You know how the FacePlace has the memories feature now, reminding you of the fun you used to have, the horrible exes you moved away from, the challenges you have overcome, and the people you miss? Yeah, it’s fun and not so fun. Just like the FacePlace itself. Well, at the end of the Year-That-Shall-Be-Named, a couple of those memories that popped up hit me in that spot:
“ 12/30/2012. 1 year ago today I arrived in Santa Cruz, CA — a fulfillment of a long time dream to live on the California coast – beginning of the next chapter of following my life’s purpose. “
“12/30/2013. Today, I’ve been in Cali 2 years. #ILoveItHere.”
What is your life’s purpose? This is an existential question that has been commodified in our culture. We see countless seminars, webinars, training programs, life-coaching programs, self-help books, TED Talks and on and on pledging to lead us to answer that Most.Important.Question of all.
Along with that question comes an underlying shame and guilt if you don’t know what it is. Along with that question, shame, and guilt, comes pressure to find it, and the promise that if you just ‘follow your dreams’ and ‘follow your true purpose’ and ‘follow your true calling’ and follow your heart’, Everything.Will.Be.Ok. You will always be able to pay your bills, you will always be happy, you will always have a doting lover or partner who cherishes you, all your ducks will always happily be in beautiful rows, and you will live the modern day version of Happily Ever After.
When I left the wonderful city of Seattle after being in the Pacific Northwest for about fourteen years, I believed I was Following My Dream, one that I had for a long time, one that I had since I before I left New Jersey in the mid 1990s. I still believe that. I felt called to California for a very long time. I believed I could find and create a happy home for myself, buy some land, find community, find my niche and a way to make a living and a business from the Gifts I have been given that don’t fit into the traditional ‘job’ world. I also knew I would find Sunshine, and temperate climate, and that my bone marrow and asthmatic lungs were molding from the extended time in the damp, cool climate of the PNW. And despite meeting many wonderful people, and making some good friends, the ‘Seattle Chill’ of the provincial city didn’t truly serve my tender heart.
Following Your Dreams doesn’t always take into account Reality.
As you would expect, the move and transition had many tumultuous moments and lots of challenges. Aiming originally for San Francisco, secondarily for Oakland, I wound up in Santa Cruz, in a cottage five minutes from the beach, through the never-ceases-to-amaze-me Sisterhood Network of Michfest Womyn and the SisterDyke hook up. Ok, Beach it is! After a long stint of unemployment, I eventually found work just in the nick of time before my cashed-out retirement money ran out. I explored the area and fell in love with Big Sur, finding that the geography of that area called to my soul in a special way. I later found out that my mother’s father who lived in Southern California most of his life, frequented Big Sur often and loved it dearly, feeling a special kinship with Big Sur. Funny how genetic connections can sometimes go beyond just bodies.
Well, the Reality of the high cost of living in California, the high cost of housing in California, and the low wages on the coastal side of the mountains west of Silicon Valley and south of the Bay Area began to set in. Eventually, through many more tumultuous happenings and challenges, I made the heart-wrenching decision to leave California, ‘close up shop’ on the West Coast after 17+ years, head back East to stay with a sister in Georgia for awhile, and eventually landed in the panhandle of Florida near other sisters and my retired mother and step-father.
The lead up to that decision and that move was heartbreaking and soul-defeating. I felt like my dreams died a painful death on the battle field of my life, at the swords of Class and Chronic Poverty and Capitalism. I felt that everything that I had ever dreamed of creating for myself was now rubble. My inner psyche was an apocalyptic wasteland, a clearcut mountainside in the fog. Add to it a bad choice of a pseudo-relationship with a narcissist, and a health crisis, and my emotional foundation was destroyed.
What was my purpose now? Do I have a purpose? I followed my Dreams. Shouldn’t everything be Happily Ever After now? That’s how I felt when I first arrived to my tiny cottage near the beach. I wrote “You can now live Happily Ever After” on a post-it note and put it next to the mirror in my tiny closet-sized bathroom. I eventually opted to give up that expensive tiny one room cottage to rent a room in someone else’s home far from town, but closer to work, so I could afford the medical insurance at my job, and cut my gas costs. What happened? I was distraught.
I’m not distraught anymore. But I’m not thrilled with this outcome, either. My soul is not in love with the geography here. Like-minded community is hard to find here. And I’m a bit cynical about this concept of ‘Finding Your Purpose’ and “Following Your Dreams”. If I had followed my dreams from childhood, I would have been a music major in college the first time around, and perhaps would not have dropped out of college, despite my father dying of cancer three weeks into my sophomore year. I would have become a professional singer, and been well into a music career by now. But ‘what if’s’ don’t move you forward, they only keep you stuck in the past. And I’m not interested in that.
At one point, near the shift of the millennium, I felt like my calling was to be “A Healer”. I was trained as a Doula. I was initiated and trained in Reiki Levels I and II from a woman who was trained by Hawayo Takata herself, the woman who brought Reiki to the U.S. from Japan. I then did more foundational training in other healing modalities: in Polarity and in Cranial-Sacral Biodynamic Therapy. I had to stop because I could not afford to continue to pay for those trainings, and I got behind in paying for them. I wrestled with the presumptious idea of calling myself “A Healer” when how healed was I my own damn self? I kept going to therapy, kept working on self-healing. I got ‘regular jobs’ so I could pay the rent and the light bill, and put food on the table. A Working Class woman knows how to keep it Practical and Real always. Reality wins out over Dreams and Woo-Woo stuff, always.
So here I am now, on the other side of the Death of My Dreams. On the other side of the Apocalypse of My Psyche. On the other side of the Destruction of my Emotional Foundation. Five months from 50. If you are an Astrology-phile, my Natal Chiron is 29degrees Pisces: I am the poster child for the Wounded Healer. And yes, I am rolling my eyes at myself.
SO, what is my Purpose?
Well, I’ve just made the decision that my Purpose is to Simply Be Myself. To be My Authentic Self. And to share My Authentic Self with the world. My genuine spirit, my warm and loving heart, my fallible humanity and willingness to own my mistakes, my candor, my off-the-cuff insights, my enormous capacity of Empathy, my True Love of People…. All of that is Meaningful. All of that is Useful. All of that is Helpful. All of that can be Of Service. All of that can be Healing.
I don’t know what the future holds. I am working another low wage ‘regular job’ to pay the rent and the light bill and keep food on the table. The Working Class ethic is Strong in this one. I’ve had more tumultuous challenges since I arrived back East these past two and half years, including another relationship with a sad ending, another long stint of unemployment, and another health crisis.
But I believe the future does involve re-claiming my natural healing-touch gifts. I believe it involves reclaiming my creative expression in visual arts, in vocal arts, in the performance arts, in writing arts. And it most definitely includes sharing myself with You, those who want a little Piece of My Heart. Because this big Lion Heart has a Lot of Love to Give.
February 5, 2017