In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted. ~C.G. Jung
On a sunny, summer day of my ninth year, I sat in my parents’ front yard musing over what I had been told life was about. My destiny had been neatly laid out by others like a dry-cleaned party dress: get a job, get married, have children. Even at nine, I felt there must be something more to life. Get a job doing what? Marry whom? Have children for what purpose? What is this life for? The blueprint drawn up for me left me wanting and dubious.
Around that same time, I had a vision. Diminutive and solitary, I stood at the threshold between two landscapes. A thick, fragrant forest fell behind me like a protective curtain. Before me, a stark, dusty desert beckoned to me like a gnarled old crone. I knew I had no choice but to walk into the wasteland without promise of water, provision or company. I longed to turn back to the shade of the thicket. No birds glided across the glaring sky before me and I was afraid. I feared I would certainly perish in the unfolding wilderness, yet I had to walk on. I felt cursed and singled out. I wanted to be like the polite, obedient girls who were my peers, but I did not understand them. I felt separate and strange, and I continued onward with a dry throat, a stone in my belly and a knowing that I had no choice but to proceed.
The imprint of this vision has haunted me in all my efforts for connection and love. I feared my vision had doomed me to a life alone. Only through the eyes of consciousness can I now see that I was being prepared. When I was called to an isolated mountain village twelve years ago, I believed I had avoided the harshness of my vision, for this desert was shaded by soaring pines and cooled by a gushing river. The silence soothed me for a time. Alone with my specters, I toiled in the rocky earth with my bare hands, splintering my nails and my youthful, inexperienced heart. I longed for community, yet solitude pursued me and I slid swiftly to the edge of my own capacity for despair. For a time, dawning morning light stung my eyes and I shrank back toward the darkness, squinting even in moonlight. I thrashed in confusion and resistance to my reality. I wondered if life would have been easier had I picked up the life that had been laid out for me, yet my desert sojourn was the answer to a calling I could not deafen. In the wilderness of my own heart, I learned surrender. I witnessed the multiple faces of my ego and the suffering it could not help but cause. I discovered purpose in a seemingly wayward life. Not until then was it possible to move out from the canyon’s eclipse into the bright sun of the desert valley teeming with companions.
Each life has its unique trajectory and the safest choices are often not the best ones. My destiny is to surrender who I am in favor of who I can become and so access the essence of my own life. Society, family and friends have their own ideas about who I should be, but listening to the call of my soul leads me to the oasis of my spirit.