A follow up to the post, March 20th–A Tribute to Alex. (See it here)
One of those voices led me to call a college friend who was working at the medical school and to tell her that I didn’t know why I was calling but that I had been “urged” to do so for weeks and just had not followed through. I told her that I was looking for a job and that I was hoping she might know of something. Actually, she did. She was aware of a newly-funded project and she knew the project director and would pass my name along to her. The rest “fell into place,” shall we say. And that is another story for another day.
Today is “another day” and I will try to expand on my thoughts about things “falling into place.”
I am amazed at how freeing the trials and tribulations in our lives can be for us. When we are faced with the thought that things can’t get much worse than this, we are suddenly free to take risks and make moves that we might not ordinarily do. That has been the case for me more often than I have bothered to document. But my gestalt at this time in my life is that it has happened often enough for me to believe in the power of helplessness and despair to move us into a state of hopefulness and joy.
My natural tendency is to work from my mind—my thinking—rather than from my gut and my intuition. So when I finally followed what I guess one would define as intuition, and called my friend, the events that followed seemed to have been waiting for me to get on board! This was not the first time in my life that I seemed to have been the last to know what I was destined to do. But I can say that this one event contributed to subsequent decades of life’s richness and fulfillment.
In 1994, after I called my friend, got the job, started working at the medical center, one thing led to another. Having more confidence in the practice of living intuitively, I was able to tune into the “still, small voice” and to respond again a couple of years later when I had a thought in the back of my mind that I should go to graduate school. Out of my entire immediate and extended family only two of us, one cousin and I, had four-year college degrees. So this was an extraordinary idea: I would be the first. But I felt empowered and, with the love and support of my family, I managed to earn an MPH. This opened more doors for me professionally, but it also gave me personal satisfaction in overcoming the fear and self-doubt that accompanies us when we “stretch.”
I have found confirmation in much of what I have experienced in a book I have been reading lately. Brené Brown writes about her research into what she calls “wholehearted living” in The Gifts of Imperfection, and she posits that “the tools we need to work our way through our journey” are courage, compassion, and connection. I was hooked as soon as I read these words in her Introduction: “Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. …It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” (her emphasis)
In the autumn of 2002 I took another scary ride, over to the campus of Salem College where I attended a day-long writing workshop for bereaved mothers. Of course, this was the beginning of the writing group and the story-telling in Farther Along…, the book and the blog. Having a safe place to tell my story — to dig deep into my soul in order to face difficult truths and to be able to still love myself — is the overarching blessing that writing provides for me.
In the last paragraph of Brown’s Introduction she writes, “Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy – the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
Like me, Brown learned some of those lessons for herself from her own despair and what she called unraveling. Perhaps the fabric of our lives made from those scraps and pieces is, in fact, more beautiful—and stronger—than the perfectly aligned and undisturbed materials.
Hmmm. No wonder I have enjoyed making my first quilt over the past year.