We exist in the space between who we were and who we want to be. But boy, do we fight it, this 'here and now' stuff. We want to be thinner, richer, smarter, never truly settling in the skin we're in, always seeking more or less of some aspect of mind or body. And, once we are thinner, richer and smarter, we set our sights on the next new horizon. And then the next…
Eyes ever forward.
And yet, the way we move between where we're coming from and where we're going to, is the way we weave the very fabric of our lives. Like the thread that passes from one side of the loom to the other, nothing can take form without this rhythmic backwards and forwards motion. As much as we want to be out with the old and in with the new, we must find a way to happily exist between the two.
But there's often a snag in the thread, some obstacle that prevents the smooth transition between what was, what is and what could be. For you it might be a job or a relationship. For me it's place, since wherever I find myself physically is where I also find myself emotionally and mentally. Location changes everything on account of my sensitivity. I can get lost to who I become while I'm there. And yet I'm acutely aware that whatever we see outside of ourselves is what we have called into existence through our experience of that place (or job or relationship).
So the onus is always on us to change a situation, but what if that place or job or relationship is blocking our ability to do so? We can take a break, a holiday, for sure, but a holiday has to end. And we have to return to the life we'd briefly turned away from.
Our homecoming may reveal that we've changed in some way. A shift may have taken place. And so we're faced with a critical decision: Do we turn once again towards this life and pick up where we left off? Or do we turn towards our experience of this life and begin to unpick the snags?
When we explore ourselves in different contexts, we get to know different aspects of ourselves, we awaken to new ideas that propel us forward. But exploring ourselves in our current context is where we unravel the threads of our reality, and awaken to the old ideas holding us back.
I've been living in a place not of my choosing for two years now. While on long-term travels in India, things went catastrophically wrong. My relationship ended horribly. I'd eaten through all of my savings. My dream job of teaching yoga on the beaches of Goa never did materialize…
And so I returned to the family fold feeling sheepish, childish even. I'd leapt feet first and landed on my face. So I figured I had to make do and make a life with the few pieces that were left. I spent months sorting through them, looking each over, assessing which parts could be salvaged. But this analysis was so loaded with melancholy that I soon changed tactic and started prematurely planning my exit strategy instead.
I disallowed myself from having any real relationships in, or with, this place. I refused myself any real experience or exploration of this particular void. I simply couldn't accept where I was; or that this would become anything more than a brief suspension before my next overseas adventure.
I buried myself in my writing, my deep inquiry into where I'd been and where I wanted to go, and my deep rebuttal of where I actually was. And this is what I learnt.
When we live divided from ourselves, from the truth of our present experience, we suffer a form of personal, physical and emotional destruction. We enter into denial. We grow ill or anxious or angry or isolated. This is our wake up call.
But when we live undivided from ourselves, from the truth of our present experience, we undergo a form of personal deconstruction. We dismantle the old ideas we have about ourselves, the things we do (and keep doing) that hurt us and hold us back, and we decide that these things are no longer acceptable.
With this comes new insight. We understand that the perceived limitations of a place (or a job or a relationship) are not our own. And with this comes new freedom. We can walk towards ourselves without actually walking away from anyone or anything or any place until we're truly ready. Yes, we have to process what's gone before so we can move on, but if we make everything about the past, things get stale pretty quickly. Equally, when we become fixated on a future desire, all we experience is the unfulfillment of that desire, and things get depressing just as fast.
And yet, if we move between the two without getting attached, taking what we need and leaving what we don't, we can weave the threads of the here and now, of the lived experience, which is all we have.
And that is why a change of context can be so fundamental to proceedings — be that a holiday or a breakup — since these are the things that awaken us to the snags. When we physically step away we get the meta-view, the perspective we need to decipher the essential threads from the inconsequential. And if we keep one eye on this bigger picture, we're better able to live inside just one part of it. More than that, we know that whatever our lived experience is right now, it is only one part of the overall piece.
If we lose sight of it, however, we too get lost. We get mired in the minutiae, muddling through without making sense of it all. We obsess over the inconsequential, forgetting that the small things only really matter if they become the threads weaving the bigger tapestry. And we can never know what the finished piece will look like since it will doubtless never be complete. But this is not our concern. Finishing is not the point; contributing is. Our sole purpose here is to keep weaving these lives.
Your personal threads are sacred, my friends. Weave them carefully.
Walk away from what's not working. Grieve the loss, yes, but only as long as is necessary to harvest the seeds of something better. And don't fret that quitting calls your ability to commit into question. Think of it as a deeper commitment to the overall tapestry, a way to tend carefully to each thread that weaves into it.
And make those threads your own. Give up pursuit of things you think you should want, but don't really. Stop striving for social and cultural ideals that don't belong to you. Discover what makes you come alive. Uncover your values. Honor them. And honor yourself.
Know that whatever you're ending and whatever you're beginning, there's a whole world that must be experienced between the two. Immerse yourself in this space, in the in-between, and you'll gain full liberation from the past, full access to the future, full appreciation for the ways in which the two intertwine.
This is where we collapse time.
It took at least a year for me to understand this - to move through my pride and acknowledge that the family fold was exactly where I needed to be. I eventually stopped fighting the truth of where I found myself, and set the intention to stay for as long as I needed to come to terms with it all — to de-snag. And, over time, I've made my peace with this particular place, with the girl I was when I arrived, and the woman I've become because I stayed. I've strengthened and refined my threads. But I also know that if I stay much longer, these threads may well run out. My work here is done.
This is good news.
We all share this universal tapestry, and we each have a responsibility to honor the individual contribution we make. Our social and cultural parameters have not, on the whole, allowed for the creativity, exploration and expression that are essential to self-discovery. We must buck the trend.
If we never discover ourselves, how can we ever hope to discover each other? If we give ourselves the gift of presence we can extend the same kindness to each other. If we know ourselves better, and improve the relationship we have with our real-time experiences, this can only nourish the relationships we have with everyone else sharing that experience. And beyond.
When we turn towards ourselves, we actually turn towards each other - our shared tapestry, our humanity. Together we can weave the fabric that fills the void between you and me, now and then, here and there.
Together we can weave something new.
Jo Murphy is a feminist, a writer and a freedom fighter. She wants everyone to know how freedom feels, to know and value themselves as individuals, and she coaches women to lead the way. Read her blog, sign up for her newsletter or find her on Instagram.
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