As the smoke hits my nostrils, I take one deep breath, then another. Drawing into me the heady scent of desert wood, the palo santo reminding me of friends and lovers and the way trees can survive even the harshest of winters, but turn to ash at the slightest spark. The green candle stands tall, mingling it's faint bee-hive hum with the smoke, and for a moment there is no desk, no cold basement floor, no fear. Just words and silence and the moments between breathing. For a moment, I am free.
I've spent years of my life doing things I don't love. Being with people I love, but not quite like that. Trying to learn survival in a world where my thoughts and ideas just don't seem to fit. Resigning myself to never quite belonging. Never quite being whole. Searching for something outside myself, for some rule or method or structure to impose, to give my life meaning and direction. A higher purpose, I suppose.
But what everyone says and no one explains is that the purpose exists within you, within each of us. There is something unique and sacred about us, something no one else has. The important thing is that this isn't something you have to find or uncover.
You simply have to live.
Relentlessly authentic. Raw. Vulnerable. Wide open and not without fear but with increasing courage.
For twelve years, I've worked as a freelancer, writing and editing my way through thick and thin, but never committing. Once, in the early days of A Forest of Stories, there was a moment I truly believed I could build a business and a life in this work. But even then, I succumbed to the words of others, about "reality" and how working online was a fantasy. I couldn't make it my life.
And I've listened to them, for years. I've listened for so long those voices became my own.
"I'll never make it. I don't know how to run a business. I don't really have the skills I proclaim. I must be fooling myself and everyone around me. How could I so carelessly expect other to pay me for this?"
I imagine it is the same trap that millions of people find in their lives, every single day. The sinking doubt. The ship that sailed before we could board it. The hunger that burns in us and threatens to devour us whole.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” ~ Rumi
When I was five years old, my grandmother asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. In my precocious and well-read way, I simply responded "a catalyst for positive change in the world." Twenty five years later, I remember this moment clearly. And I wonder what I could have done differently, if that girl hadn't been lost somewhere deep in me for so long. But with the wondering comes a responsibility: I'm still here. What can I do now?
I am so profoundly grateful for friends who push me to look at problems with new eyes. Rather than worry about all those who sound and seem like me, to approach the challenges as I have faced everything in my life: as simply, only me. So when my friend Alisha said "You are you. What are you attracted to? Be that." I did not hesitate in my response: "Authenticity. Raw Truth. Mystery. The unfolding of greater wisdom from personal experience. That's what draws me in. What sets me ablaze."
And instantly, what I realize is that I'm no longer focused on changing the world. Not as a whole, a big picture idea. But a personal revolution, a way of releasing the baggage, recognizing that the ship may have sailed but that it isn't the only ship -- this is the hunger that burns. This is the fire that consumes, and from it's ashes we find a world of infinite possibilities. We are born of ash and smoke and the spark of breath.
And so, as I move toward a fullness of life that can only be described as "a long time coming," I am ready.
I am the Road Woman.
I am no longer afraid.