John’s father had built their home when John was a boy. It was perched on the side of a mountain overlooking the sea and John wanted to stay there as long as possible. But over the years, the ocean had worn away the shore and compromised the integrity of the foundation. No amount of repair could hide the fact that John would have to live elsewhere. He faced a heartbreaking but essential turning point in his life. He had to find more solid ground.

In the geography of a life, there are times when what once was solid starts to shift, because life as we know it has evolved and changed in some deep way that no longer supports us. There are times when the integrity of our foundation is compromised and we have to find new footing.

A shift of foundation can appear in many ways: the banks of a river can crumble as the river gets stronger, the shore of a marriage can be carved out by the tide of time, the trunk of self-identity can be wormed of its strength, and our secret ambition can open like a dandelion that in time will drop its petals and turn to mulch. It doesn’t mean that the banks of the river, or the shore of the marriage, or the ground of identity, or the goal we worked toward, was faulty or false. Each simply evolved, as rivers and mountains and dunes change over time.

During this last year, I had to accept that the ground of a long-term friendship was no longer solid. Like John who didn’t want to leave his father’s house, I kept trying repair after repair, not wanting to accept that the integrity of our foundation had been compromised. Too many storms and not enough trust. It was heartbreaking but I had to find more solid ground. The house of our friendship was magnificent when she and I had built it. I still remember the view. But we’re constantly asked to stay current with what is solid and authentic, to stay close to what will sustain us and help us live. Listening for when relationships and dreams begin to shift — for when they’re no longer foundational — requires an honesty that can take years to understand and accept.

Excerpted from The Way Under the Way: The Place of True Meeting by Mark Nepo, published by Sounds True, November 2016.

  • photo credit: Nita

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