One of my favorite quotes, torn and taped to my desk, is this one, attributed to Joseph Campbell: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” Letting go of what we want or love or believe we need is certainly never easy, so the Universe, in its infinite benevolence, will sometimes step in to help, prying our gluey fingers back one by one.
At the beginning of the year with the intention of increasing my work, I decided to specialize my practice. I invested a great deal of time and money toward this new venture, thinking it the wise, logical and necessary next step. Six months later I not only have no new clients, but every client I already had concluded their regular work with me. Every single one. In one week.
Normally, I’d be apoplectic right about now, worried and lying awake at night — but I’m not. In fact, when my last client said goodbye I came out of my office, looked at my husband, opened my arms wide and declared, “The decks have been cleared.” You see, I have the very clear sense that there is a larger force at work here, that this mass exodus is meaningful, clearing out my life for something as yet unknown. I believe this. I know this, in fact, because I’ve been here before.
A few years back, my life was just about perfect. I’d found love and I’d found my tribe and in an incredible doctoral program. My plan for a Ph.D. was a logical continuation of my work, and my ego loved it. I couldn’t have been happier … until the debilitating headaches began. They came only during my monthly sojourns to school, left when I got home and steadily worsened. I knew the headaches were connected to school but I also knew that they were not connected to stress (because I had none) or unhappiness or anything physically wrong. After many months of resisting the obvious, I could take no more. With enormous grief I left my program — and the headaches stopped. I stared at the sky asking, “Why?” And after a few months the answer came in the form of something I did not know I wanted or needed until Life brought me to a screaming halt on a path that looked perfect in every way but which was, in fact, not the path I was supposed to be on. I had to release the life I had to receive the life that was waiting for me.
I like to say that there are two kinds of people: those that think they know where they are going, and those who know they don’t. The former feels good to the ego, which always seeks security, but the deeper truth is that not knowing and not trying to dictate the course of one’s life is what allows the soul to unfurl and inhabit the fullness of its perfection. Sometimes this can only be obtained by Life first clearing the deck of things that seem perfect or right or even necessary. Sometimes the clearing comes as illness. Sometimes it comes as breakdowns, or break-ups. Sometimes it comes as colossal failure. Sometimes it comes as loss and sometimes it comes as all of the above. Regardless of how it happens, however, such clearings are often precisely what is needed to facilitate our divine destiny.
Truth be told, I’ve had many indicators over the years that something more was waiting but, lacking a clear vision, I returned to what I knew again and again, like a wind-up toy repeatedly banging into a wall, backing up, and banging into the wall again. My ego simply could not tolerate the idea of letting go unless there was a clear, well-defined and preferably lucrative alternative waiting in the wings.
But the life — be it person, work, opportunity, or awareness — that is waiting to happen is not always obvious to the ego; in fact, it almost never is. The ego focuses on tangibles and clings to the known like a barnacle to a rock. It doesn’t like empty space and it most certainly doesn’t like not knowing. But it is the empty space that holds all of our potential, that directs our gaze toward a new horizon, that ushers in the soul, allowing us to receive the life that is waiting to come in.
That life that was waiting for me the last time the decks were cleared and the Universe kicked me out of school arrived 14 years ago today, weighing in at 7 pounds and 3 ounces, beautiful and perfect and utterly life-changing. So I’ve learned that I have no idea where this ship of my life is going and that’s (mostly) okay. I’m pulling up a chair on this spacious, cleared deck and looking forward to seeing where I land. I promise I’ll write when I get work.