When I was a kid, I was a voracious reader and had a ritual when I picked up a new book: I always read the last paragraph first. It gave me the illusion (delusion?) that I knew how the story would end. In fact, it was not terribly revealing and by the time I made my way from page one to the last paragraph, it was as though it was the first time I’d seen those words. Nevertheless, I think we all want to know the end of the story.
There has been a lot of talk about how awful 2016 was but, all socio-political discussions aside, for me personally, it has been an important year. I’m also not saying that this year has been all rosy. I don’t think I’ve ever had one of those. Life is messy as you know. But something has shifted. I feel it.
See, I’ve had a tough decade. There’ve been a lot of those big life-altering directional changes and events. Something had shifted back then too. But it is hard to judge it as ‘bad’ because those events set the stage for what is happening now. (Quick urge to knock on wood.) A part of me has wished I could have read the last paragraph of my story; well, I actually, I still want to read the last paragraph even though I’m only half-way through the book. But I have to trust the writer of my story…
Early last year, Amy & I heard the most amazing band—three exceptionally talented young women (Jordana Greenberg, Michelle Younger, & Maria Di Meglio) who met in music school, are classically trained, and make up the group, Harpeth Rising. Their latest CD and title track, SHIFTED, (please listen here) became the song I couldn’t turn off. I found the poetry, imagery, and metaphor captivating.
Something has shifted; I can’t feel the ground. Can’t tell if I’m floating or headed straight down. But something has moved me off of my tracks; got nothin’ to guide me and I’m not going back.
I think their opening lines and subsequent chorus reflect the recognition that we must let go and trust the ride—trust the shift that is happening. We want to resist and we want to know the end but that is simply not available to us—we can’t feel the ground.
I was made from steel or that’s how it felt. When you set me on fire, did you know I would melt? I became liquid and I learned how to flow. And I joined with the earth and the water below; I ran strong and clear. For a while anyway. I didn’t know my power would wash you away. So I returned to the land and I made myself stone, stronger than wood and harder than bone. (chorus)
Well, I wore away from standing too still. Things moved all around me but I had no will. So I made myself sand and I traveled once more; by the land and the wind and the ocean floor. I was free and light but I was not whole. When the wind changed directions, there I would go. And the problem with sand is you can push it around; and you can’t hold on or hold it down.
But something has shifted.
At last, I am made of clay, baked by the sun. And I can move a little but I can’t be undone.
I’ll not give away the last lines of the song but really hope you’ll listen to it—it is haunting and their talent exquisite. The songwriters effectively capture the sense that life is an ever-shifting journey. Not a task to be conquered with domination and inflexibility. We can’t simply adopt a role and stick with only that stance because life will invariably erode us. Rather we need to re-evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of how we’ve changed in response to our environment or what has happened to us.
We can’t simply adopt a role and stick with only that stance because life will invariably erode us.
A trip down the river can be slow moving and wide, have unexpected drops and rapids, cut through cities and farmland, both pristine at times and littered at others, and be completely obstructed by boulders. But a strong river continues to flow. It moves over and around and carves new paths when needed. We could learn a lot from a river.
Learning to trust the shift does not insure us against bad things from happening. We will find boulders in our way. There will be falls. Things will happen that we don’t like. We will lose people we love. But we can learn to trust that the shifts are important in our greater journey. It is a part of the mystery of the book of life (no cheating and reading that last paragraph). It is a challenge presented by our inner feminine according to Carl Jung (this includes you men, too). It is a part of living a faithful life according to the Bible: We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28 NRSV)
I still fight the urge to continue that childhood ritual when I pick up a new book. But I’ve shifted away from that. After all, reading the last paragraph was no guarantee of knowing the end of the story. Like, what if it is a series? Hhmmm…
So as you start Chapter 2017 on your journey down this river, Trust the Shift, then re-evaluate, and know you’ll inevitably shift again. But stay actively engaged. Happy Messy, Marvelous Life!