When you log onto match.com and want to cry.
Oh how many times have we been in this place? This unknowing place. Things are unfolding in this beautiful otherworldly way but still there is this fear that it won’t work out. I’m still white knuckling. I’m slightly mortified that I’m quoting John Mayer, but one of his songs came on the radio tonight and this line struck me “fear is a friend who’s misunderstood.” I drove to Oakland today to scope out where I want to live and found the perfect neighborhood. Despite this discovery, my brain immediately goes to this fear place. The market is so bad, there’s no inventory, rents are astronomical. But I know, deep down, in that knowing place, that it will work out. In retrospect, hasn’t it always?
Today I got a job offer. I have been looking for a job for what feels like a really long time. It is in the Bay Area, away from Sacramento and so many memories that sometimes rush in all at once and make it hard to breathe.
This place in my life reminds me so much of the Parable of the Trapeze. It is a beautiful metaphor. Here it is:
The Parable of the Trapeze
Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.
Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It’s empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness going to get me. In my heart-of-hearts I know that, for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-known bar to move to the new one.
Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid that I will miss, that I will be crushed in unseen rock in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging on to that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so, for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of the past that is gone, the future that is not yet here. It’s called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs. I mean REAL change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.
I have noticed that in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing,” a place no-place between places. Sure, the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real too. But the void between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.
And so transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word.
–Warriors of the Heart by Danaan Parry
I remember when I first read Eat, Pray, Love. Months before, I was speaking about it to some friends who all seemed resigned in their conclusion that the book was fluff, vapid, the stuff of Nicholas Sparks autobiographies. Someone gave it to me. It sat on my shelf until I needed it. Until I broke up with the man I had been dating for 4 years and remembered some criticism of the book having to do with the target audience: 30-somethings who are newly single. Perfect.
I recall the book being entertaining and having some passages that struck a chord but only recently have I come to appreciate it’s true value. Perhaps it’s the relationship I just ended that is so similar to the relationships Elizabeth Gilbert struggles with. An experience that made me feel like she was writing specifically to me. This quote for example.
Had she ended that paragraph with my name, I’m pretty sure it couldn’t have spoken to me more clearly.
Or this one:
Immediately after it became real that we were breaking up, that it wasn’t an empty threat we spat at each other after our more-and-more-frequent fights, I watched Eat, Pray, Love. Then I purchased a ticket to the Sivananda Yoga Retreat in The Bahamas and planned accordingly.
This weekend I was on my knees trying to pull myself above the waves of sorrow that threatened to drown me entirely. I’m 33 years old and can say with certainty I have never felt this kind of pain. It was physical. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. The vision I held of the world was through hazy glasses and I had to squint to make out any days that didn’t include this unrelenting sadness.