It’s my nature to question, to wonder why. This is what has led me down the rabbit hole over and over again to attempt to understand the universe a little better, and to make some sense of my life. I’m glad to say my seeking has indeed helped me to feel the mechanics of the workings of the universe to a degree of familiarity, to be reminded of the patterns that underlay the fabric of reality. I say reminded because I feel the patterns in my body, in my atomic structure…and I feel the natural rhythm there, under the busy-ness of my life. When I get quiet, the ancient knowing is alive and well, underneath my skin.
However, never have I felt I understood the totality of it…never have I been so bold as to claim that I knew everything. How could we possibly know everything, every point of view, every experience, every perspective? I get irritated with folks who believe they have the corner on reality, and make great pronouncements that everything else outside of their corner is not real, not true. I’ve seen it happen over and over; the universe lets them know the limitations of their point of view, and sometimes not kindly. I know better…my flashpoint is the place where I hear people say THIS IS THE WAY IT IS, because that is simply not the case. My experience is that the omniverse is WAY more complex than that.
I understand the desire to assign meaning and to try to fit the grand universe into a box that we can understand…it is a means to feel we have some control. I understand that fear is as primary motivator and that we want to feel comfortable, safe, secure. I understand that we concoct stories about things so we can feel better about ourselves, our lives, and the sometimes seemingly senseless tragedies that befall us.
For me, the middle path is the one that calls to me. Standing in a neutral space, one of discernment, awareness and wisdom, while being optimistic, hopeful and open to the possibilities, is the correct course for me. Straddling the line, being the Bridge. I find that this is the path that allows me to stay the most grounded, the most able to bend when the big winds come without losing my footing entirely. My life has had its share of tragedy, so I do know that life provides the means for us to suffer. But I also know that we can do wonders with our tragedies, and make use of the grist for the mill that they provide. That there are blessings in everything life hands to us, if we’re willing to see them. You might know this Chinese Folk Story:
“A long, long time ago, there was a kind old man who lived on the plains outside the Great Wall of China. The gentle old man had only two passions in his life: collecting rare breeds of horses, and his son, whom he loved more than anything else.
“But strangely enough, the gentle old man was not upset. He explained to his neighbors that losing the horse wasn’t necessarily bad luck. There was no way to predict that the horse would escape, it just happened, and now there was nothing that could be done about it. “There is no reason to be upset,” said the old man. The neighbors soon realized that there was nothing they could do to help get the horse back, and that they shouldn’t feel sad for the old man’s misfortune.
“One week later, the stallion came back, and he brought with him a mare. This was not just any mare, but a rare and valuable white mare. When the neighbors heard of the old man’s good luck, they quickly came to congratulate him. But again, the old man was not excited. As he had explained before, it was not necessarily good luck that had brought him this new and beautiful white horse. It just happened, and there was no reason to get excited over it. Still a bit puzzled, the neighbors left as quickly as they had come.
“A short time later, while his son was riding the white horse, she slipped and fell. She landed on the son’s leg, and broke his leg, so that he would always walk with a limp. Again, the neighbors came to the old man’s house to give their sympathy for the bad luck that had befallen his son. One of the neighbors suggested that the old man sell the mare before anymore bad luck could happen, and others said that he should take his revenge and kill the mare. However, the old man did neither. He explained to the neighbors that they should not feel sorrow for his son, nor anger towards the mare. It was purely an accident that could not be predicted, and there was nothing he or they could do to change it. At this point, the neighbors thought the old man was crazy and decided to leave him alone.
“Two years later an enemy invaded the country, and all of the old man’s neighbors were drafted to defend the country against the attack. Because the old man’s son was lame, he did not have to join in the fighting. The war was very bad, and most of the old man’s neighbors were killed, but his son was spared because he had been hurt by the white horse two years earlier.
“Very often, when an event takes place that everybody thinks is good luck, the end results are disastrous. In the same way, an unlucky event can bring about happiness. Therefore, you should not lose your will to continue if an unlucky event happens, nor should you be too overjoyed or feel too self-satisfied because of a lucky event, or because something that you desire comes very easily to you.”
The recent experience of my son’s traumatic brain injury could be considered unlucky. He is a bright, beautiful, talented young man who was striving to better himself through higher education and hard life lessons, when he was “struck down” by a senseless accident, interrupting his college career, taking away his freedoms and putting his family into medical debt. This could conceivably be one version of the story. Another version of the story is that this arrogant teenager thought he was immortal, invincible, did not think about how he could hurt others by putting himself in danger, and could skateboard without a helmet and get away with it. Another version is that he is a victim, and that, because his planned life path was “taken” from him, he should be fearful, should live out his days on earth wrapped in cotton. Another version (that one woman actually accused me of) was that I somehow created this accident in his life by writing about my sense of loss when he left for college, a normal feeling of grief that all parents go through.
And yet another version of the story is that this young man knew from an early age that he would be faced with death before age 20, and was speeding through his life as fast as he could due to his fear of that someday fate, when he would be asked to make a choice to become the teacher and healer that he truly is in his heart, soul and spirit, a shaman’s death/rebirth, the story of initiation.
So which is true? Who knows? Maybe they (and every permutation between) are ALL true. But I can tell you the version that I am sticking with…because I know this young man, have carried him in my womb, have held him and nursed him and watched him interact with the world, and because my own life has prepared me for this moment so exquisitely as to bring me to my knees in gratitude. The story I am sticking with is that we are ALL asked to take the S/Heroes Journey at some point in our lives, and that we have a choice about whether to undergo the true transformation that this brings. We can perhaps shield ourselves from it by living life in a box (or several boxes) of our choice and arrive at our deathbeds with a vague sense of having missed something grand…or we can live naked and transparent, allowing the universe to have its way with us, choosing to bend and be transformed into what the wisdom of Nature has planned for us. My experience is that Life lives THROUGH US, not the other way around. Life is the big boss, and the nature of life is change. And that we get to decide how to respond to that, with resistance or grace. And our choices determine whether we feel blessed or cursed, determine whether our story is one of tragedies or blessings.
So what story do you want to live?
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, so I chose to tell myself a different story.” -Cheryl Strayed, Wild
And please see my colleague Ronna Detrick’s insightful post on a similar theme