In trying to find the answers to what I desperately want to know, I often come across the strange and the extreme, the mystical and the moon-touched, the free and the wild, the paranoid and the broken.
At the very beginning, there was the Carmelite way, mystical and rich in tradition. Suffering was only a way for God to highlight that you were chosen, that you were dear. The great Carmelite saints had all suffered, deeply and long. Loneliness and misery, sickness and worry, despair and failure: all meant that you were chosen. What purpose is there to fret about being understood by your peers when it is part of a higher being’s plan for you?
“Sit still and you will see,” I was often told. So I clutched the rosary beads, focused and contemplated. No higher being called to me. No life-purpose was unveiled. In my heart, I found only sorrow. And unlike the great saints and unlike my benevolent instructors, I found no joy in sorrow.
When I grew disillusioned, I made sure that the stained glass windows and the tall candles stood witness to my fall from an Eden that never had been. I hoped, back then, furiously, that they carried the tales back to Leviticus.
I veered to the other extreme after organized religion. Emerson would have been proud of me, had he seen my self-reliance and determination to work things out on my own. I wrote and analyzed. I made lists and noted down patterns. I went out of my way to get other people’s opinions on what I was. I found pieces of myself I hadn’t known about. I found an inkling of a purpose, scattered here and there in my head, needing to be put together. I pushed and pushed, and when it didn’t give more, I wound up exhausted and unwilling to push more.
There was love. It was a cure-all. It truly was, to a great extent. I took to it as much as I took to anything else in my quest for answers, fiercely and willingly. I believed. It touched my heart in a way that the Carmelite tradition of rejoicing in suffering never did. My confidence blossomed. I was at my strongest, my brightest.
I do believe that it is through love that most of us find our meaning and purpose in life. It takes another person to open the right door, often.
It was very rare and I had been very fortunate. I understand that now. We are more likely to meet the wrong people, or the right people at the wrong times, than someone who will help us along on our journey.
It wasn’t the full picture though. Tantalising glimpses of what could be, of what I could be, came through. I didn’t yet understand. I didn’t yet know. I didn’t yet have the right questions. I didn’t yet have the wisdom to put together what I had learned about myself through writing, and what I had learned from loving.
Then there were the Dark Ages. I lingered, tired of heart and will, enduring a long starvation in my quest to find answers. Perhaps the people I met then were lessons. Perhaps it was only happenstance. Perhaps my incomplete understanding of the answers brought me misfortune. Didn’t they say that a little knowledge was a dangerous thing?
I was a sailor with a broken compass, and mine took me to rough seas and inhospitable lands. I found only wretched loneliness in my attempts to connect. As I drew further from land, I began to forget what my search had been for, the progress I had made, the confidence I had had, and what it had meant to be understood or loved for myself.
I understood very little. I regretted a great deal. I fought change, I fought a lack of change. I fought apathy and sympathy both. In the midst of it all, yearning ate me inside out, as I sought and sought something I could not even begin to understand. Ask for what you need, I was often told. I did not know what I needed, only that I needed.
Life can be wretched, and can be wretched for years, and can continue like that for years onward, and you could die with no resolution or closure. Perhaps, in such a case, it made sense to believe in a higher being, in God’s plan, in a life after death, and in the inevitability of fate.
I was young and tired. My heart was sick of the longing it had carried for ages. My brain was exhausted from trying to see a way out. My peers were finding *it*, whatever it meant, and I could not begin to see where my *it* lay.
I climbed mountains, walked through the woods, wept by rocky shores where only the tides could see me. I distracted myself with books and people, with habits harmful and harmless, with mundanities and trivia. In nothing, in nobody, in no place, did I find solace. I had run out of life-improvement plans, I had run out of once seemingly inexhaustible stores of willpower, I had run out of ways to trick myself that everything was falling into place somehow.
Then I said no. It was accidental, unplanned, and impulsive. I found my life shifting, again, and had it not always been on quicksand? Yet, this time, it was a shift I did not fear, for the first time in a decade or so.
I begin to see, now, how I had warped a desire to be understood to biddability, how needing to be emotionally intimate had turned to meekness, how wanting recognition for my skills had changed to a desire to please.
It was not loneliness I feared, but emptiness. What if I looked and found nothing inside? Yet, it took me years of emptiness, in company, before I realized where meaning had vanished.
I am not closer to my soul. I am still searching. I am frightened and exhausted, I know I have to get through wretchedness many times over before I sail on an even keel again, but I am beginning to see, somewhere, someday, I will find the answers I have labored a life to find. Even if I am not made of stardust, even if I am not a dream come to life, I think I will find that I can accept what lies at the end of my search: myself, my self, my soul.