Monday, September 5, 2016

Know Your Self, Live Your Story

San Pedro de Casta, Peru. June 2013
There's really something to our ability to tell stories.

To narrate, to talk about, to make coherent the life we have been given. To go back and name the spaces where things happened to us, and we responded in certain ways. It's such a simple- yet diligent- task: to observe our own lives, and find our way.

As it starts to become real that my eight months in Colorado are up (yup, real, as in my room is packed, my car is semi-packed, my next adventure is semi-mapped), I'm realizing what the development of an eternal perspective has done for my life.

How the ability to see the things that happen to us as chapters, not finalities, keeps us moving, keeps us growing, keeps us going. 

Keeps us able to hope, when we cannot see. This is the Christian life, and I have developed it in my heart over the past three years. It is not a practice, but a lens, a perspective; not a 'thing to do' but a 'way to see.' An inner change.
Marcahuasi plateau, Andes Mountains, Peru. June 2013
And I'm not really going to talk about that too much today, but will let it suffice to say that the perspective and vision it has given me has touched and effected everything else I see, live, and dream about.

When you finally have hope, when you have vision beyond yourself, well, you start to live differently.

I mostly felt today like writing about what I mentioned earlier: stories. When you as a reader read a story, you don't know in the moment how or where the plot is twisting: as the reader, it's not up to you. Knowing the whole story is not why you picked up the book, of course- you picked up the book because you were curious, because you wanted some enrichment, because you wanted to get pleasantly lost in a tale. 

The author knows, or knew, the plot when he wrote it, but your job as the witness is to go, for all those whimsical reasons above. Life is not really much different.

And if we think of life like that, like a story which is happening to us, we have to learn to flow with the plot- and release the pride that says we're the writer, not the witness. I do, of course, believe strongly in actively living and making opportunities for yourself; but what I'm trying to say here is that you don't always know the consequences of those choices. You can choose the action, but the plot twist from there is kind of beyond your control.
Huaycan, Lima, Peru. April 2013
I knew, for instance, that I wanted to come to Colorado; I chose that. That wasn't passive- the decision to give up everything at home for a simplified life was made intentionally (and intuitively, but not entirely easily). I chose that- eight months ago. But eight months ago, I didn't choose what has happened since then. That's not possible to do! 

We can only ever be diligent to choose right now- but committedly, forever.

And that's what I've learned in my story: that the decision to do one thing, and then another, and then another... that's what propels life forward. The decision to make no decisions is what halts it. The decision to switch- from doing nothing to doing something- is possible, and admirable. And necessary, if you want a good story.

As life in Colorado ends, I've been thinking about what things were like when I got here in January 2016. But I've also been thinking about the whole story too, the eternal perspective. The big picture. When I do that, it really makes endings evidently beginnings.

I came here because before I came here, I had been other places that inspired me to come here. Or that awoke something that moved me to come here. I came to here because I went to there, so to speak. Every little thing we do (or that happens to us, even if it's not in our choosing) becomes part of our story. I've found out that even the things I thought were dark and sad and terrible are also redeemable, and that is a really beautiful thing.
Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA. May 2015
Even those things- especially those things- grow us deeper and more whole. I don't think if I hadn't suffered a lot, I would appreciate freedom from suffering as much as I do now.

What fascinates me now, too, is that I have no idea what's going to happen in my life: and that has previously not been something I'd want to vocalize too much. I think that's human nature- we want to feel like we're in control, and we certainly want other people to think we have it together. Human nature is prideful, self-focused- in subtle, sneaky ways. No one is naturally great at being carried: we'd all prefer to be authors. 

We don't like to share with the world that our life isn't certain (even though we all know it's true); we don't like to be honest and upfront and vulnerable with each other- or with ourselves, really- that the question 'what are you doing with your life?' is anxiety-inducing- as long as our ultimate faith is in ourselves, in our ability to figure it out.
But what if we truly believe that it's not?

There will come a time we have to choose: Do I believe I am the author, or the witness? Whose story is this really? Is life itself about me- or something bigger than me? I think the beauty in believing the latter is that it means you get to glorify things that will outlast you. 
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington, May 2015
That's a precious gift. That makes your story bigger- and I think juicer and richer, more playful and more adventurous, more authentic and more raw. 

That perspective helps the characters in your story too: it means you're not attached to them, but always loving; it means you're humble in your understanding that your story should point to something greater than just yourself, so it's not always about you- but about what you can share, and what you can leave the world through your love, not your ego.

I've found that this is important as the story of my own life goes forward. Nothing is final (except death, but even that, to the Christian mind, is not the end). I don't believe- because I don't feel it in my heart of hearts, in my very soul- that I get to come back to this earth once I'm gone, in any capacity. I feel that when it's physically over, I'm going home. My soul is a unique thing, my being a unique being, to happen only once, to be born for this time. And then to leave, holding nothing, when it's time to leave. 

