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 made me feel lost and insecure because they required dropping my old traditions and values. The sudden endings left me feeling insecure and indecisive about what to do next. It was like a game of Jenga where, after slowly and carefully removing wooden blocks without affecting the tower, 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 fall into the trap of believing that my best days were behind me and that I would never recover the “greatness” I once had. This attitude kept me so attached to the past and busy lamenting my loss that I couldn’t see any of the doors that had been opened for me. Thankfully, as my grief subsided, my higher self revealed the possibilities that accompany a new beginning. I emerged from the darkness I was experiencing 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 of the difficulty I had giving 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 be effective in my new present. But that did not stop me, for, eventually, I had no choice but to open myself to new and more effective ways.
This process is 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, Gone with the Wind.
“Until you’ve lost your reputation, you never realize what a burden it was or what real freedom really is”.
This advice is given by Rhett Butler, one of the story’s main character, to Scarlet Hamilton, a young widow who was convinced she should base her life 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 our new purchase delivers 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.
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 never be free living according to the approval of others or in pursuit of material things.
Experience has taught me that committing to your passion will lead to your true purpose. When you decide what input you accept, the perspective that makes sense to you, the company you keep and the level of kindness you show the world, regardless of what others think, then you will be relying on your instincts and inner urgings for guidance. This is what true freedom is.
Remember, paying gratitude for your life forward will reward you with the spirits of joy and contentment.