My most profound clarity of the year has come in this, the last week of it.
For the last two weeks I've been sitting in a home my husband is renovating. I make soup. I bring him sandwiches and coffee and he paints away decades of cigarette smoke and rebuilds stairs and sells furniture through local Facebook groups. It's the house my mother-in-law passed away in and has continued to be one giant hassle after another. Just today the carpet guy bailed on us, leaving half-installed carpet in the master bedroom and a pile of old carpet just outside the door, taking only the cash we paid him in advance for the job. I've gone with unwashed hair for more days than I care to count and I've burned up all my yummy candles and at this point, am feeling like the bedraggled town we are staying in.
There is a heaviness here. My attitude is better this time, which has been a huge focus for me because my husband is working so hard to get this place fixed up and put behind us. I'm honestly not much practical help, so I keep bringing him warm things to savor and I rub his feet at night and do what I can to bring ease. In the meantime, I'm preparing for my New Year's Dear Artist class and filling page after page in my business notebooks and journals for how I want to show up and offer my services in 2017. Yet it's been terribly hard to focus. Hard, even, to pray. I get out of the house when I can, breathe in the moss-scented woods around me and drive into town for some fresh-baked scones from the sweet little bakery. This is how we spent Thanksgiving, and again, how we spent Christmas. We hope to spend New Year's at home, and I will probably cry when I first enter my little apartment which smells of incense and books and luscious essential oils and where my big marshmallow bed waits with clean, lemon-verbena-scented sheets. I always change my sheets before going out of town. There's nothing like coming home to softness.
This season of new moon winterdark has allowed intense soulwork, self-reflection and release. I want to leave it all in 2016. As hard as this year of release and heartache has been—some say that 2+0+1+6 = 9 and 9 means ending—I have to say that it has brought with it, personally for me, a desperately-needed and heartily celebrated ending: the ending of soul-crushing, life-crippling debt. Debt that has been a burden carried for close to ten years. No matter how difficult the last twelve months have been, I will always give thanks for the relief of this. The lifted weight, the sweetness of freedom, the lightness of being.
And I continue healing my money stories and seeking that sacred space of sustainability and soul satisfaction in my work. Just last night, while journaling about my business, it hit me:
I don't want to miss my own life while struggling to pay for it.
I don't want to miss my own life while struggling to pay for it.
I have never not struggled. Even now, I struggle with: is this too much? Sharing the behind the scenes private journey of a creative entrepreneur who longs to make a difference, a sustainable living, and a life?
The truth is so simple that it's hard: the best way to stop struggling is to do the opposite, or at least something vastly different, from whatever it is I'm doing. If I'm holding on, this means letting go. If I'm struggling to stay awake, this means I need to rest. If I'm struggling to pay for my life, I need to increase my income or decrease my expenditures, and probably a little of both. And of course, this means peeling away the husky layers of deeply-buried fear and sordid beliefs that get all tangly and embedded into the underworld of me.
This came to light very tenderly.
This week I found myself adding a $20 magazine subscription to my virtual cart. Four issues, five dollars each.
Two things: 1) it's by someone I admire, and I know I would enjoy this magazine. 2) In truth, I actually wanted a different magazine, one I've been swooning over for months. One that is on sale: $70 a year for the same number of issues. I chose to “settle” for a $20 subscription and guess that I'd like it, instead of saying yes to $70 and what I really wanted.
In this case, the difference between settling and true desire was fifty dollars. So what truth, belief, or story does $50 represent?
Stay with this, my soul said, so I reached for a journal and a pen. My inner dialogue went like this:
The magazine I really want moves my soul. It's so beautiful and represents a lifestyle I love and a way of living I desire to embody. It inspires me.
With all our needs—shoes for my husband, car payment, taxes—I can't justify $50 on a magazine. A magazine feels temporary. And they are heavy. I don't want to be THAT lady—sixty, with a storage unit full of old, yellow, mouse-nibbled magazines.
But the magazine I really want feels more like an experience, and I value experiences. And I could use the pages for art, or give the copies to someone who would cherish them when I'm finished.
But a luxury magazine feels frivolous.
You know what's frivolous? All this traveling food I've bought over the last few weeks. I've spent way more than fifty dollars. More than seventy. I could have bought both magazines. Why would I justify spending the money on something that could actually hurt me in the long run and not on something that would give me an inspiring, uplifting beautiful experience that would enhance my life? Ok. Now I'm crying.
As of now I've not purchased either subscription because: shoes, car payments, and taxes. And a number of other items on the “needs” list. But really? This isn't about magazines at all. At this point in the story my heart decided to take a plunge into the depths, and it's tender. These are the kind of inquiries I take my clients through, so I want to share something from my own soulwork.
While I cried over snacks and magazines, I wrote down my own journey of Spirit-seeking and self-inquiry—
- Why do I reach for the things that don't truly satisfy?
- Why do I settle?
- What truth (or lie) do I believe about satisfaction?
- In my tender years, what messages did I hear or tell myself about satisfaction?
- Whose voice is speaking? What does it sound like? What does it say?
- What would actually happen if I were truly satisfied?
If I were truly satisfied, I wrote, I would stop reaching out for anything else...I would be deeply grateful...I would not be in need or endlessly searching, even subconsciously...it would bring closure to something left open: a hunger, a need, a wound...it would stop a leak: a financial leak, an energy leak, an emotional leak...it would be true contentment. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.”—Isaiah 55:2 If I'm not satisfied, I hold onto, I reach for, I stuff myself with, hoard...not trusting that more will be there; not trusting that what I have or want will not be taken away from me in order to teach me a lesson. What if I reached always and only for true satisfaction? What if I went after what I truly wanted? What if I followed true desire instead of settling, or placeholders, or fill-ins, or second-best, or cheapest?
What if my abundance directly correlates to my willingness to become deeply, richly, exquisitely satisfied?
What if my life-long way of settling for a good substitute instead of what my soul deeply longs for has created a life that is a exactly that: a good substitute?
Do I want a good substitute, or do I want nourishing truth? Something real and true—joy?
If I settle, I live a settled life. If I reach for something “to hold me over,” I am ever waiting and seeking, making myself sluggish. Remaining on the outside of my life, wistfully looking into the heaven that could be, holding myself back because somewhere I'm still clutching a scrap of thread tied to a belief that says I'm wicked and should be grateful to just keep scraping by. Under it all, I'm still hungry.
Moving into a New Year and a new season in my life, I'm done with scraping by.
I'm done with settling.
This isn't about living outside my means, but about living a life that is meaningful, resonant and true. And dwelling in lush, life-giving flow.
Choose with me. Choose vulnerable courage. Let's choose to reach for what we really want, and to be patient with the layers that often wrap our blushing wild hearts in tenderness, because what we long for is soft and alive and true.
We drove to town tonight and returned along a winding road beside a country church that always looks serene and perfect. At twilight, deer emerge from the trees and, at night, the stars. We parked in the gravelly drive and I spread my winter kimono in the middle of the road and lay down, my face to the New Moon sky. The thing is, I don't get to see stars anymore. The collective light of my city drowns them out except for a few bold ones who break through. But here in the woods, the stars—you can almost hear them singing.
My husband watched for cars. I pressed my shoulders into the middle of the road and looked backwards, up, to see an indigo river full of stars curving between the graceful swaying trees. In the blackness, I cried.