Sometimes in the summertime, I like to get lost and go driving-- especially in Utah, where you can head either east or west and go down a road you've never traveled. I prefer to drive west for some reason-- I think it's because the places in that direction feel less familiar, less developed (although that's going away fast). These places feel more like they're more at the edge of some ancient wilderness-- and there is something deep and moving and mystical to me about the wilderness.After work the other day, I drove west. I drove through Saratoga Springs and past mills, ranches, people, and road construction. I drove west until the road curved and I decided to loop back around. I turned into a little neighborhood and tried to find my way back to a different main road back to Utah Valley. But the road ended.
In the city, you get into the habit of assuming that roads will connect to each other, unless they are marked as "dead ends" or "no through access." So I was foiled when the road I had chosen to circle back around to the main road ended abruptly --as though someone had just picked up their tools and decided to stop paving.
I got out of my car and beheld. Behind me, I could hear two kids distantly squealing the springs of a trampoline. Before me, everything was quiet, except for the sounds of the the storm winds, soft and warm-- shaping and shifting the thick gray clouds and tousling the grain.
I sat on the hood of my car. I did what I could to empty my mind and muscle of "other things"-- relatives, weddings (my brother was to get married the next day), to-do lists, and the pressing sense that time is passing so quickly.
I used to be better at letting go and shelving my worries to locate inner peace and ultimate direction, but it gets harder the older I get. I don't know if it's because the combined density of my worry is greater, or because I grip it more tightly. I have less tolerance for the unknown than I used to, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I am not thinking about what I really want-- only that life should be better when the road is clearly marked, efficient, and easy to travel. That maintaining my own comfort, stability, and security will make me happy. That the fewer risks I can take and the more revenue I can attain (and quickly), the happier I will be. I'll be set.
Now, it's easy for me to see how deceiving these thoughts are when they're written down. But they creep up, unbidden and hidden.
So, leaving my car and walking into this unknown land, this field, I ask myself the following question: what is it I really want, and how do I find it? What road am I on? Where am I heading if I stay on the same course? Is it also the road I want to be on, the one that will bring me happiness and growth?
"The things we want are transformative, and we don’t know or only think we know what is on the other side of that transformation. Love, wisdom, grace, inspiration – how do you go about finding these things that are in some ways about extending the boundaries of the self into unknown territory, about becoming someone else? -Rebecca Solnit, Field Guide to Getting Lost (more here-- it's good stuff)
Here is what I think I want:
I want to grow to the full potential of myself, and keep growing. I want to be a truth seeker and a friend and a companion. I want to learn and keep learning, hear what my soul is calling me to do and then do it. But I'm sometimes scared to do what I really want-- and I think it's because I'm afraid of failing, of leaving behind what I know. It's not a new concept, doing the things we think we cannot do or are scared to try.
Yet here I am, in my life, realizing I'm scared. I'm realizing how much I focus my time and energy on less important things because I don't want to experience pain, imperfection, lack of control, and possible regret.
We either resist the unknown or we accept it and let it come. The more we jerk and fight against walking into the unknown, the less we are able to enjoy where we are-- the less we will sense the miracles crackling in the air around us, at our feet, and know where they come from. Fear can grow into cynicism and cripple our ability to spot miracles. Anxiety quells our curiosity and blurs our god-given sense for what is mystical and wonderfully mysterious.
Eventually, they can both weigh us down into a a pit of self-pity. It's at that point that we subconsciously bury ourselves in apathy because the regret and fear are too painful to break away from. We have to be willing to learn and unlearn, to suffer losses, to trip and fall and get back up again.
I don't mean to sound preachy. I'm writing this mostly for myself, to give an order to my un-ordered thoughts. There's something very real about our propensity to forget what's most real and most important. We're so wont to cling onto the insignificant. So much of our daily drama is just a charade we distract ourselves with so we don't have to give heed to the larger epic playing out in our soul over the course of a lifetime. I forget that. But I'm aware I forget, and I want to remember.That's gotta be a good first step.
Future Emily, if you're looking for advice from a past Emily: Go get lost on some road you've never driven before. Give yourself time. Go alone. When you get somewhere secluded, stop and get out. Stay there and use whatever prayer/meditation/zen/reflective powers you have. Go down any of the mental roads you've been shirking and confront what's there. Ask yourself what you really, really want. Remember, remember, remember. And do.