“…It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey…” – Wendell Berry
I want to record this moment.
I am 23 years old. I am sitting at a new café in Naperville with lime green and magenta everything, with frozen yogurt machines hidden in the walls and colorful pillows thrown across large windowsills. The owner speaks into a microphone as three high school journalists fuss with video equipment and ask him questions. The teenagers are confident, artsy, kind. I wonder what strangers thought of me when I was their age – if I radiated that same sense of having it all together.
I am drinking a hot chocolate, brought to me by an apologetic employee who knew it took longer than it should. I smile.
The two mile walk to the café cleared away some of my confusion, the healing salve of autumn air working its way into my bones. I am on the cusp of something big. I am moving back to Chicago, for better or for worse, despite initial hesitation. So many paths before me, so many people and projects to love, so much mind static.
I am learning to be gentle with myself. My heart is a bouncy eight year old girl, wide-eyed and dazzling, flaunting rainbow boas and iridescent shoes, and I am slowly letting go of the impulse to push this little girl into Accomplishing. Doing. Life Purpose, Passion, nownownownowgogogo until she shivers and drops.
Who are you, anyways? What calls to you? What lights up your heart? Do you even know anymore?
(Anne Lamott says that being thin skinned and big hearted is a beautiful way to be. I am beginning to agree with her, to embrace my natural propensity for tears.)
Let Go and Let God. Easy to say, stomach-lurching to do. The first time I saw that phrase, it was finger-etched on the frost of someone else’s car window. I was fourteen, wounded by organized religion, and I couldn’t get my mouth to say “God” without unraveling layers of guilt and frustration.
Is it feasible to release our grip and let a higher power deal with things? I asked at the time. Wouldn’t we just free fall?
Almost a decade later, I sit in the colorful café and ask myself the same questions. Let the Universe handle my numbing confusion about who I am, where I belong, what my own voice even sounds like? I am intimidated by this proposition, even though I would love to slough the buildup of anxiety and confusion off of my shoulders.
Give all of my smothering disorientation to the Universe. The thought settles in that I could simply make the decision to wash my hands clean and give it away. This inky confusion is going to have to find a new burrowing place in someone else’s bones – not mine. I want clarity. I want to show up every day, do whatever must be done, pay attention to my inner whispers, and shine.
Goodbye, all of the pressure that I put on myself. I appreciate your lessons. I can grow on my own now. The Universe can figure out how to transform you into something lighter.
Goodbye, self-hatred over my Normal job and lifestyle. I forgive Me now. I’m no longer going to punish myself by pulling out eyelashes, withholding colorful clothes, isolating myself, lashing out at others, and abandoning my yoga practice. I can grow without you now. I want my joy back.
Letting go and allowing a big pulsating spiritual life force to sort out our problems is sometimes the only hope we have. We need room to breathe, to dance and laugh our way through the big questions of our life purpose. By holding a knife to our own throat to Stop Wasting Our Potential, to Act On Our Dreams, we create the very franticness that leads to burnout, self-hatred and yep – wasted potential.
So I decide in the moment to step into my new life, unsure of what exactly it will look like. I am baptized in newness and love, in prodding acceptance and fierce self-compassion. This moment is sacred because I say it is – no ritual required.
Thank you, Universe, for this freshness. Thank you for the miracle of buoyancy and grace. Thank you for my Divine Dissatisfaction, for every moment that I rammed my head into walls because I thought Spirit made a giant mistake and forgot about little ol’ me.
Thank you for allowing me to be 23.