(originally posted 10-7-18)
I wanted to be a lot of things when I grew up: a nurse, a teacher, a judge, a senator, a singer. But the one that stuck with me most, that lit up my imagination the most was the ambition of being an astronaut. I grew up during the age of the space shuttle, Star Trek, and Star Wars. I was mesmerized by 2001: A Space Odyssey and consumed everything I could in those very early years about space travel. I even went to Space Camp. Twice.
This was it for me. My only destiny. I was destined to travel among the stars. My early childhood memories include watching the space shuttle, Columbia, roar into the sky. Innocence and imagination propelled me to research and learn, which caused me to grow and dream bigger.
My trips to Space Camp also got me started with public speaking rather early. Traveling to schools and scouting troops who wanted to hear about my experience. It also led to designing a space station with my equally geeky friend in middle school that won us some awards and Air Force mentorships. My life became a series of events, speeches, presentations, leadership councils, playfully personal arguments that illustrate a higher ideal than the everyday, ordinary obedience.
I since decided to stay on earth for the duration of my lifetime, I still am inspired and awed by the inspiration of space.
Whenever I’d sit and watch the stars, I saw the endless possibilities for discovery, for growth, for the experience of majestic beauty. I saw the potential for greater technologies to take us past our solar system. I saw the bright, twinkling possibilities for future destinations, greater understanding of our origins and even the capacity for humanity’s redemption in the vast, glittering expanse of space.
But space is also scary. It’s dark and mysterious. The boundlessness of such apparent emptiness often exceeds normal comprehension. And in those rare moments we allow ourselves to explore the vastness of that concept, we begin to see how it’s possible to let go of our smaller selves and connect to the vastness of the cosmos. It’s humbling and remarkable, sparking a flicker of wisdom within, as fleeting as a shooting star.
Sitting on the porch of my family’s cabin in the mountains. I needed this retreat for the past few months, but something else always seemed more important. In my efforts to cope with the stress of day to day life I had allowed myself to get drawn back into old patterns: reacting instead of responding, self-deprivation instead of self-nurturing, beating myself down instead of lifting myself back up.
The gravity of the world had weighed down my spirit more often than the beauty of it had lifted my soul; yet, I feel untethered, the ground never truly solid beneath my feet. Sometimes I feel like I have just been floating out there for quite some time. Drifting from one ambition to another – today I’m a writer, yesterday I was a lawyer, tomorrow I’ll be a goddess. While all of those roles are me, lately there has been very little of me left to inhabit those roles. There’s been very little of me to offer to the people I care most about in this world. Very little of me to become the sparkling mountain goddess I want to be. So consumed by the fear and anxiety, the doubt, and the anger, I have lost touch with the love and the wonder that set me on this path, to begin with.
So as I sit here on this porch, staring at a magnificently sparkling painting of stars overhead, I recall the girl who dreamed of being an astronaut – of seeking out a future for humanity. In this quiet of midnight, I finally feel free to reconcile my own destiny.
I had lost touch with the wisdom that is found when I slow down and consider the true vastness of the universe compared to the small and tiny problems of my life. Who cares whether my boss likes me if there isn’t a humanity left to bear witness to the grandiose majesty of our universe? Who cares whether I said the right thing or wore the right outfit or if I weighed 210 lbs or 135 – my weight and nervousness is not my legacy. Likewise, why should I care about which celebrity is dating who, when I am one tiny person in the vastly diverse array of human beings on this planet, inhabiting one of just a billion different rocks?
Life is so much more than our competitions and jealousies. Life is so much more rewarding than a lifetime of bitterness. Staring at the stars, we begin to question the uselessness of our structures and oppressions. Staring at the stars we know that life is much more than what we’ve contained ourselves to become. Break loose of the mold and find your light in the vastness of complexity and beauty within. Cut loose from the ties that have bound you to the ground and allow yourself to find your place in the universe around us.
A few weeks ago I talked briefly about being in the midst of an early personal spring. Whenever I have break-throughs like this, sudden realizations of patterns and purpose, I want nothing more than to capture that feeling, bottle it, keep it safe.
I keep wanting to capture these feelings, because I don’t want to be without that joy of discovery for very long. I don’t want to fall back into old patterns of self-doubt and disappointment about my life and especially my path. It would be so much easier if I could just bottle it and hang onto it for those moments when I’m down and out, succumbing to the darkness of the overwork and drowning in the sorrow of feeling stuck.
But that defeats the point of having those emotions in the first place. The point isn’t so much to capture as it is for it to make the hard work, the suffering, the darkness all worth it. It provides more motivation to keep moving forward, to slow down the progressive bad habits that have kept us stuck in the first place.
Today I found myself longing to capture that joy again. After a long conversation with the person I consider to be my soul sister, I had such a strong sense of clarity that even Warrior talked about how inspiring it was to see it.
I kept trying to capture it, to not lose it. Especially because it’s a day off for me and I don’t want the stressors of work tomorrow to interfere with the enormous job I have ahead of me. But that worry of losing it interfered with my ability to actually feel it. It took me out of the moment of joy and into an immediate space of worry and dread.
So tonight, I’m making a conscious effort to just be present in this moment and this sensation within. Enlightenment won’t make a difference if I don’t fully embrace it when it shows up.