Do not forget yourself. Never lose yourself – who you are – in someone else, not for love or anything, because they do not complete you as a human person. Becoming a real human (as my Mi’kmaq/Blackfeet brother Steve would say), is a solitary path in life. Others may walk beside you, but they cannot walk it for you.
This is life. Circular, balanced, continuous, beautiful, simple and harmonious. You have a path that is uniquely your own, and sometimes you are meant to walk a ways alone. Even alone, it is still complete.
Not everyone’s wheel is the same. Some don’t even look like a “wheel”. (Remembering a lot of conversations with Steve tonight.) These are my nation’s colors (red/black/blue/white), different but they hold the same meanings as the red/black/yellow/white of the plains nations.
You may have others in your life that are meaningful. Their paths may be close to yours, and sometimes you are even walking in the same direction, close to one another for a time. Life is not a straight line where individuals can parallel forever without deviation, and if you try to force that into your life or anyone else’s it will self destruct. The typical midlife crisis in modern society comes from trying to live in straight lines, and when you realize you have gone nowhere important and given nothing back, you begin to wonder what purpose there is. Then you run around trying to make up for lost time when… all you really need to do is go back to basics…
The question posed by a sage Chinese monk to someone I know when he was blind at one point in his life, and angry at everything being so difficult was…. Do you always struggle so much? A pointed observation in that moment of something most of us would feel moved by – he can’t see what he dropped or where he is, so we should feel sympathetic and step in to help. Instead of meeting an immediate and trivial desire for assistance with a small thing, the monk chose to reach into the greater need of resolving the rage and restoring inner balance. If you believe anything in life happens accidentally, then this story is far less interesting. I don’t. He wandered into the temple while attempting to find the V.A. What he got from the temple served him far better than anything the V.A. would have ever done for him. He learned not only how to function physically again, but how to resolve something far more crippling than the loss of a sense. He regained balance by letting go of trivial beliefs – the kind of thing that keeps you stuck in incapability and bitter wallowing. Most of us never take the time to learn to not be flapped by annoyances. He wasn’t given much of a choice as part of the training he experienced was dealing with random thrown objects. Do that for a few months, even as a sighted person, and you will either have a meltdown or you will learn to hear it coming. You either learn to duck or you catch it, but either way you deal with it. If that is not a perfect metaphor for life, then I don’t know what is. All of the financial and material security in the world will not prepare you for the random events that fly at you in life. It is when you are still, learn to listen, and follow a fluid path that you can embrace an event for what it is – learning, experience, and the seeds of wisdom.
I had to hear that story in 2006 when I was a captive audience on the floor, unable to stand. This came from someone that had been in a wheelchair in his teens, and was told he would never walk again (nearly lost his leg too). You would think that such a determined individual that denied physician proclamations to be resigned to the chair would not have to repeat the lesson. Our path is a wheel for a reason. If we don’t get it, we repeat it. When I suggest to people that “Why me?” is a pointless question, I speak from experience as one that asked that myself in the past. The same person told me, “Why not you?” and from his own experience. I don’t ever say these things to be insensitive or dismissive. I am telling you how I got to where I am today, FROM exactly where you are quite possibly sitting now. I don’t know about you but I got pretty muddy for a while in that wallow. There is nothing special about me that makes my illness easier to manage, or my pain less impressive, or my strength unattainable. I simply realized that… the only thing special about me is that I am on the path of a human person, desiring to find balance and embrace experience. That is available to anyone. I chose to stop struggling with the trivial.
For some, giving to others is easy. Sometimes giving IN is too easy. If that is you, then your real task is learning not to deplete yourself beyond reason. You are no good to anyone when you collapse – literally or figuratively either one.
The two experiential things that have served me well in life are my Native culture, and my studies in Asian philosophy and martial arts. Both believe in continuity and balance. Both acknowledge that we share the same air. Both recognize the importance of developing as an individual as well. Both teach inner qualities that correlate to the elements. I can look back and see the places in my life where I strayed from what I have learned, and the result was always imbalance and pain. In all seriousness… do not forget who you are. The bustle of modern life, or some transient infatuation are not worth losing yourself.
Added thought: As a mixed Native woman, sometimes it is all too easy to blend in to societal norms. That is another way of losing yourself, it’s not just in other people that I was thinking of when I wrote this. There are a lot of things that have pulled me away from the connections I used to have. In the time frame of losing touch in recent years, I permanently lost some people. The years are not kind in that way and you cannot turn back the clock. Some choices have consequences. Re-establishing myself is proving to be a challenge as well. Some people will never understand why my culture and traditions are so important to me, but this is who I am. Anyone that wants to know me… this is central to who I am.