For over a decade, my goal in life has been to be happy.
It sounds a bit trite written out like that, but the truth is that giving myself permission to bring positive and pleasurable things into my life has been extremely powerful. It helped me climb my way out of a deep depression, and saw to me living in rural Vermont, and – eventually – pushed me to join roller derby. I regret none of those decisions. And, truly, I have been happy, very happy, for many years. I expect that I have enjoyed a greater serving of happiness and pleasure than many people allow themselves.
When I hit my head in January 2014 that changed. Or, really, I changed. I lost. I lost myself in some fundamental way.
When I started writing this blog at the end of October 2014, I had just regained my ability to hold one thought in my mind while actively thinking about it. Most people aren’t even aware they possess this fundamental ability. This skill is essential for connecting with others – it makes it possible to remember what someone else says long enough to think about it and respond to it in conversation.
Over the months that have followed, I have slowly recovered layer upon layer of myself. My values have resurfaced. Oh, right! Honest communication is essential for trust and safety. Love means cupping someone with an open hand. Respectful treatment means I feel seen and heard. I am still collecting, re-membering, pieces of myself. Heck, it wasn’t until five days ago that I remembered that my goal in life has been to be happy.
It has been a rough road since I was injured – not a lot of happy. Most recently, it has been a lot of feeling stuck and depressed.
Luck or perhaps proper prior planning meant I had something new flow into my life last weekend. It was my first weekend of training with the Green Mountain Druid Order. Getting ready for a weekend of camping, making my community meal, reading the emails going back and forth about the details – it all gave me something to look forward to, something to take my mind off my stuck-ness. Then, suddenly, it was Saturday morning. I loaded my car and kissed my cats goodbye. I arrived, set up my tent, and the session began.
Subtly, something began to shift within me. I was less tired by 10 am than I was at 8:30 am when I arrived. The food was filling, satisfying. I didn’t have control over most of the meals, but I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t crave milk or candy or meat. There was peace, and space, and safety… a core of quiet, a calm space for growth. A scattering of moments settled into my memories, not as loud, clanging bells of awakening, but instead as gentle rivulets flowing into new channels beneath the surface.
During last weekend, we were challenged – I challenged myself – to consider the purpose and focus of my life. The happiness I had been striving towards for a decade has turned out to include a lot of comfortable feelings. A nice place to live, good food to eat, a satisfying relationship, enough money in the bank, a focus that made me physically and mentally strong and that was full of fun. Very much physical, Earth abundance – rather fitting for this double earth sign. It jives with my instincts, my self, and my pleasure. I suppose in some way it was my own version of the 1950s white picket fence, 2.5 children and a good retirement.
What about a different path, a different choice? What would life be like if my focus wasn’t about my own comfort and personal fulfillment, but was about…? Something else. I have had trouble pinning it down. What is my new, post injury, calling? What new possibility have opened up because of this abrupt shift in my life’s direction? How will my choices change? I certainly haven’t figured it out yet. Maybe it will become clear in the next few months; I don’t know.
One moment this past weekend screams symbolism. During a break last Sunday, I was considering my experiences so far – trying to decide whether the training was a good fit for me, and whether I should continue. Shortly, a fellow Bard calls me into the mudroom. She had spotted a dead spider in the dish water and – because of my connection with spiders – she thought I’d like to see it. I arrive at the sink and, yup, there is a dead spider, about an inch long. It is suspended in the tub of water a few inches below the surface, floating upside down. Its eight legs spread wide, unmoving.
I reach down to cup it, figuring I’d fish it out and put it in the woods. One of my fingers brushed against its legs, and suddenly it was moving, flailing. I uttered a startled cry of exclamation. It was alive! I quickly fish her out of the dish water, turned her right side up, and set her on the wood counter top next to the sink. She sits there, recovering, sopping wet but full of life. I watch her. Maybe she watches me. She is beautiful, with strong legs and dark markings down her length. I offer her my hand to carry her outside. She refuses. Instead, she hurries off into the darkness under her own power.
Hmmm… lifeless spider floating on her back who I free and set upright, ending with her motoring off under her own power. Is that me? Is that what continuing on my current path means? In many ways, I have been floating suspended, unmoving, waiting for healing, for something to change. And now, perhaps, I am ready to struggle back into active life, ready to live again and choose my own path, trusting my own self.
Last weekend, something subtle changed for me. I don’t really know what, and – really – it doesn’t matter. I just know I like how my thoughts and priorities are changing.
I can’t go back. My old life, my old goal no longer suits me. What will replace it, how will I replace it? I don’t know. But something, something is changing. What will my goal, my focus, be for the next decade of my life? I expect it will become clear over the next six months of training. I have the patience of earth in me. How can all not become clear with time? Blessed be.