If you’ve read some of my earlier posts (look here, here, and here for examples), you’ll know that I encourage people to get in touch with their deepest dreams and desires. Sometimes it’s not until we know what we truly want that we can make decisions about which direction to take in our lives.
The cyclical nature of life means that for every birth there is a death – but also for every death, there is a birth. It’s no mistake that Christians, for example, celebrate Jesus’ birth in the winter (when everything in nature seems to have died), or his death in the spring (when everything in nature seems to be coming back to life). When we live our lives in sync with these natural rhythms, the pain of loss can lose some of its sting.
My boyfriend and I just broke up. We remain great friends, and love each other deeply, but we are moving in different directions. For either of us to give up our dreams for the sake of the other would mean a loss of something so intrinsic to ourselves that it’s unimaginable.
And yet I am almost paralyzed as I sit between two extremes: the pain of losing him, and the joy of finding myself.
I thought I knew what I wanted, but what if what I wanted isn’t what I really want? (And I just went looking for some food to stuff into my mouth, which you KNOW can’t be a good sign.)
Sometimes we can’t know. Sometimes we’re walking blind, and when we hold out our hand to find a wall or a piece of furniture to orient ourselves in the blackness, we hit instead a knife blade that slices deep.
But what if the blade cuts things not apart, but together?
I am in the first year of a kind of bodywork training called the Alexander Technique. Without getting too esoteric, the technique is about becoming aware of your habits of poor psycho-physical use, and replacing those habits with better use.
I’ve discovered that letting go of old habits and discovering something new is very frightening and disorienting. One of my instructor’s favorite commands is to “not know.”
“Don’t KNOW,” she intones with discouraging frequency as she works on me with her hands. (Discouraging only because it means that for the millionth time I’ve been trying too hard, and cutting myself off from true knowing in the process.)
“Don’t know, don’t know, don’t know,” I direct myself with fathomless panic inside my head, until suddenly her hands, in cooperation with my open mind, find new freedom and release within my body.
It reminds me of the Rainer Maria Rilke quote from Letters to a Young Poet, where Rilke says:
…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.
Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.
Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
Loss, and freedom. Perhaps deep down, they are really the same thing…
This post was originally published on my professional organizing blog.
Art journal spread Gondoliers, undated (October or November 2006). Wax crayon, ink and collage on paper.
This art journal spread has special meaning for me, since all the collage pieces were ephemera from a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers that I took part in the previous spring. I played the Duchess of Plaza Toro, and my then-boyfriend played one of the gondoliers, Marco.