Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Gimme a Light

You’ve done this, right? You’ve told yourself that you could walk through your house with the lights off because you know where everything is, then stubbed your toe on a chair or stepped on one of the cats’ or kids’ toys that wasn’t supposed to be there.

Just about everyone I know wishes they could see things more clearly.

“I just want to know if I should keep going to school or quit and try to get a job.”

“I just want to know if he really, really cares about me.”

“I just want to know when this is going to happen because I am so tired of waiting.”

Yeah, me too. Seriously.

Well, in the absence of a clear choice, I worked full time AND went to school. I wasn’t getting any younger and I certainly wasn’t too old, although I had had feedback from my contemporaries that, well, I probably was.

“That’s your choice,” I told them. “I’m going to do it.”

That was thirty years ago. Now, I’m astonished that anyone would think I was too old for anything in 1983. I’d say that I have some real physical constraints now, but not many. One of my friends and team members at two companies noted that, due to my scooter accident, my pro football career was most likely down the tubes. The doctor confirmed I should not ski or play tennis; it’s a knee thing. But, the good news then and now is that I hadn’t actually had aspirations of greatness in professional or even amateur sports, especially the knee-intensive variety.

Running my hand down my silky and comfortably rounded form, I answered the doctor, “I see why you might mistake me for a tennis player or skier….”

He was a smart guy but he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. He was, after all, paid to fix my knee and not laugh at my jokes. They tell me the osteo surgeons are often grumpy. But that was more than ten years ago, too, and, heck, I can walk. That’s pretty amazing.

But that time in between, the times where I was stubbing my toes in the dark on the path of my life, between deciding to go back to college again and getting the degree, between the accident and the first confident steps I took after months of physical therapy and surgery, I could have used a light.

When we are in a place of uncertainty, we think we want a guiding light, a Star to fix upon, to shine down on us and show us the Right Thing to Do. There’s a really important hair-splitting point about that shining star to guide us. We pick the star; the star doesn’t pick us.

Oh, of course it would be easier if the star picked us. Sure, if your heart’s desire just fell into your lap, well, wow, that would clear out a lot of uncertainty. Wouldn’t it? What if you didn’t have to choose it, set your sights on it, plot a course or at least start out in some direction towards it? What if you didn’t stumble along the way or momentarily wander off course? What if you didn’t have to work so darned hard for it? What if you didn’t have sleepless nights wondering if it would happen because you want it so badly?

Would a star still be a star?

Would it just be a point on a map or an X on a calendar? Today, I got my heart’s desire without lifting a finger. Ho hum.

What would you do tomorrow? Do you go to second on your list? Do you stay home and play with your toys until you’re bored?

Can’t there be something between stumbling in the dark and finish line? What if, just what if you could see your way clearly to make sure you were taking all the right steps to get to place you want to be? Wouldn’t that be “the best”? Maybe it would.

But, maybe not. After all, what makes you think you’re so smart? You may have a goal that sounds like the right answer. But, ask yourself, have you ever been wrong about what you wanted? Remember the time you insisted that you wanted the chocolate-beer-bubblegum ice cream and would not be persuaded of anything else only to find out it was pretty awful? Have you ever been sure you could fit into those shoes that looked so good only to be an agony halfway through the Big Event? Did you ever fight with your family about going out with the Wrong Person only to find out, darn it, they were right?

I’m in the middle of one of those walking-in-the-dark things myself right now. I’m working to stay conscious of the fact that I choose the Star, the Star doesn’t choose me. I’m not a victim of my life. I’m an active participant. I have a general goal in mind, something specific and attainable but not so locked into exactness that I’m out of options or alternatives.

One of my favorite exercises, when I’m faced with a goal that seems difficult to attain or at least farther away than arm’s reach, is something I think of as the Hermit’s Lamp. The Hermit has a darkened path, an interior journey, because so often when we face these walking-in-the-dark times much of the work is individual. He’s a bit better prepared for his travel than the Fool because he has a cloak to keep out the rain and cold, a walking stick to keep him steady and maybe most importantly, the Hermit has a lamp. His lamp has a star in it. That star is a smaller version than the one up in the sky. Think of it as personal sized, trying your goal on with the clarity that it can bring to your path. Through the light of your goal, you see your next step. It’s not sunrise yet, with the whole landscape lit up. It’s not moonlight that shifts and changes like mist. The light you carry with you is the light of your goal. It’s the light you picked. It’s not even the most important part of the Hermit’s tale.

Taking that next step is.

Best wishes.

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