
Danta's friend pulled on his shin guards and gave me a slow smile. "You're the craziest woman I've ever met!" Eric playfully exclaimed.
Lifting a brow, I shot back, "Oh, you have no idea."
"Yeah," Danta nodded eagerly. "No idea AT ALL!"
Then we both laughed until we snorted, much to Eric's amusement. What a gift to have a little boy in my life who certainly has a clue or two about my sometimes peculiar personality...and the gift of sharing the same silly sense of humor has been priceless. Then again, kids have always seemed to "get me", even when most adults stand by and wonder what in the world I'm up to.
Since the late nineties, my life has taken some unexpected twists and turns. I've experienced harrowing, life-changing circumstances that I would have never chosen, and wormed my way out of leaps of faith that landed me in a pile of crap instead of allowing me to wing my way to a new state of being. Though my friends have been supportive when they can, I've walked through almost all of it by myself. There were times when I longed for another person to have some idea of what it felt like to be in my shoes, so I'd reach out to call someone. But more often than not, an answering machine picked up or the phone rang incessantly and I soon realized that I was on my own in more ways than one.
In my twenties, I watched most of my friends get married and have children while I spent the better part of my days in the classroom teaching, planning, and doing endless paperwork. In my thirties, my friends were buying bigger houses, going on vacations, and raising their kids while I quit my job, started a yoga business, and struggled to launch a writing career. In my early forties, my friends' lives became increasingly demanding with work, family, and other responsibilities while mine became increasingly despondent and frustrating. Thus the impetus for my move to California. But even at Esalen, I often felt lost and alone.
It's not that I lament for what I never had. At least not anymore. For I've come to understand that I was destined for other things...and many of them have not yet begun to materialize.
I'm simultaneously a maverick and a late bloomer. For decades I've walked my own path on my own terms, all the while knowing that I haven't really come to terms with who I am or what I'm supposed to be doing. It's only been in the past nine months that I've begun to truly embody the contentment of going my own way, beginning anew with the wisdom I've gained, the scars I'm enduring, and the grace that allows me to wake up every day and be thankful for the life I've been given. It's not at all like the life I had planned when I was in my twenties. At that time, there was no template for a healthy, vibrant single woman in her forties, and I suppose that some people might still call me an "Old Maid" behind my back.
I said to someone yesterday, "I can't waste my time worrying about what other people think of me...it takes away so much of the joy of just being."
Still, there are more bridges to cross...and they used to terrify me. As a child, I'd cover my eyes and hold my breath until my mother or father had safely navigated across the viaduct. When I learned to drive and approached a passageway across a body of water, I'd panic, gripping the steering wheel so hard, my knuckles would ache. But I'd never turn around to find an alternate path. I simply summoned up the courage to take a deep breath, put my foot on the gas pedal, and just keep going. Even so, when I reached the other side, the relief I felt was palpable and it took a while for my heart to stop pounding.
There have been many times I've journeyed until there was nowhere left to go, until I had reached the edge of the earth -- literally in Big Sur and figuratively most everywhere else. The only way to move forward was to cross a bridge that led to unknown territory, unfamiliar places, and unexamined possibilities. Again and again I've crossed so many chasms, I cannot count them all. Yet my life brings endless choices and a host of chances to venture into new experiences.
Now I find myself having gone as far as I can as an independent woman. What I'm seeking are inter-dependent relationships and trust that as long as I remain curious and creative, whatever I need will surely meet me along the way. After all, since my return from California, I've been surrounded by a host of incredible people who may not be able to relate to where I've been, but can certainly appreciate the journey because of who I am today.
I'm no longer alone...and that's a priceless gift as well.
A few weeks ago I rearranged some artwork in my living room which left an open space above the fireplace. Searching all over the city for an earthy print to hang over the mantle, I finally came upon a gorgeous bridge surrounded by tall birch trees and knew it would beautifully tie the entire room together. The colors are muted, but harmonize with the walls, the woodsy atmosphere makes the whole room warmer, and the long, winding bridge reminds me that to seek new landscapes takes courage, particularly when I don't know what's on the other side.
One night I spent some time meditating on the print, contemplating how scary it might be to travel across the wooden planks, many that dipped below the surface, then rose up again, leading to the other side. A slow smile crossed my face when I came to the incredible awareness that I've spent the last five years crossing that precarious passageway and am now standing on the other side of life...blooming where I'm planted and no longer longing for a life that was not meant to be.
In the end, I have no idea what's next, but I trust the journey...and that's when the real magic can begin.