Change is a land I choose to roam
Sometimes the ground traveled is welcoming
as if it consciously opens itself before me
Sometimes it offers itself reluctantly
sharp-edged and uneven
Sometimes it’s a chasm that stretches
as far as my vision can imagine
Sometimes it’s quicksand
swallowing my will
Sometimes it’s a rock that I sit upon
my legs weary
Always I ask myself
Is this new land or old?
Most among the soul-family that I shared the Hoffman Process with were high-functioning professionals, driven people full of purpose. I hadn’t been allowed to indulge in knee-jerk social labeling (none of us were) until the end of the retreat. We were instructed to not say what we did for a living during our time together. It made sense. Culture teaches us to stratify worth and establish identity through a bended lens of “success”. The compulsion to compare is crippling and we were all trying to heal.
I felt small as each stood before the rest at our graduation and revealed what they “do”. I had no “do” and only two dollars to my name. I’m a writer, but it’s not a “do,” it’s who I am, have always been. I’ve never made a cent being who I am and have only spent the past five years living my truth.
What’s a career anyway? Why identify with and pursue a life that isn’t a reflection of our authentic self?
I’d forgotten that despite so-called status, we were all here because of some sort of life dilemma. While the severity and type of crisis varied, we all were looking for some transformative change. Shame kept me from taking the podium until almost the last of us had spoke.
“My job is doing whatever the fuck I want”, I tried to say triumphantly. I immediately regretted the words. Whatever you want? You don’t know what the fuck you want or where you’re going, I thought. I’d whitewashed my authenticity in a charade of rebellious pride.
I said more things after that, but I was out-of-body. I don’t remember my words. Someone else was speaking from my lips.
Had I been authentically vulnerable, this is what I would have said:
“I waited until the end because of shame. I’m a writer and I don’t know what the fuck I am doing. I’m lost. I’m fucking 46 years old and I’m lost. I mean, I don’t even know how I’m going to eat when I leave here.
I’ve learned a lot, I’ve healed, I have tools now to help me navigate. But…I’m afraid it will all be lost in the scramble to survive. I’m afraid I’ll abandon my true self in managing the crisis that is my life.
And I’m tired. Bone-deep weary. I was taught only how to survive. I was taught how to navigate minefields, not avoid them. I don’t know how to function outside of crisis. If it isn’t present, I will create it. And I hate it. It’s insidious.
It’s my darkest pattern. I know this. Especially now. As much as I’ve grown in the week I’ve been here, I can’t beat it on my own. Maybe that’s defeatist, maybe self-prophetic. It’s just the truth of how I feel.
I am terrified of leaving here, of leaving all of you. I have crisis waiting for me to return home and I don’t want to be swallowed by it.”
I’ve figured a way to eat now: a way of survival, a foothold, just wide enough to hold on to but precarious enough to steal all effort to maintain.
Old land, desolate of meaning.
There was always the odor of strife in my family home. An earworm song of crisis played, at times so loud the walls shook. Worry was tidal. A cliff’s edge lurked behind every door. And in this way my mother raised soldiers. She taught us how to survive. She taught us the art of eternal struggle.
It’s sewn within. Involuntary, like breathing.
There’s nothing quite as maddening as being compelled to do something that I know doesn’t serve me. Effort that is meaningless at best, destructive at worst. Especially when it’s required in order to survive. Especially when I know that’s also a childhood bedtime story read to me out of compulsive tradition.
I’ve lost so many years to survival. When do I start living?
I’m at a point where, again, survival has consumed my vision. I feel choked for breath. Old memories rise, pulling unwelcome feelings to the surface. The deep groove of yesterday’s spiral-patterns beckon to be played. Frustration and despair weigh my thoughts.
Choosing change is complicated. Part of it is intentional crisis—I knew I wouldn’t start dancing unless I jumped right into the fire. Part of it is a Mutiny of the Soul, a call for authenticity that refuses to be ignored. Part of it is societal enlightenment, a book that affirmed the murky feelings that haunted me. Part of it is a need to sever the generational suffering I’ve inherited, a legacy that I do not want to pass to my son.
And part of it is time. If I’m lucky, I have half a lifetime left. But no matter how much time my meter holds I want spend it thriving, not just surviving.
It requires heaps of imagination that I’m not sure I possess, Herculean leaps of faith that I’ve never had in myself, rebellious courage to carve a life outside the margins of our soulless societal metrics.
It means failing. Epically. Repeatedly. Uncertainty is my bedfellow and doubt my pajamas. The fiddle of my old patterns plays incessantly in the background. It feels like repeatedly launching myself at a cement wall hoping, begging that this time, this time, I’ll stick.
I guess that’s why I’ve denied myself for so long. Lonely is the frontier of thought and spirit that has always called from the purity of my true self. It’s a journey that requires navigating two worlds, a foot in each. One foot is blind, stepping onto terrain that creates itself only the instant before footfall. The other shackled to the mechanisms, the operating rules and imprinted legacy of a dying land that is brutally unforgiving of dissent.
I want, dare I say need, help. I ache for the unselfish support of visionary mentors, not deadworld teachers, coaches, counsellors, clerics. There is no future in the lies of tradition.
The temptation is to attach shame to this need. This is a need I am supposed to fulfill myself. This is a need born from weakness. Right and Wrong beg to war over the thoughts. I struggle to simply accept what I feel at any given moment, choose to be present, aware, not deny or diminish or judge.
If this is all just part of change, god, I’m ready for the flourishing part. Or at least the part where the wise guide takes my hand. I feel silly. Shouldn’t I be the wise old man now?
Can I create a way to provide for myself and my son that allows me to be a present father and pursue my life as a writer? Can it be done without compromising principals? Will a call to spirit for help be answered? Because, shit, my call is more like a scream.
I know abundance exists even though I was taught the cupboards might be bare tomorrow. Yet the din of survival robs me of time and imagination.
Change means breaking patterns, abandoning beliefs, confronting the programing that holds me hostage. It means admitting that the greatest oppression lies within.
None of that is comforting.