I turned 47 this summer, and to the casual observer, I probably look like I know what I’m doing.
I have several sets of important degree-related letters after my name; I have had a mostly satisfying career in a creative field; I have had the opportunity to travel; and I managed an amicable divorce, have two reasonably sane teenagers, and have been lucky enough on the second go-round to marry the love of my life.
But the questions that have haunted me for the last 30 years are: What is my essential work? What is my purpose in life? What is my destination?
To be honest, there is a part of me that hates these questions and this line of thinking. It’s such an egregious, embarrassingly privileged set of questions to even be able to ask.
Every single one of my survival needs has been abundantly met. To hear myself whining about not knowing my purpose turns even my own stomach at times.
Except, it is a question that in its most fundamental form is inextricably tied to our human consciousness. We cannot experience “I am” without the question “Why?” following hot on its heels. The details of these two questions are informed by the circumstances of our lives.
To beat myself up over the rosy circumstances of my life doesn’t serve any of us. It is just another excuse to avoid the hard work of finding the answer.
Let me stop here and confess that I have not found my answer. But I think I may have started to uncover how to find the answer. It involves triangulating with my deepest fears.
I might illustrate my journey thus far with the metaphor of clearing post-war rubble.
I had the unique experience of going to high school in Germany in the 80s. In various museums and books, I must have seen hundreds of immediate-post-war photos of people stacking cobblestones in wheelbarrows, and pulling chairs, pianos, and photos out of chaotic piles, with the nearly impossible mission of rebuilding a life. But there I was, three decades later, walking down the same previously obliterated streets that were more or less whole again.
My use of this post-war metaphor might suggest a horrible childhood, some kind of trauma. Nope. I just got buried under the rubble of…life. Cultural expectations. Professional pursuits. Relationships. Motherhood. I was buried under the mythology of “should” and “supposed to be.”
Sometimes I wonder if this invisible rubble isn’t twice as heavy and hard to move because we first have to know it’s even there.
But we know it’s there even if we can’t see it because it is heavy. Ever thought about the etymology of “depressed?” The third, physical definition is: in a physically lower position, having been pushed or forced down.
Here’s what I have come to think (and know):
1. You, your purpose, your indomitable light, is under the rubble.
2. Europe was rebuilt by moving one wheelbarrow of cobblestones at a time.
3. The closer you get to your light and your purpose, the more resistant and fearful you become about removing those last few pieces. This is how you know you’re on the right track. This is how you triangulate your destiny.
Here is the weird thing: at this final, deepest, strangest, and most challenging level of excavation, the rubble feels like our protective armor. Don’t be fooled.
Your deepest fears? The most victim-y parts of yourself? I’m not good enough. I’m not worthy. That’s not who I am. I would bet money that these things aren’t yours. I would bet all the money that I have that these are other people’s voices and opinions that have made dents and depressions in you under the downward pressure of life’s rubble pile.
Recognize the armor for the rubble it is, and put it in the wheelbarrow too.
I recently removed precisely 30 pieces of fear-rubble. I know this because I completed a challenge to create original, personal content and post it on social media for 30 days in a row—every single day.
During that time, I made the following admissions: I collect full moon water, make magickal sigils, ritually release things into fire, consult my astrological chart on a regular basis, study tarot as a framework for understanding life, and believe in spirit animals and the power of manifestation. Oh, and that our strongest points of resistance and fear are the neon road signs pointing us toward our destiny.
With the exception of my husband and a few close friends, no one knew any of this about me prior to the beginning of last month.
I am happy to report that contrary to my deepest fears, I have thus far not been threatened with being burnt at the stake, nor lost the love or respect of all my friends and family. Quite the contrary, actually.
And suddenly, here I am writing this article that I would not have even dreamed of writing a month ago, because along the way, as I removed one cobblestone of fear after another, I also uncovered the fact that quite a lot of other people were appreciative of hearing about my journey.
A couple of days ago, after drawing the Ten of Wands, I wrote a note to myself to “use my spiritual expansion on the material plane for the benefit of others.”
Today, I had an unplanned conversation with a writing and book coach who specializes in what she calls book alchemy.
I am starting to wonder if—through the triangulation of my fears—I may be finally closing in on my destination.