“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Henry David Thoreau
It’s been one year since I moved here to these green, grandmotherly mountains. One year of self exploration, transformation, and creative formation. So much has changed in my life that to detail it here in this small electronic space doesn’t seem plausible.
What I will note is that during my first blackberry winter here (also known as late spring) I met a man who has become my best everything. Our lives are interconnected now, and we are searching and wading through the logistics of being together full time. His life is in Charlotte. Mine is in Asheville. We are 2 and a half hours apart in physical distance only. All of that will change sooner than later, but I am beginning to realize that we do not fully control the entire outcome of how this all plays out. Instead, I am beginning to dance more directly and more confidently with the whispered thoughts, feelings, and knowings that I am, we are, co creators with the Universe.
The key, for me (and what Ken and I are mutually discovering) is learning to work with the Universe instead of against it. To go off script and learn to speak my truth, show up in my life as my truest self, accept my imperfections, and keep discovering and declaring what my heart desires. The Universe, in return, listens and helps unfold the path that will keep leading me to that space inside of myself that is pure, true, and natural. That’s what I mean by co-creation. And, I have to keep reminding myself that creation can be messy and chaotic at times.
“It’s better to live your own life imperfectly than an imitation of another person’s life perfectly.” -Bhagavad Gita
I am learning that I am in a great transition period: moving from career to lifestyle to a new way of being more comfortable in my own skin. At times, I mourn the loss of my past life as an English teacher. That life was governed by rules, bells, and lots of structure. I made it work for 18 years until it didn’t work anymore. Until I finally got brave and listened to the whisperings of my heart.
And, my heart knows that I am a writer. I am an artist. I am a teacher that helps others awaken to their own creativity and potential.
But, where do I start?
For years, I followed a script. I still have moments where I am biologically and psychologically drawn to my past life. I see my teacher friend’s nerdy “back to school” posts about getting their classrooms ready, and anxiety creeps into my body and causes my stomach to rumble, shoulders to tighten, and brain to reel. I feel a sense of guilt for not being in the trenches or on the front lines with them, knowing that underneath all of that optimism is the fear of wanting to start the school year off with a clean slate and new ideas in hopes that you can have a more perfect year than the one before. That fresh bulletin boards and new books and supplies can somehow erase the knowledge that you are part of an institution that will nearly break your creativity and hold your feet to the fire as you are held accountable on how students perform on a statewide test so the politicians and school board members look good and parents feel secure that they are sending their kids to a “good” school.
I remember so much the freshness and nervousness of the beginning of August. That if I just “do it right” this time, I’ll avoid most of the pitfalls and mistakes from the past year. Knowing that come mid October or November, I would be mired down and deep into the fight, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, and having the weight of the world on my shoulders, wearing so many hats and hiding behind a mask of authority that is slowly stripped away from me by state laws, apathy, grudges, and frustrations. And all that I’m juggling and the mask with many hats I’m wearing interferes with knowing and truly being free and fully myself. It’s draining. I still don’t always know who I am without that smokescreen blurring my path because I still don’t fully believe or see that I’m bigger than what I lived those past 18 years.
Maybe that’s just my bitterness speaking.
Maybe that is the resentment I am still holding onto after all those years of feeling afraid to really explore and fully claim my creativity.
Maybe, however, I have picked up on a thread of truth that simmers right underneath our social order. How many times have each and every one of us done something so as to fit the mold of what others expect us to be, to look like, to act like? How many times have we tried to live the life we think we are supposed to live, when instead the small, true and strong, guiding star of our heart and mind speaks to us in whispers, pointing us to what lights us up and makes us feel alive?
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” -Gandalf the Grey
Now that my path has joined with my dearest love’s path, I am feeling the call to come more out of my shell and stop hiding behind my old guise as an English teacher and my limiting job at Trader Joe’s. I love my coworkers and managers, and I am grateful to this company (they know how to take care of their employees and customers at the same time). But, my body is tired and worn out and my brain is itching to get busy again (not to mention to make money that will sustain me and help me pay my rent and bills).
I don’t want to make the mistake again that my job is my path. Too often in the United States we believe that what we do as a career or a job equates to our self worth, our identity, and our calling. Sometimes, a job is just that. And a career should be worn more like a cloak than a straight jacket. Inside of me, inside all of us, is a yearning to express our deepest desires, full potential, and purpose.
When I take my nature walks, I see the fire red poker plants shining brightly and opening up for the pollinators even as weeds and underbrush cover up their glory to passersby. I watch the cream colored caterpillar wind its way over mulch and dirt to get to its food source. I see the radiance of the sunbeam behind the drooping Carolina day lily as it makes its graceful decent to its final farewell. I watch the blue tailed skink swirl over the bark of a yellow spruce and dip under the leaves of the flowers below. Even the ants beneath my feet march on towards their food source and back to their hill, undeterred by my footsteps. And with each observation and step I make, a part of me realizes that they know more about this green world than I do.
When, however, I am writing, drawing, or teaching yoga or my creative writing workshops, I feel natural and alive. I am like the Eastern swallowtail butterfly who flies through the air bouncing from flower to flower. I am like the heal all flower and the red capped mushroom that have an inner glow as they stand before me on the path. I do not always know where I am going, but I know that I don’t wear a mask as I travel there. I want more of that in my life.