Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
Finding Your Pole Star
From here I can see forever.
Ever see the truck commercial where the vehicle is sitting at the tippy
top of a rock overlooking the entire Arizona Painted Desert, with red
rock buttes overlooking the 360° horizon? Did you wonder what it
might be like to be at the top of your world and have a panorama of
I’m there right now. It’s new so I’m feeling a little wobbly in the
moment. Gravity is also 360° and tugs at my bare toes, clinging to
the craggy outcrop. I am alone. Unencumbered. I have sold my home
and in mere days—sixty, no, fifty-seven—the shell that has protected
my sons and me will slip away. My young musicians will follow the notes
to their own bliss. My mate stands on his own mountaintop, over there.
We see each other but do not stand side by side…yet.
It is time to be me. To walk through these rooms and halls and, with
a critical eye, choose of my possessions as wisely as one embarking on
Samadhi. Like rings in a tree, furniture and things reflect the growing
circles of life; through infancy—the toys, the sheepskin, and English
pram; through youth—desks, soccer trophies, brightly-colored
goalkeeper shirts; through maturity—my own—heart and soul. The
ebb and flow, births and death, gain and loss. Always climbing toward
the place where I can see.
So much of life is lived responding and reacting to the moving picture of
family played against the backdrop of society, overlaid on the screen on
the globe itself. It seems I’ve gone way out in life—learning, building,
acquiring, and now am receding, letting all that I accumulated in stuff
and memory tumble onto the beach to pick up like precious shells, or
let it be drawn back into the deep of life experience forgotten. But here
I am—to stand alone. Unencumbered. Choosing which direction to
take. To the villa in Greece? I hear there are no trees on some islands.
To the Caribbean islands? Maybe.
But wait! What are these little tendrils of light that flow from my heart?
My sons are young men and must set out on their own hero’s journeys,
but for the moment I am their pole star. In time that star will fade and
they will find a brighter guiding light—their own. For the moment I
must be still so they can find me if they need to. I won’t be down the
hall when they flop on the end of the bed and chat about their night
out. Until they are too busy to call, I want to be in the vicinity.
Evolving as a mature family is like dividing the roots of a large
perennial plant. Above the ground individual shoots find the sun, but below
is an entwined mass of sustenance and nourishment. A caring gardener
will dig well beyond the root ball and then gently disengage the roots
until they dangle free and unharmed, ready to be replanted in a fertile
space for optimum growth.
In our particular tangle of roots are those enlivening bits of George that
remain part of each of us. They are the confidence and wisdom in one,
and the easy leadership and fun in the other. And in me, a willingness to
love myself. Leaving this house of childhood, youth, happiness, celebration,
illness, and death is this very untangling. There will inevitably be pockets
of pain, tears, and memory. There will also be the excitement of new adventure.
The giddiness of expectation that Life is full of infinite possibility. “And a
motorcycle,” says one prince.
Infinite possibility. Yes. Standing here at the top of the world, where I
can see forever. What is it I truly desire? Ironically, now that I am here
in my perspective, I realize that we are, all of us, here always—we just
don’t know it. We encumber ourselves with stuff that is chained to the
Our possessions and our roles are tied to the tail of a beast of the ocean
depths. When it submerges, we go under—into the dark unknown, holding
our breath until the beast swings skyward and thrusts back up through the
surface. Propelled by its massive tail, the beast flings itself through the air
and we hold on—swinging midair, still holding our breath—bracing again for
the plummet beneath the surface. We never quite touch down with our feet
on the solid ground of our own purpose and desire.
When do we breathe? When do we sleep? When do we create? When
do we live the life we were born to live? When we let go. “For every
purpose there is a season.” There is a time to grow and accumulate, and
a time to scatter seeds. Many of us do not live by the natural rhythms
of human nature. We live hanging onto the tail of the monster that is
fed by all the random emotions of a society that believes that safety lies
outside of our hearts. As long as this belief persists as the foundation of
our economic and cultural actions, we will create edifices of our minds.
No matter how big or glamorous or rich they may appear, they are of
the stuff of inevitable disintegration.
As long as we look outside of ourselves for protection and safety and peace
of mind, we will be assessed and found worthy or wanting based on our
contribution to the edifice of the mind. The values of the human animal
as gregarious and kind are neither rate-able nor marketable, so they are not
“valued.” I was speaking to a friend a few days ago who said that he has
decided to downsize his business and just do projects that he really desires.
He went on to say that when he started in business thirty years ago, one
could rely on a handshake. Now, he said, even a contract is worthless.
Honor, honesty, goodness, compassion, trust, integrity, and kindness
are values that hold little appeal to the world of the moment. Goodness
is for suckers and there is a sucker born every minute. Meanwhile,
those who would lure them into the chains of the leviathan are many.
Like in the film The Matrix, the ones that mean to steal your freedom wear
suits. You can choose to avoid neighborhoods or types that look
menacing, they advertise their dark side, but the others are far more
dangerous and nefarious. In a way the “crooks” bash you over the
head and steal your money or your car, but the “suits” offer you the
world in exchange for what is most precious (freedom), and hitch
you to the tail.
Many years ago, during the recession of the 1980s, George and I
required an extension on our line to cover payroll on a big contract.
At one of the high-rise offices in Toronto, the bank officer replied to
George’s charge of usury—40% interest—by saying, “Look at it this
way: You get to keep your business, your home and your wife. But
if you lose everything, she’ll probably leave you.” I remember that
moment well because I too was sitting in that meeting, pregnant with
our first child. “Where do I sign?” George replied. We rode that beast
and succeeded in several other businesses thereafter, in spite of the
hobbles of other people’s agendas.
I am no stranger to challenges—financial, psychological, or emotional.
They have strengthened me and honed my skills. Most importantly
(and I kind of wish it didn’t take so long), they have cleared my vision
of what is important and what is not. What frees me and what enslaves
me. I have been naughty because I have not “played the game.” I have
not supported the matrix. My most recent experience, to which I
will give no energy in sharing, is rocking the very foundations of my
maternal and survival instincts. The “suits” come in close and you let
them in because you were raised to trust them, and they hold what is
dear to you (your means of survival). Then they look you in the eye as
they sucker punch you in the solar plexus.
For those who know their chakras—the solar plexus is the center of
personal will and self-esteem. When we place power outside of our
personal jurisdiction, we react to the dramas of life. Responding to life
seems a more structured, reasonable, and conventional way to live. It
may get crazy but at least you’re up against something that draws your
response—in courage or awareness. But who or what do we choose to
react to? There is the word: Choose. This is the freedom we don’t have
to wait until we are at the top of the world to experience. Exerting
our personal will is our freedom. Once gaining that freedom, I vow to
protect it to my death.
Does that mean I am going to live outside of the mainstream? Not at
all. As long as we see the mainstream as a vehicle to personal will and
freedom, and not as a substitute, it can provide our livelihood and
support our personal choices. Freedom for me is an oasis of serenity,
natural beauty, breezes, sunlight; a gathering place for those I love and
respect; a place of creation. Freedom is unhitching from the leviathan.
Freedom is willing freedom and then dropping all constraints and
attachments that are not of the heart.
As I pivot with a 360° view, which direction will I take? It doesn’t matter.
I have already arrived in my heart and I am my own pole star.
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