I wish to live freely, consciously, and with ease. I wish to live according to my own choices NOT according to unconscious childhood and cultural programming and reactivity. I value happiness, which I define as ease, health, humor, grace, love, sharing, compassion, creativity, effort, ambition … (moral ambition), and the will to uplift self and others.
I wish to live in connection with others but not codependency. Age 47 feels a tad late to be realizing that I need to follow and discover my own path, my own purpose. But better late than never. I wish to be proud of myself and how I used my gifts. I wish to create to my heart’s delight and not focus on excuses as to why I cannot express myself and use my talents.
About 4 years ago, I admitted to myself that I didn’t want to live unconsciously anymore. Running the rat race, focused on external validation and the acceptance of others. For the longest time, I did what I thought was expected of me by my family, my community, and the people around me. Which meant choking down my discontent and trudging through in a corporate career focused on money and external power. I tended to glom on to powerful people and be “power adjacent.”
This conferred me with a feeling of protection, even if it meant sacrificing and sublimating my own desires, capabilities, and talents, and putting up with terrible mistreatment. I knew I was profoundly more capable than I was letting on, but if I stayed hidden, I wouldn’t have to face my fears and challenge my feelings of shame, anger, and injustice. I coped by living in and focusing on the absurdity and comedy of it all. I also got married and used the excuse that it was my duty to provide for others so I “had” to stay on my career path, as deeply problematic as I knew it was.
With each year that passed, I chipped away at my own self-confidence and self-respect.
I knew nothing about the nervous system or the cycle of addiction to emotional neglect and abuse, because it was all I had ever known. I grew up believing it was my duty to pay homage and deference to “higher authorities.” “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you … but only say the word and I shall be healed.” If you drill that into a child’s head long enough and constantly enough, she begins to believe it.
The love of my husband that the gift of being seen for who I really am helped me break out of that cycle. Being known and seen is empowering, validating, and liberating. Five years after I met him, and four years after I gave birth to my daughter, I was ready to let go of that old life. That old life was a circular cycle of discontent. A promotion, a new car/new home/fancy vacation, losing 26 pounds, running another marathon, various honors, and recognition … the contentment never lasted.
Things that I gave up along the way that I really needed and still need: creative expression, a community of thinkers to confer with and discuss big ideas, joy, and play that is free and doesn’t require alcohol or any kind of elaborate planning to access. Hugs and regular contact with community, and worthy goals. That’s a biggie! In the absence of a corporate career, I have struggled to find a new goal in that I want to invest my talent and energy. I have a tendency to always get what I want … so now I am exploring what IS it that I really want. Yoga ethics are a valuable tool for me. AHIMSA – first do no harm.
Ahimsa (non-violence), the first and foremost of the five yamas (restraints) described in the Yoga Sutra, entreats us to live in such a way that we cause no harm in thought, speech, or action to any living being, including ourselves.
Having harmed myself so much in the past by suppressing, repressing, denying, subverting, and ignoring my own desires, I have struggled to find a new goal. Nevertheless, I moving forward on the path of discovery and committed to taking steps, as evidenced by my dedication to writing this. I do not know everything. I do know, however, that writers write. So write I will and will see what comes out.
I want to heal because I feel lighter when I attend to my gifts and my vocation. Yesterday after spending 1.5 hours writing, I felt good, like my main work for the day was done and anything else I did would be gravy. The product itself wasn’t so great – but the act of doing it – the discipline and commitment I demonstrated is what instilled me with a feeling of contentment. My calling in life is two-fold, to write and teach.
I started teaching a year ago. I became a professor of writing, communications, and marketing at a community college and a world-renowned university. Teaching — the act of sharing knowledge and guiding others toward self-discovery and meaning-making is an invigorating practice and a privilege that I do not take lightly.
It is challenging because it requires me to own my own capabilities and knowledge, and to express myself in ways that connect with and are intelligible to people who are much younger than me and who have very different reference points. I tend not to rely on academic textbooks and theories even though I know some of them to contain valuable material. Those resources are there for me and my students if we need them but I need not be constrained by them.
Why do I want to heal and how do I wish to live for the remainder of my time on Earth? I am waking up to my body in a very powerful way of late. I notice my triggers and reactions and the physical responses they engender. I can identify resistance, and my presence being drawn up and out. I can feel all sorts of things and notice things that I was kind of oblivious to in the past.
Feelings and sensations within myself. I can observe when I am leaving my body and being pulled up into my mind. I feel myself scrunching up my shoulders when conflict arises around me, The pit aka Doris … the sensation of anxiety that pops up in my body pretty much every day related to fears about money and concerns about how I am using my life force.
I want to pursue my true desires and creative ambitions so I don’t find myself living with regret and resentment later on. I also want to balance this with my desire to care for my loved ones both emotionally and materially. The notion of the starving artist is an antiquated one perpetuated by fearful people who don’t understand art and the fact that creative people must create if they are to thrive on Earth.
A creative life – that is what I want and what I have. It is constantly changing. It is not fixed. It is not one of those little boxes kind of lives. And I move with the changes … flowing, adapting. I don’t have to announce my moves or goals to anyone else … I can move and have confidence in my ability to rise to the moment.
In the seasons of life, I am in Fall. I am calling my energy inward and the magnificent colors are coming out as the trees begin shedding the old stuff that is no longer needed. I am releasing all of the false narratives of social obligation, social climbing, performative maneuvering, and power brokering. I no longer live by compulsion, I live by choice.
This is for myself of course, but also for my loved ones. When my kids see me pursuing my desires they learn that social conformity is not the only way to live. They also see that personal self-responsibility is the only path to contentment. No one else will do it for me or for them. We have to work at it and be willing to bumble around until we figure it out instead of repressing ourselves and living unconsciously as most people do.
“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city, you go into the desperate country and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”
― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
One way I know I am on the right track is how I feel in my body. Am I tight and constricted? Am I creaky and crackly? At my relatively young age, I want to experience more fluidity and ease. I want to release more of the antiquated layers of past conditioning. I want to release my jealousy, judgment, and impulse to constantly compare, compete and one-up the people I encounter in my daily life and those theoretical masses whom I have never met. I want to be at peace with myself and those around me. I want to truly mean it when I say, “May all beings be happy and free.”
I want to live and work in flow. I want to experience the power of loving what I do. Whether that is teaching, writing, creating, I want to experience the momentum of love and release the resistance of judgment. To find my path, I am walking out on it. Writing and yoga are two ways for me to practice and find joy and contentment. I am grateful for the conditions and circumstances that allow me to walk this path and make these discoveries. It is a privilege and gift.