When life is just a journey to the ultimate destination, it's a lot more free. When we get to the end of the story, holding on won't be of any benefit to our survival. So that brings up the question: why bother holding on now?

Why not just try, even if it feels counter-intuitive (which it will) at first, to begin disregarding the idea that there's any better option than to go with the flow, be in the flow, of life? Why not just try to look at your life with a sense that something greater than you is authoring it, until that perspective encompasses your entire worldview? In a very real way, that's surrender. That's losing the ego, losing the self- and gaining something even greater.
Rialto Beach, Olympic Peninsula. May 2015
The presence of God brings wonder into our lives for the unknown. It allows excitement, the looking-forward-to of new things; it eliminates the anxiety trap that's caused by the idea that we're the star of this show. It makes us free to live, to express, to be content when we aren't certain. To risk, and to love. Nothing can go wrong. And you can't see life as anything but good when you truly don't believe that anything can go wrong.

So yes, it is time to leave Colorado. It is amazing to think just how much this place has changed my life, how the story has unfolded in ways I never could have expected. I keep meditating on this: you just have to go. You just have to trust the process. It's somehow about simplifying: if you hold on, cling, to nothing, your life feels at rest- and the important things stay.

You learn to whittle it down to the essentials. Worry is never essential. It's not up to me to decide 'what happens:' it's up to me to go. To listen to the quiet feeling that says, 'there's more. There's more out there for you. There's more.'

Because in the end, there's either 'more,' or 'this is it.' There's either grow, or never change. There's either risk, or gain nothing.
Olympic National Park, Washington. May 2015
We forget these things along the journey (I think this is the nice thing about journaling and writing: you never really forget, because you're actually keeping track.) We forget to look back sometimes and think about how far we've come, and how we've come, and by what means. I try to do this, now, as an adult, when faced with endings: inspect how the journey went. When I do, I can extract the lessons.

What did I learn? How does this (lovingly) compare to where I was a year ago? Do I notice patterns? How might I change for the better? How have I evolved and grown? What anxieties have left: how have I given up what I once did not see as negativity, because I have outgrown it?

These are great things to learn about ourselves. It's always a pleasant surprise to see how the plot twisted for the better when I tend to be fearful about (or previously experienced with) the worst. This is that fearless hope: to keep looking forward toward the goal, the dream, the manifestation, and- even if there's uncertainty and hardship- boldly know that it is coming in due time.

Almost four years ago, I was in Peru. That was the first big turning point in my own story. I saw and experienced and learned things there that opened my mind up to more than myself, somehow. I went to a new place, and let it impress me. I let it make an impression on my mind, rather than me just bringing my mind in from the outside and impressing myself upon it.

I think it was a trip that began a perspective of humility. 
Arriving in Glacier National Park, Montana, USA via train from Chicago. August 2015
And that became part of the story. 

Then, there were new jobs when I got back. And letting go of old relationships, and making new ones, gradually more healthy ones; and getting new jobs, and learning new things. There was art. 2014 was the year I bloomed in believing in what I was supposed to be doing as a matter of purpose, of calling, of passion- not just 'supposed to be doing' in terms of status, convenience, comfort; 'using my degree' or making money. 

'What I was supposed to be doing' as in: what is the story I am made to seeing, writing, telling, carrying?

There were more new people, more new jobs. More- better, stronger- relationships. More healing, and restoration. More wild passion for bigger things; growing, growing, growing. 

Blooming in the feeling that I found what I was made for was nice, but I think blooming in the commitment to that purpose was the best thing. That choice, that's always the important part. Love- for people, for things, for passions, for life- isn't passive, and really, it isn't emotional: it is a matter of character. Conviction. Choice. Feelings come and go. Things feel good, things feel bad- that is life. The question I started asking then was: where's my anchor beyond those things?
Glacier National Park, Montana, August 2015
Anything else fades away. Anything else is not eternal. In 2015, I really learned what it was like to go after what was eternal. 

In 2015 I traveled more. Alone. I started to give convenient things up and go for harder things, more challenging things- but worthier things. Things sometimes all logic told me was pointless. Things all intuition told me were necessary for growth. 

And that brought me to 2016. And 2016 brought me to Colorado. And that's how stories go. You get out there and you do things- and when one thing stops, you do something else. 

But whatever you do, you develop your character, your self, and you bring that with you. 

And then before you know it- eventually, gradually, slowly but surely and rewardingly- you have that thing that is the most glorious blessing: you have a story, you have a life of your own.
Glacier National Park, Montana, August 2015

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