Sometimes, the only way to truly understand God’s handiwork is by catching a glimpse of it in the rearview mirror when we’re moving forward in a new direction.
I bring this up because lately, I have been realizing just how present and benevolent the Universe actually is. Why such deep fodder? Because I have been asked to once again place my foot on the gas pedal and head into yet another series of unknowns.
So there I was, mood swinging and wondering how I had arrived at a point in time where things were just not feeling quite right. And, quietly at first, I felt a nudge from the Heavens. It seemed to be telling me to leave California (again) and head back to my birth home of Chicago (again). I resisted.
The nudges continued. I resisted.
The nudges turned into a boxing match.
I began to pay attention.
So, this week, while sitting in a car packed to the brim with my belongings and having to rely on something like Trust rather than Trust Funds, I said, “I’m not sure where the money is Modern Day Journalism, but God is telling me to leave you for a bit and leap into something that I don’t even understand.
Yes. It was there in the car when, for a twenty-second interlude, which eventually lingered on through the day, that I realized just how remarkable the road was—back there in that thing called The Life I Have Been Living. For in that relaxed moment, I was able to be present to the remarkable splendor and grace that the Universe had been delivering in my life, and with life itself. All along.
But let’s be clear: We need to make a distinction here … for if we gaze into that rearview mirror too long, we also stand the risk of losing our footing in the present.
See my arm. It just shot up into the air. Because prior to this lovely moment of clarity, I spent quite a long time in that place … mostly wondering how to recreate an old version of me in the present. I get it. I had a fabulous twenty-five-year experience as a writer and editor in Northern California. When that ended, I decided to not re-enter the workforce immediately. Rather, I opted to finish a memoir, which revolved heavily around my Polish family. But when that ended, I wanted to leap right back into the old life I had. I wanted it to be waiting for me.
But it was gone.
Because that version of me was also gone.
Maybe that’s why it always felt like more than half of me wasn’t ready to place my foot on top of that proverbial gas pedal after the memoir experience was complete. Like a child, I kicked and screamed, and had far too many emotional fits of despair. At first I thought I was screaming back at God. But maybe it was me I was screaming back at. Perhaps a deeper part of myself was just really pissed at my overpowering will, which kept insisting that I had to be somewhere other than where I was, which was in a state of major life transition.
You see, sometimes God, The Universe—whatever you’d like to call it—will ask you to take the biggest leap of all by doing … nothing.
Well, at least nothing like the way you used to do it. This must be why, after fifteen years of Bikram Yoga, I understand more deeply why all my yoga teachers kept telling their students that the pose known as Savasana was the hardest post to teach. It’s also referred to as “the dead body pose,” and it’s biggest invitation to the yogi is simply to lie still. You see, sometimes we’re asked to take a reprieve from things and in the pausing, something wonderful occurs—grace. And it is in these lovely moments when we are able to discern whether it’s God who is nudging us, or if, in fact, we are the ones doing the pushing in our own lives.
I’d say the last three years of my own life are a testament to that. There were so many times when I insisted I had to move forward “professionally” … and that I had to go after another big job. And that I had to stay relevant in this crazy, borderline obnoxious, social media-driven world filled with frenzied and fragile egos. I thought, as many people do, that I had to produce more, be more, get more. But no, after twenty-five years of nonstop writing and emitting more energy and verve for the love of the craft, somewhere along the line, I must have drank the proverbial Kool-Aid through the sipppy-cups handed out by the masses. On some level, I must have believed that I had to be one of the cool kids in order to be accepted and relevant … in order to get ahead. If the cool kids weren’t looking and making assessments—about me—then, well, what was the point?
I had lost myself in the illusion. And a turning point was imminent.
For me, after twenty-five years constant creation, penning several books—two of which were published—and running a newspaper for a good fourteen of those years, I needed a break. We are not machines, after all. But I would have kept on going. The newspaper I had been running was taken over by a media enterprise that was very Putin-esque and took the best game plans from its Stalin playbook. People got canned. Others were imprisoned in their new cubicles. After my termination, I decided to finish that memoir about my Polish family and decided—or was forced to?—Trust that if I returned to the Midwest to do that, with little income and nothing but a modest 401k I cashed out, that things would be okay. I had to leave the comfort of my structured world and dive head first into the waters of the unknown.
So, let’s get back to the big question: What happens when we pause?
What happens when we stop “doing” things and simply … trust. What happens when we trust—it’s a verb, after all—that the Universe has our backs, and we actually go with it? Furthermore, what happens when we get a spiritual nudge to leave behind a life that we had been living, and which has been so structured, and follow the Divine somewhere else?
That’s what was being asked of me. I see that now. I had to stop by way of spiraling out like a comet. I was a “celebrity” in the town I lived—Santa Cruz. My picture was in the paper. People knew me. They wanted things from me. They wanted my attention and in turn, I got some attention. Sometimes a lot of it. I also became a journalist for national magazines. I wouldn’t say my ego was bloated, but it got puffy. It’s not hard to admit this. I didn’t go overboard and think I was “all that,” but I did begin to appreciate being the me that I was becoming … somebody of influence. I made a vow to focus on people doing good things in the world. I did that well.
But what happens when you are taken out of your comfort zones? What happens to the YOU who you think you are when you begin to cease doing the things that YOU have always done?
You become somebody else; somebody new—to yourself.
Before, during, and after the book was published, I experienced a great deal of grief. There was a lot of bliss, too—and magic and so many synchronistic occurrences that it was so blatantly obvious that the presence of God, and grace, was there. But I didn’t count on one necessary requirement. I didn’t realize I had to grieve.
I grieved the loss of deep loves—that remarkable era of rich bliss in which I thrived as a journalist; the purging of a family memoir from the annals of my psyche—truth be told, it felt as if I had projectile vomited a mess of inherited family traumas from the 1940s and Stalin’s brutal mass deportation of Polish people, which included my eight family members and whose cries for help seemed to be living on inside of me. I grieved the absence of a ninety-day thrust into a new dimension, when I had, serendipitously, been offered an opportunity to be a quasi caretaker of a grove filled with nearly three hundred baby olive trees on Maui, of all places, several months after said memoir was published. I grieved the loss of a life lived passionately. I felt lost, confused, hopeless, disoriented and displaced, all while living in quasi isolation in Palm Springs with contract work that didn’t quite feed my soul.
But lately—and here’s how lovely the Universe is—I have managed to catch those glimpses of the past in the rearview mirror. And smile.
Imagine what smiling does for something like grief?
Yes. Something had lifted. I was able to breathe and actually celebrate all that occurred in my life, and to be reminded that I was never alone, that I will never be alone, and that there is some truly phenomenal Loving Presence at work.
Fitting … because I embark on a new journey today. I drive across the country—back to Chicago. Back “home” where creative opportunities, some care for aging family members, and a new timeline seems to be awaiting me with open arms. I head into a new set of unknowns, into a new set of possibilities.
And maybe this time, whenever I pause at the stop sign along the shaded country road of life, I may just be able to take a moment and breathe it all in more deeply. Who knows? I may even notice some playful children at their lovely Lemonade or Kool-Aid stand on the corner. And if I do, I have the feeling this time if I drink some punch, it won’t be spiked.