To be nobody but myself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else - means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings
Comes The Dawn
After a while, you learn the subtle difference
between holding a hand and chaining a soul.
And you learn that loving doesn't mean leaning
and company isn't security.
(Kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises.)
After a while you begin to accept your defeats
with your head up and your eyes open,
with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.
And you learn to build your roads on today
because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain
and the inevitable has a way of crumbling in mid-flight.
After a while you learn that even sunshine burns
if you stand too long in one place.
So, you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul
instead of waiting for someone else to bring you flowers.
And you learn you really can endure,
that you really do have worth.
You learn that with every good-bye comes the dawn.
The Growing Season
God is glorified in the fruitage of our lives.
- Joel S. Goldsmith
At the same time as I desired authentic existence, I feared it. I was, in the same breath, my self and my oppressor, at once the spectator and the actor; rather than having choices, I followed perscriptions. An exhausting struggle, diminishing my power to transform my world. Immature, weak, helpless, dependent, lacking initiative and having the inability to act, think, decide. It was time for changes in my life. I desired freedom, a most worthy goal requiring my utmost energy. I had had enough rationalizations. I needed empowerment. Even today, the requirements of that commitment continue to astound me.
Were I to die tomorrow, would God ask me what did I dream, what did I plan, what did I think? Probably not. God would ask me, "What did you DO with your life?" It occurred to me that I should have some answers ready for that question. In the meantime, putting my dreams into action could give me something to talk about when I get to that point. I have discovered that I was not truly weak, helpless and dependent, that I was able to act and that I had initiative. I can't say, precisely, when the Ugly Duckling became the Swan, but I began by working with what I had. And, I began to work in my garden.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés uses many garden analogies when she writes. One of my favorite passages in her writings has to do with letting the stories of your life happen to you, "watering them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom. That is the work. The only work." I needed to let my true nature grow and flower into the fullness that was its potential. Diligence - that is what it took to overcome the rationalizations, what I needed in order to be empowered. For that work, it is always growing season.
Working in my garden requires a bit of organized effort, too. Deciding what to plant and where means setting worthy and realistic goals; working effectively means making good use of my allotted time; working with an attitude of reverence demonstrates an understanding of the concept of stewardship and the responsibilities which that implies; taking action when the time is right gives me the opportunity to admire the work when the weather changes; and realizing that I am an amatuer, not a professional gardener helps me to appreciate what I can accomplish by my efforts and by the grace of the Spirit; working in the garden of my soul points out the necessity for seeking balance in my life, eliminating any overgrowth of ignorance that keeps me in darkness, uprooting weeds of intolerance that separates me from my fellow beings, and taking care not to invest all my energy in just one part of my spiritual garden, but to seek progress overall.
When it comes to decorating my soul, no one else will bring me flowers, I must grow them myself. I am not a human being having spiritual experiences, I am a spiritual being having human experiences. Dependence on the external things in my life led to disappointment and failure. Changing the internal perspective of how I saw, reacted to, and learned from those external things in my life helped me to grow and bloom. No one circumstance or event is meaningful of itself - all my experiences serve to help me grow.
Spiritual growth is, therefore, my true work.
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