Once I had a kind of epiphany. One that gave me insight about what I call the Circle of Promise. After the epiphany, I was able to trace my yearning to its source.... arriving at the place where my promise dwells. There was no turning back.
It was a dreamy-perfect summer afternoon in 1996 soon after my last day of work supervising a teen parent program at a local high school. Two years prior I’d awakened to take a deep first breath after surgery removing most of my cancerous left breast, and way too many lymph nodes (some cancerous) and nerves in my left armpit (I’m left-handed by the way). I describe here and here and here how taking the first breaths in the recovery room sent charged ripples into my future that are still manifesting today. After surgery and radiation, up bubbled a deep yearning to consider the purpose of my life – whatever life I had left. I did some serious journaling and reflecting over the next two years (including the Artist’s Way), and finally made a decision to quit my job.
By the way, the criteria for many of my decisions is this:
When I’m 85 - and I expect to be 85 - do I want to be saying some version of the following -
"I’m so glad I worked long hours to exhaustion in a profession that no longer suited me" - OR, something like... "I’m so glad I followed my intuition and changed the dynamics and direction of my life before it was too late" ( I pretty much want to always say this last part).
But on this particular, perfectly-staged summer afternoon – vibrant blue sky, high puffy clouds, warm, herb-scented air drifting in from window next to my garden - I was experiencing a “what next?” sort of yearning. I hadn’t thought this far ahead - the inspiration to quit my job and change my life was not particularly grounded in any tangible future. Interesting signs and symbols had cropped up in greater and greater frequency once I’d decided to open to possibility, so... I’d just followed my intuition with the job-quitting idea. By now I had begun to reclaim my spirit and listen closely to something that always seemed just out of range - an intriguing sound or vibration. It beckoned but …what was it?
This is how I remember that day:
I was sitting at a table next to the garden window. I had this window - the kind that looks like a mini greenhouse - installed in a window-less wall next to the backyard where I grew herbs and flowers. I NEEDED to see and smell evidence of flowers from as many places in the house as possible. But that’s just me. I also got a little carried away and had this water-colory Italian tile installed in the bottom shelf of the window. Ranging from sage to celadon to pale, dawn-blue, it looked like sea water reflecting a summer sky. The window's shelves were full of smooth stones and shells, a collection of 50’s California pottery and vases, and other artifacts that pleased and charmed me. I sold the house a few years later as part of my down-sizing - informed by my epiphany – and I miss that window most of all.
So, here I was sitting with elbows on table, chin in hands, gazing, inhaling garden, overcome with afternoon dreaminess… but very aware of this “what next?” yearning thing starting to distract me. And all at once, I had the epiphany (thanks for permitting me the long back story).
Epiphanies are hard to retell because they are… well… epiphanies. Not much forethought involved and later you wonder, "What just happened?" What came to me in this moment was that I wanted to NAME this yearning... and make something that somehow symbolically brought it into form. But just before the thought of naming the yearning, an active peacefulness descended… an ‘aha’ peacefulness of knowing I knew something.. something really, purely fine. Today I would describe it as momentarily being within the Circle of Promise, the drawing which was to follow… even before I had begun to create it. That’s the best description I can come up with. One of those rare-in-a-lifetime little visions that allow truth and grace to sit down at the table with you, and all the world becomes a flower-scented body of light.
I really, really knew I needed to capture the moment and the vision, so I grabbed a sketch pad. But the page wasn’t big enough so I tore out four sheets and taped them together. I rummaged for pencils, colored pens and then, like Alice, I fell through a portal. And, as I mentioned in the beginning, there has been no turning back.
I’ll stop here for now and continue tomorrow with how I illustrated my revelations about the Circle of Promise. And how you, too, can use some version of this process, if it suits you, to get at what ‘yearns’ you. You can use pens, paint, paper, collage, or create something 3-dimensional. It can be a mandala, a shield, or even an altar to hold your intentions and vision.
Something I wrote recently about yearning and purpose:
Yearn, and you shall perceive… your purpose! Your name is not called when it’s time to leap - and no one will push you. Your calling is calling. Your riddle needs unraveling. Your soul’s song needs a voice. Your essence needs to strut. Your inner artist needs to tango. Your purpose is pulling up at the dock ready to set sail. Listen. Unravel. Sing. Dance. And get on board. This is for you who have an uncontrollable (though sometimes, timid and tortured) impulse to leap… aching to know what it feels like to launch wild notions of your potential, to stand wobbly but ready, to rise filled with a yearning that is true, but often unnamable.
It always works this way: Yearning - that deep, secret little ripple of pure life force - beckons when you’re most vulnerable, makes you wild at heart, and willing to risk the inevitable free-fall. There is no substitute for the free-fall of a heart on fire.
See you tomorrow. Get ready to leap.