It’s a new calendar year and I am wanting to open myself, to tell my story. Mine is an every person story. I hear it told by thousands of other people every where. My story and your story, although so different in context and situation, share a common essence and power. Hearing or reading another’s story creates resonance between us, provides signposts to guide us, and aids us in our own inner enquiry. Knowing this encourages me and makes me bolder. How my storytelling will unwind is still somewhat of a mystery; my story knows and soon shall I.
Picking up Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, I begin reading and realize. This is my story. It’s my story about how a life bound up in unquestioned beliefs narrows our understanding and possibilities and how when life opens to truth and honesty inner knowing emerges. It’s my story about walking a tightrope between wanting connection with family and knowing that that very connection would swallow me whole, never allowing me to walk my path, to create my own life. There are choices we make. We all choose. I chose. And, so do you.
Even though the events and struggles of my life and Tara’s are so different they yield a common truth. That we each have a knowing inside of what feels right and that betraying that “rightness” is giving our life away to others. That only by opening to that embodied knowing can we really embrace our life’s path.
Robert Frost’s words are here with me now as they have been ever since I was in the fourth grade. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I— I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”
An inner process began working in me early. How it started, I don’t know. Through it what became very clear was that education was key — an essential tool to help me create my life — both my inner and outer life. It gave me knowledge and technique and also courage. Through reading and writing, learning how to think, allowing myself to be curious about everything, and seeing and then shifting perspective and seeing again with everything turned upside down, life’s truths and possibilities have opened to me, guided me, and supported me. Not only did this process shape my mind, it shaped my soul.
As I sit here typing, a smile is on my lips. I am happy here at the keyboard. Satisfied with the daily discipline of writing. Delighted when inspiration arises and creativity flows. Steadfast when it doesn’t.
Another truth. Knowing what feels right isn’t enough. You have to act on it. You have to do the work, not helter-skelter, but passionately and unwaveringly. The routine is as important as the stroke of genius. Your daily work is the foundation on which everything else builds. I give myself to the ritual of noting the hour, sitting at my desk and arranging my objects. The paper butterfly, the tiny replica of Degas’s sculpture, The Dancer, the coppery Buddha head from Thailand, and the ceramic heart given to me by a student as a thank you so many years ago line up on the shelf to meet my gaze when I raise my eyes from the keyboard. The pen here, the paper there. The computer screen lit just so. The task light precisely angled. And, then with my fingers on the keys, I am off and running. This daily habit sustains and excites me. I am grateful for it.
In this year we are embarking on together my wish is that each of us finds and listens deeply to that inner knowing of what feels right; that each of us acts on this truth through our work, by putting one foot in front of the other on the path; and, that each of us takes time to shape the routines that nurture each step along the path and applies them daily. Happy New Year everyone!