“For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a comer of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down.” –Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
So many lives, so many worlds, live within each of us, and most of us never even know.
A few us attempt to crack the surface, but it requires perseverance and a level of fearlessness, a level of curiosity and wonder. And even then, there are wells so deep, so vast within the human soul and psyche, we may never cover all the terrain.
One thing we can be aware of, however, are the stories we carry within us of who we are, where we come from, what we hope to do.
Inside of us, beneath the level of skin and bones and organs, is our spiritual anatomy, and that is made up, in part, of stories and histories. The lives we’ve lived before, in other incarnations. The dreams of our ancestors, who dance around us when they’re proud. The hopes and dreams of parents or family members who watch us grow. And then the experiences of our own lives, from the time we’re children, which shape us and affect how we operate.
Unfortunately for many of us, the stories we cling to, the stories we remember most, are the stories of pain, of hurt, of brokenness.
Do not shape your life based on the experience of pain. Do not let pain dominate and be your God. Do not think you deserve pain, but also don’t think that your pain is more significant or goes deeper than anyone else’s. Pain is just pain. It is one side of the coin in the measure of our lives. And pain is the contraction that helps you move through—when you’re willing—an experience of new birth. One of the many births that take place for us, when we’re brave and don’t get stuck. Because no person is meant to be a figure set in stone. You are not a sculpture to be gazed at for eternity. You are a living, breathing, transforming entity, whose evolution is boundless.
But you can’t grab hold of this knowledge if the major stories you carry within you are stories that keep you down, make you fearful, force you to stay put.
Create a new story. A story of hope, of determination, of a growing ability to see. What surrounds you is love and beauty and opportunity. Every day is new. That’s what’s real. That’s what’s true.
I wrestle with the question of how much of our lives is fated and how much we get to choose. I don’t know what, or how much, is in our control. The conclusion I’m coming to is that we have a GPS of where we’re going to go, but how we get there, the route we take, is somewhat within our power. We can take the one long and arduous, full of traffic and frustration and anguish. A path that brings us nearly to despair. Or we can take the scenic way, and enjoy the ride. We can opt for the route that allows us to open the windows and gaze, and breathe deeply.
Within our passage, we have a mind filled with thoughts and stories. A mind rolling with conversations we once had, or ones we want to have. Visions of what something will look like when we grab hold of it, or memories of what was, doused with romanticism or a more brutal reality than is fair.
We all have to do this thing called life. We have to move through it. We will meet the people we have to meet. We will have the heartaches or triumphs that belong to us, that are part of our destiny. We can’t escape that. But we can have some impact on the operating system of our minds. We can work with, and overcome, the justifications we tend to make, the narratives we create that either set us free or form greater discord. And maybe, just maybe, we do have some sort of dynamic power within us to change a bleak trajectory that was set out for us. Maybe we don’t have to be held back. Maybe we can step through fear, or habit, or the way it was always done (ugh, those horrible words), and try something different.
That starts with creating a new story for yourself.
A story of initiative. A story of gentle, loving power. Of individually setting a new path. A story where once, or maybe more than once, you weighed everything: the irrationality of love, the weariness in the world, the problems of being human, the darkness that creeps up at odd moments, and you decided that instead of being buried by your past and your history and your pain, you chose to be fearless, and step into a new kind of field, one no one you knew knew, and you were going to take that ride, because it was you. You, who was never created before. You, who is unique, even though you share the essence of all things. You, who is special, and beautiful, and worthy.
Can it hurt to write such a thing down?
Once, there was a person, who was hurt, and sad, and never taken care of the way they longed to be….
And this happened to them, and then that. Things just kept happening to them. Things that sucked. So many things piled up, and they felt like they was living under the rubble of everyone else’s lives.
But one day, they did this thing that was different. They tried something new.
And they didn’t stop with that one day. They kept at it. Each and every day, they kept pushing off the rubble that had accumulated, and they began to build a new little world.
With enough time, and enough diligence, they began to believe in themself.
And they slowly, miraculously, became free.
They became their own.
Maybe a new story, the one you want to live, not the one that was given to you, is still worth a try.