The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
This little poem speaks volumes about what it takes to stay committed to our relationships and our dreams. More often than we would like to admit, and often accompanying a significant loss, we confront the brutal truth that we really don’t know where we are going or what to do. It is a disquieting realization. This moment of not knowing will show us more about ourselves than all of the days we spend certain of the next step.
Living with ourselves during the groundless moments of pure bafflement is not easy. All of our critical inner voices seem to shout louder and small inconveniences have the weight of real problems. Stepping out of our stories to gain a truer perspective feels like a steep climb up. This is a time when I cut myself while chopping vegetables or stub my toe on a couch that hasn’t moved in years. I seem to attract the impediments like a magnet. Keeping the mind focused on routine chores requires effort. It is especially hard to maintain the caretaking of others when we feel lost to ourselves.
So it is not surprising, but it hits like a double whammy when our relationship falters under the strain of holding ourselves on the edge of the unknown. This is by definition a lonely time, and often requires a language of emotions that is as unfamiliar as the experience itself. Distancing ourselves from our loved ones does not help, but it is easy to do. All the more so when our bafflement comes from the relationship itself. Relationships go through these same places of groundlessness and, precisely when we need to lean in and learn how to love more, we pull away.
Goodness suffices and endures forever; on this throughout its years true love depends. –Ovid
Here is the solution to the moments of groundless, up against the wall, no place to turn kind of time – be kind to yourself and practice goodness with everyone you love, or better still everyone you know. Watch for goodness around you and feel happy that you were there to bear witness. It sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires vigilance and practice and a willingness to let go of the habitual thoughts that trap us.
Love is the antidote to fear. Fear is often the emotion that holds us tightly in our moments of loss. So try to love more when you are lost, beginning with yourself. I recently read that altruistic behavior actually heals. We feel better when we help other people because in the act of offering love, we are given a true perspective. A perspective that provides a wide enough view to lead you back to a path with heart.