Today I recalled just how thankful I am that life has a tendency to teach you over and over again what your soul really needs to understand. There is limitless patience in the Universe's willingness to show you the way. No, the lessons aren't always simple, obvious, or easy to master. They don't always appear as the Universe doing something nice for us at all. Often they come in heartbreak, hardship, and with a fair dose of misery and tendency to reach for the nearest bottle of escapism.
Even those people who seem to thrive doing the hard thing, in taking the hard road, do not find it without challenges. The difference, I think, is that for those of us who pick the uphill-both-ways-in-the-snow-naked path each and every time, the thing that keeps us going is the knowledge of the pay off.
Years ago I was dating this guy who was an avid hiker. I've never, ever enjoyed too much Mother Nature. Grass makes me itch, pollen makes me sneeze, and bugs make me screech like the little girl I never want to be.
Nonetheless, I was with Hiker Guy, and I was staying with him in his home. Said home was far away from my home, and still is. In more than one sense of the expression. But I digress... I was staying with him, and I woke up early one morning, bounded over to where he slept and said, in my most enthusiastic voice, "I feel fantastic, sunshine. I could climb a mountain!"
"Okay," he mumbled, getting up. "Let's go."
Always one to be damned by my own suggestions, I got dressed and followed along. We got into his car, drove to a seemingly random point on a side road, and parked. He got out, pointed to a thorny bush and said, "The trail starts there. It's straight up, but it's worth it."
"Worth what?" I asked, still staring in something akin to horror at the sheer cliff wall I was facing.
"...everything," he said after a moment. "And trust me... It's easier if you almost run."
"How in the hell could that be--" I began, but I had to stop arguing and delaying and chase after him, as he was off and away. I hauled some serious ass keeping up with him, and the trail was most definitely up
. I didn't know a goddamned thing about how to climb, I was wearing the wrong shoes for such activities, and yet he never slowed down. He never looked back. He just had total faith that if he could do it, so could I, and that I could, in fact, keep up.
It felt like an eternity, but it was actually a pretty short hike...er... run uphill. I was wheezing, out of breath, sweating, and miserable, and when he finally slowed down, I didn't know whether to thank him, thank God, cuss one or the other or both, or maybe just do everyone a favor, including me, and pass out.
But he shoved aside this small tree, turned, grinned, and reached out a hand. He was gasping, too, and I humored him with a muttered impolite expression or two, and I took his hand.
He jumped. I nearly died in momentary terror, but I followed, and we landed on this rock. It was a massive thing, and it jutted straight out from mountain. The sun was just good and up, and I stared, slack-jawed, at a view of morning, clouds, dew, and every tree in every valley and vale in every shady grove and over every babbling brook for as far as my eyes could see. Birds, butterflies, wildflowers... rays of sunshine and nature's majesty... everything glittered like it had been freshly made by God and sat down for my personal enjoyment.
I plopped down on the boulder next to Hiker Guy, accepted his offer of water, and I didn't even berate him when he murmured a quiet, "Told you it was worth it." He was right. I couldn't argue, and I was facing too much beauty to do anything but stare and be happy, alive, and whole.
I remembered that morning, that feeling of accomplishment, earlier today. As somebody who had been taking the hard road metaphysically since birth, taking the literal hard path with my physical body was something new and difficult. But it showed me that both kinds of payout are equally worth it. Doing the extra mile, scaling the cliff, getting the job done no matter how impossible, terrifying, annoying, or all-consuming is always worth it. You make
it worth it. I could have sat down on that rock and complained about how sore I was. How tired. How hungry.
Instead, I chose to appreciate what Hiker Guy knew and wanted to show me.
On the heels of that memory came another one, less pretty but perhaps more profound. When I had surgery a few years ago, I had this moment where my blood pressure bottomed out while I was in recovery. I saw some things... and in the seeing, I suddenly knew
When I got better, I did something most people thought was crazy and still do, but I did it because I realized a piece of the larger picture. Or, perhaps I should say... I was shown
a piece of the bigger picture in a singular moment of rare opportunity when one is hanging between Here and There:
You choose what Master you serve. And we all
Masters are wide and varied and seldom corporal. Fear, anger, hate, avoidance... hurt, pain, denial... Good, Evil. People always say that Evil is more honest than Good, but I'm not so sure. Evil will try to convince you that you're getting something out of a deal you're supposedly making. The truth is, what you "get" is small compared to the price you always pay, and in the end, you are forevermore serving that Master.
I think Good is actually more honest. Good will tell you, to your face and often while screaming from the rafters, that you must serve it. You must kneel before it. You must choose it, accept it, and do for it, in its name. And it makes no bones about the fact that it's a lifelong and often Eternity-Long contract.
Evil tends to skip those little particulars.
Today the forces of good chose to remind me of lessons long learned, and the backtracked lesson was about letting go. There is an art to letting go. Sometimes it's more graceful than others. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's just not. When we forgive, we let go. When we willfully choose to forget pain, we're letting go. All hurts must be released.
And they never, ever want to leave the nest.
The art to kicking their tooth-and-taloned asses out of their cozy beds lies in acknowledging they've taken roost and then choosing what you want to do about it. And yes, you must choose to do said something. Doing nothing is every bit as much a valid, active choice as doing something.
I was actively letting a hurt fester and rot. It was making me angry. Furious, even. Blindly, willfully, destructively rageful to the point that I could not sleep, could not eat, and did not want to do what I feel I was put here to do: create.
