THE PURPOSE OF LONG LIFE

It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step on to the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

—J.R.R. Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

In the last week of August, almost recovered from a debilitating nine-week bout of shingles, an urgent Call came to give away, sell, or store my clothes and household stuff and to get in my car and drive away from home. I received no instructions about where I was to go, for how long, or why—only that I had to leave everything behind and drive away. So, I gave notice to my landlord; my sons helped me pack and have yard sales. On October 1st last year, I left home. 

Before I left, I called Lewis Mehl Madrona to talk through this sudden compulsion to go on a drive-about without a plan. I had hoped he would help me figure out why I felt compelled to do this out-of-the-blue thing, but he offered no guidance on why. However, he did encourage me to blog every day. Lewis figured every day I could write about how something I experienced made me see and think about things in a new way. At first, what could I write about? I felt propelled by anxiety and urgency to run from something rather than driving toward a purpose, a destination of heart and soul–and that didn’t seem like interesting material for a blog, so I waited. I didn’t want a travelogue themed blog, describing landscapes, historical sites, seeing hawks, fox, gray heron, freezing through the night in a cabin with no heat. 

In cold, gray December at the lake in South Carolina, I was swallowed up by loneliness and lostness, sinking in doubts and resistance about my path forward in work, life, and the drive-about. I knew I had to meet resistance with a daring embrace. I entered into listening meditations on the lake. By the end of December, I felt a shift a wide threshold into a more profound solitude. 

I began the new year in the loft of a barn-house in Paris, Kentucky. Then, like the visitations of Dicken’s “ghosts of Christmas Past,” my ghosts began to visit night after night. Dream-visitations from people I knew in childhood or youth who had died, my babysitter, my godmother, and Miss Weston,; from relatives and friends who drifted away before I said goodbye or “don’t leave–you matter to me”; and random snapshots of moments in my life come to life. With each dream reflection, I simultaneously regretted and understood the repeating patterns of decisions at crossroads. 

Earlier in life, my introspections and sorting were about working out how what others had “done to me” affected me. Now, in late-life, I see the mirror-side of the same eve ants–and seek understanding of my actions. Coming to self-love, to Love and trust, has taken so long. Maybe the gift and purpose of a long life is enough time to mature, to peel away the inner child’s fear and dreaming to return to the Beginning, and to know, even glimpse, our true Self before taking birth.

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