One thing is sure about life transitions, especially those that include the loss of a job, a home or a spouse, they can leave you feeling like you have been body slammed.
Life transitions have left me feeling lost and insecure because they required dropping my old traditions and values. Initially, I felt insecure and could not decide what to do next. Making matters worse was the suddenness of my old life’s end. It was like a game of Jenga where, after slowly and carefully placing wooden blocks to build the foundation, the whole kit and caboodle comes tumbling down swiftly when the wrong block is pulled out.
It was easy for me during these times to assume that my best days were behind me and that I would never recover the “greatness” I once had. This attitude kept me attached to the past and busy lamenting my loss and I couldn’t see the door that had been opened for me. Thankfully, my higher self revealed the possibilities that come with a new beginning. I emerged from the darkness into a rebirth of my spirit when I began to see that, without the old traditions relationships and titles, I was free to re-create my life.
This was not easy to do at first because it was hard to give up the behavior, ideas and values that had worked for me in the past. I stubbornly hung on to them even when it became obvious these things would not work in my new present. But that was not a bad thing for, eventually, I had no choice but to open myself to new and more effective ways.
This process is so similar to our human cycles of history. Imagine, we once used whale oil to light our lamps, it would be unreasonable to continue to rely on that source today when we know we can use something much more abundant.
Lessons from Gone with the Wind.
I love to read and listen to good stories, I learn so much about life from them. For today’s lesson about releasing our attachments, I am using words from author Margaret Mitchell’s famous novel.
“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what real freedom really is”.
This is the advice given by Rhett Butler, one of the story’s main character, to Scarlet Hamilton, a young widow who was convinced she should base her behavior on the rules of social decorum. He understood the suffocating confinement that comes from trying to meet the expectations of others.
Later on, Butler swoops in with encouragement for Scarlet when he senses that she is trying to stop living her life according to the opinion of others.
“Now you are beginning to think for yourself instead of letting others think for you. That’s the beginning of wisdom.”
My life experiences have taught me that Butler is right, wisdom comes when you choose to follow your own desires and not what others want for you. This is what it means to listen to your inner guide.
But not everything goes well for a work driven Scarlet. In a later part of the story, she expresses to Butler an opinion similar to one that imprisons so many in today’s culture,
“Yes, I want money more than anything else in the world.”
Butler responds by reminding the young woman of the consequences of such a desire,
“Then you’ve made the only choice. But there’s a penalty attached, as there is to most things you want. It’s loneliness”.
I took a long time to learn that there were things more valuable to my soul than the number of zeroes at the end of my bank account, or the size of my home, the make of my car, the title on my desk or the beauty of my romantic partner. If this is the purpose of our lives, then we will wallow in a state of quiet desperation wondering where we missed the boat heading towards our fulfillment.
Words of wisdom from comedian/actor Jim Carrey.
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer”
Right in line with Rhett Butler, Jim Carrey tells us about the pitfalls of always wanting more. This is a spiritual hole that cannot be filled.
We don’t have to be rich and famous to understand that the joy of getting material things is short-lived. It doesn’t take long to lose the momentary high from our new purchase before we are off in search of more. One day we wake up from our pursuit and discover the emptiness in our lives.
This is why a failure, or a tragedy become such important teachers for all of us. They unmask how we spent our lives pursuing society’s goals instead of investing ourselves in meaningful relationships and finding a purpose we truly love. Setbacks permit us to let go of our old attachments so we may become truly free. The choice is ours, of course, for we can always go back to our old pursuits. I certainly have tried to go back to what I was, but every time that path has only lead me to greater loneliness.
Janis Joplin and Bobby McGee
Every time I listen to this old Janis Joplin song, I reflect on how much I have changed since this song first came out. It is the following line that stirs me up,
“Freedom is just another word for nothing else to lose”
I was a teenager when I first heard the lyrics and I assumed she was referring to the resignation of being poor. it was something that I knew first hand. If you have nothing, then no matter what you do you lose nothing.
Now I understand something different, for I have experienced the freedom that came when I liberated myself from my old ways, my old standing and possessions. My experience has taught me that when you commit to seeking your passion, you will discover your true purpose. When you begin living out your purpose, having a small or large wallet will not matter to you.
You will forever be lost if you don’t know what you want in life, what you really love, and your passion, whatever it may be. You will also never be free if you live your life according to the approval of others or to the pursuit of material things. These are the attachments you must let go of to be truly free.
This newfound freedom will allow you to take control of your life. You will decide what input you will accept, the perspective that makes more sense to you, the company you keep and the level of kindness you will show to the world. Regardless of what others think, you will rely on your instincts and inner urgings for guidance. This is what true freedom is.
May peace always reign in your heart.