The temptation was to blame others or ignore it. I didn't want to fess up to being hurt. Admitting that meant I had a vulnerable spot. That I had let someone in, that the someone had done damage, and that I still, for some crazy reason, was allowing that person oxygen. To say nothing of a place near my heart.
It started because I wanted the impossible (it often does): I wanted to be the person who could do insane things in the name of someone else's better understanding of and for life and not
have it affect me. The irony is the person I was helping was trying to overcome his tendency to put superhuman expectations on himself. And here I was... doing the same damned thing. Everything affects us, to greater or lesser degree. But I didn't want to confess that the effect this time was painful, was making me angry, was still alive
and growing like a malignant tumor.
The process of admittance was even more painful, I think, than the initial hurt. There was grief involved for everyone, to say nothing of annoyance that I'd let it go on this long.
But somewhere in all of it, I remembered the lesson I learned while my heartbeat was dropping, monitors were singing, and nurses and medical staff were rushing to wake me up and pull me back to this side of the veil...
We choose what Masters we serve.
I was choosing -- purposefully, even -- to serve the pain. To nurture it, dote on it, encourage it to thrive. I wanted to keep that hurt near and dear to me because it hurt me, damn it, and I wanted to study it and remember it and focus on it so it never, ever would hurt me again. If I kept that little fucker right next to me, I would know it like I know myself, and it in all its particulars could never escape my attention again.
...no wonder I couldn't do anything else. All my energy was going to the desperate chokehold I had around the hurt's throat.
What I'd forgotten, or, maybe I should say, one
of the things I'd forgotten, was that by keeping hurts close we don't learn anything. It is only in letting them go that we get anywhere.
So I took a really, really deep breath around the anger and another waterfall of tears. I said, as the words we speak have power over us and over all things, "I have to let go of the hurt. It's killing me. If I can't create, I'm dying, and I'm not creating... so I'm dying. And this hurt is the dagger between my ribs."
As soon as I said it, I felt lighter. Better. Easier. Existing didn't ache so much. And this is sort of amazing since I've thrown out my back, at the moment, and there's a host of other things physically wrong with me. How often are our real wounds those that manifest by the destruction we cling to? For me, pretty often I think. Better out than in, I like to say.
So, I finally chose to let the hurt go. It took days of struggle. Weeks of letting it roost. It wasn't easy. I didn't like doing it. I hated the process. It delayed what I feel is "real life" progress. I've not been my version of "productive" today.
But I let it go.
And I remembered, suddenly, the third and final lesson (does this crap always come in threes? I suppose there's something said for being predictable):
I choose to serve the Master called Love. And in doing so, I must accept that loving someone does not mean a life without pain or loneliness or regret. Often, it means a life full of those things. Love by its very nature means that we open ourselves up to others, draw them near, accept them and show them our deepest selves, and then, to top it all off, we trust them to take care of their residence that is so close to our beating, living, struggling hearts. Serving Love means I know that I will get hurt. It means I know I will get hurt badly
. I will cry. I will get angry. I will lose and lose greatly. Anything and everything those whom I choose to let close to me does will affect me.
Because they've living in
Serving Love also means, then, that when hurt happens I must let it go. Because nothing makes serving Love harder than harboring hurt. It blinds me. It defeats me. It weakens and saddens and destroys me. It makes it impossible to remember the names of my other, greater Masters.
Creation. Life. Purpose.
I want to be good for you, oh Master Mine, why oh why have you forsaken your most loyal follower?
Those whom we serve do not forget us. They do not lose us. They know exactly where and who we are and all we can become. It is us who take on the blinders. And for that, they forgive us. For they who teach, must also know.
The second I let go... I remembered what I serve and, consequently, who I am. I serve many Masters. I pick them all. I choose them every day.
None of them make serving them easy. None of them do all the work for me. All of them require sacrifice, service, and submission to their purpose, their rules, their lessons.
Serving is the ultimate responsibility, not the greatest renouncement of it. In serving, we do not give up
ourselves, we become
ourselves... and that requires seriously hard-as-shit work.
And it is work that we will, from time to time, screw up in the doing. I have ignored the best efforts of friends who have tried to remind me what the hell it is I really am and really do. I've been way too busy nursing the wound at my breast.
Thankfully, the Universe invented patience. Not to mention multiple levels of messaging. It knew that people like me would need the occasional brick thrown at my head. And it also knew that sometimes it wouldn't be able to stop with just a brick.
Once upon a time, I got to see one of the most spectacularly gorgeous views I've ever seen. I had to climb a mountain straight up at damned near sunrise on an empty stomach to do it. But once I was there, the view and the beauty cradled me. It fed me. I was at peace.
Once upon another time, I nearly died. But I got to see a glimpse of the Bigger Picture that I've always known existed. I got to be right
about my greatest hopes and dreams for this Universe, this existence. I got to understand something.
I got to find my greatest, most dangerous, most demanding Master: Love. And Love requires forgiveness and constant letting go...
Today, I remembered the teachings of my Master, Love. And because I forgot, I feel the need to do penance. And that penance is this letter.
See, another one of my Masters is Hope. And much like how Hiker Guy just knew that I could climb the mountain, I know that you, too, can find your true calling and your true path. I know that if you've found it, you can stay on it. I know that if you've found it and strayed, you can find your way home.
There's a light in the window, and I believe in you.
My faith in you is unshakable. My hope in and for you is boundless.
My love for you... is endless.
You can do it. It won't be easy, but it will be worth it. And remember: it's always easier to run headlong with blind faith toward something you've said you want rather than to stand around wondering how in the hell you're going to get anywhere.
Just go, baby, go. Run, fly, be free. And have one hell of a ride.