The Path

Photo by Simon Matzinger from Pexels

It’s taken me almost 40 years, marrying the best man I know, burying my father, birthing two kids and surviving a global pandemic to get me here, but I’m here. Today.

I’m here. Now.

I’ve inexplicably arrived here at the ledge, one leg extended. Eyes forward and up. Eyes not looking back. Eyes not looking down.

And maybe, when I think about it…it’s not so inexplicable.

I’ve spent most of my adult life up until this point having absolutely no idea what I was doing. Basically moving my feet with no plan whatsoever as to where they might be taking me and why they might be taking me. I don’t mean this to say that my adult life has been a waste, or I’ve spent it groping around looking for a light switch. Quite the contrary, I’ve made tons of incredibly safe choices. Calculated choices that minimize risk. Choices that build a foundation. None of it has been a waste. The only problem is, I’ve been steaming ahead, laying the foundation without ever asking myself “what the fuck am I supposed to be building?”

And if I think hard about it, I’m not really standing on a ledge, or a cliff, or before a chasm. The path, the blueprint, the choice — It’s always been here. With me. Just a thing in the corner. A silent, flat, hidden thing. A momentary flash of a thing. A ripple of light. A thing on the tip of my tongue. A freckle on my shoulder. Who I am, or who I’m meant to be, what I’m meant to do is inside the moments I’ve created for myself — inside the truth I’ve written for myself.

I’ve played my hand close for long enough. It’s not an accident that I arrive here now. As though some grand force outside of me has gotten me here. Something like god? No. Not any god. It’s not any epic calling from the Universe. It’s a silent seed finally breaking through from the rich soil I’ve been tending all these years.

I made the mistake of thinking about the path like a hurdle instead a homecoming. I waited so long for this because I thought it needed to feel urgent, dramatic, with stage lights and orchestral swell. I waited for the skies to open and a voice to ring out, to shout above the noise of life and tell me what path I should walk. But it’s not like that. Far from it. It is more like a blurry image slowly squinting into focus. Like the fog on glass gradually clearing. Like a song that has been playing for hours, but you only just now hear it. Like the old sweater you find at the bottom of drawer, in the back of a closet. The one that smells like who you were, once upon a time, when you were You.

It’s so steady. It’s so natural. It feels obvious now. Have I grown so much? Have I made a full circle? Have I crossed some threshold of wisdom or confidence? Or maybe it’s that I can no longer tolerate ignoring that damn song. Maybe I’ve hit the last dead end. Maybe I’ve got nowhere else to go, finally. Except to be here. Now.

I wrote a poem many years ago. I wondered to myself, in that poem, when I’d be ready to quit the daily grind of safe living. Ready to sit down, and cross my legs, and straighten my back, and close my eyes. Ready to let it all fall away. Ready to listen to my self, rather than manage myself. Ready to commune rather than compel. Ready to release my grip. Ready to be honest about what makes me feel whole.

If I hover over myself, float above and look down sometimes I see a stranger. A person that is perpetually waiting. Hedging bets. Guarding herself. From what? Against who? For what? I appear solid but I dissolve. Why do I always dissolve? Then diminish. Then decelerate. Why? The lure of conformity, the safety of it, the abundance of it has often been too overwhelming to ignore. Assimilation is like a flood it rushes and drowns. To be like everyone else…To be the same…it comforts like cotton. It is a warm hearth. It is a cruel lover. We, all of us, crawl into that comfortable bed, so tired from walking. And the uniform shell that wraps around us so tightly, whispers “I will protect you.” “I will help you blend in.” And we accept it. We stay.

I’ve stayed too long.

All this time, I’ve been thinking that I can do both — stay the same and change. Be safe and be true. Like truth is logged like evidence into a case I’ve been trying to make. “See,” I say, “Here is evidence that I can be normal.” And, here is evidence that I can succeed. And here is evidence that I am liked, that I have friends, that I have worth, that I am loved. And on and on I go, making choices that are supposed to convince some imaginary jury…Convince them of what? That I have meaning? That I am valuable? And who is this jury? I see now that all this evidence only makes me anonymous. Only proves that I can be a locust in a swarm. A molecule in a monsoon. It doesn’t validate anything except that we all toil away in our defective system of evaluating worth. The jury box is empty. It always has been and always will be. There is no one to convince. It is only me. It has always been only me.

I rest my case.

I rest.

I hear the song now.

Do you hear it? Can you see me?

Look hard between the trees. Listen for the quiet rustling of leaves. Give your eyes a chance to adjust to the light and the shadow…You might see me there, finally finding a path. Finally choosing to live my truest story. Keep looking — you might see yourself too.

Maybe it’s taken 40 years, and marrying the best man I know, and burying my father, and birthing two kids, and surviving a global pandemic…but I’m here now.

Ready.

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