The Rest of Your Life

Last fall, I sat with a man outside a Quaker meeting in Philadelphia, and he took my hand in his, and he dipped into story. He was from Liberia, and his family had a tradition of sitting around campfires and sharing stories from the ancestors. He told me how we should only look 200 feet in front of us when we’re making any decision in life. Just like driving a car cross-country. You take it piece by piece, he said. Step by step, highway exit by highway exit. And then when you get to your destination, you’re like, Wow, look how far I’ve come. 

I wish I could have gotten to know that man more. He was special. And I am constantly humbled and impressed and beautified by the amazing people I meet.

Do you want to know how to love someone on a practical level? You hold space for him or her. What that means is that you know yourself, and you love yourself, and you’ve done the work to get there. And because you are this love, and exude it, you’re able to energetically hold a person who is in your presence. You make them feel safe. The parts they have had to keep hidden are allowed, but not forced, to rise to the surface.

That is a beautiful thing.

But back to my Liberian friend. When he spoke to me about only looking ahead 200 feet, it wasn’t the first time I’d heard or known that truth. I’d learned that over many years, after making so many plans, after trying to assume I knew how things were going to go and seeing those plans fall to pieces over and over again. His words reminded me of what Anne Lamott says in her book Bird by Bird, when you’re writing a novel. It’s like being in a car at night, and you can only see as far in front of you as your headlights go. So you do what you can do on any given day, you put the time and work in, and let go of the rest.

This is the way to live, people. This is truth. Life is about continuing revelation, a constant unpacking, a constant revealing. It’s cute to think you’re in control. Isn’t that cute? But those of us who have lived some rough times have learned, simply through life becoming, that you just never frickin’ know, and it’s stupid to assume you do. So you make your plans for 200 feet ahead, and you surrender on a deep level, and see what happens. Because overnight—overnight!—something can change that makes you tweak your plans, or reveals something new that was hidden, and now you have whole new territory to work with, and you’re dancing around the flames on a beach under the full moon, listening to people howl.

Or something.

I have been meeting these coaches who say things like, “Control your destiny.” And “Take charge of your life; be in control.” And then there’s that great, amazing fucking poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley, “I am the master of my fate / I am the captain of my soul.”

Dude, my response to that is, Maybe. 

I mean, you just can’t know what’s in your control, what you choose and plan, and what’s above and beyond you, being knit together by spirits among the stars. It might be nice to know, but you can’t really know. And it’s kind of cool to live in the mystery, albeit sometimes frustrating.

So you live anyway. You stop trying to figure everything out. You let go and release, and break through. You bring God into every interaction because God is in you, and if you love yourself, people feel it when they talk to you. You hold space for people. You honor the wholeness and vastness of anybody you’re with. You take actions in alignment with your beliefs and values, and spend time getting to know what those beliefs and values are, and whether they’re good ones to have, whether they’re hurting you, or whether they’re right and true. 

You trust yourself. You trust in the Divine Healer. Because you know, at the end of the day, that there is this amazing, Infinite presence who wants what’s best for you, who loves you through and through, to the depths of the ocean, and who will always lift you up no matter what the fuck happens, as long as you don’t give up on it.

So don’t give up.

Your work in this world is to love others and to seek truth. And you can’t do that alone, in your own head. Bleh, don’t try to do that, that would be a mess. You turn in, you get down, you hand your life over to this awesome relationship with the Great HeShe. You say, on a daily basis, Alright, I’m putting myself out there in the way I feel called to do. And the Great HeShe says, Glorious! I’m so glad you’ve arrived. Here’s a cookie.

And maybe you haven’t had that kind of cookie before because you’ve been eating frickin’ Chips A’hoy with a lot of preservatives inside. So you try the cookie, and you think it’s okay, and you can get used to it, and it’s actually kind of good, but it’s just not what you’re used to. So you go in again. Here, you say. I’m doing this other thing. Maybe it’s a prayer. Maybe you say something you normally wouldn’t say, something that makes you more vulnerable than you’d prefer. Maybe you buy someone who smells bad a coffee, because you’re practicing getting out of your comfort zone.

And the Great HeShe, who is now enmeshed in your mental perspective and in your heart in a new way, is like, Bravo. I love you. Now check this other thing out. 

This is what it means to participate in the dance, the dance of giving and receiving. It’s a constant exchange, a constant flow that is happening all the time, but which most of us are missing, because most of us are asleep.

So in this partnership with the Divine, which should always be the predominant partnership in your life, because it is deeper and more life-giving than any other, and from it all else flows, you learn that life is not about lip-service, but about action, and about daily practice, a daily tuning in. That’s it, babe.

And you can’t really know how things are going to go in any situation. You just know whether you’re in flow. And when you’re out of flow, you do the spiritual work needed to get yourself back into flow. And when you’re in flow, you thank your lucky stars and give as much as you can to everyone around you.

And you do that for the rest of your life.

 

Photo by Will Swann on Unsplash

Categories: journey, love, spirituality and faith

Tags: , , ,

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