Trusting Ourselves with Ourselves

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the woman I wanted to become.”
― Diane Von Furstenberg, The Woman I Wanted to Be

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I have always resonated with this quote. It articulates something of the way I have understood the path I was walking through my own life.

Although, like her I have pursued a career and been grateful for the rewards associated with it, I’ve always recognized an “inner journey” as the guiding principle for my life. Recently, as I was thinking about how to celebrate an upcoming “milestone” birthday, I realized—I’m there. This is the woman I became.

 The first time I heard this quote was on an American Express commercial, with Diane Von Furstenberg’s voice commenting on her life. I remember asking myself—how will I know when I get there? When I have become her? In response to those early questions three qualities emerged that have shaped my picture of what ‘becoming’ that woman would look like for me—

  • Recognize the sound of my own voice—in my choices, in my relationships, and be able to tell when that intrinsic authenticity had been compromised

  • Know how to be heard—in a way that reflected what I valued

  • Say what is important—independent of approval or consequences.

In the years since I asked and answered those questions, I have come to recognize a subtlety in process of ‘becoming’—which implies working toward an ideal—but also includes getting to a place where you trust yourself, with yourself. No matter where you are on the path to ‘becoming;’ no matter what you have figured out, or still question; what you have mastered or relinquished; you are here, fully present and reliable in the things that matter to you. There is a wisdom in understanding that ‘becoming’ is an invitation to participate in something that is forever unfolding. In this we come to trust that we do not need to be done, to be complete.

A Foot In Both Worlds

“Part of life is finding the landscape that matches your inner journey.” Kristen Hannah, author, The Nightengale (September 25, 1960)

 

In 1948, Earl Shaffer told a friend he was going to “walk off the war” to work out the sights, sounds, and losses of World War II. (Warrior Expeditions) His walk marks the beginning of a tradition that continues today on the Appalachian Trail—military veterans finding their way home.  

 

Warriors have always carried the psychic wound of our communal rage, our inner battles. In millennia past, when the fight had been won or lost, the soldier would begin the journey home, on foot, walking through and beyond the place of brokenness to a place of coherence. Today, in seeking the trail, these warriors continue this soul-purpose of creating equilibrium between our inner and outer worlds. “walking off the war.”

 

Some experiences are so profound that this balance sways wildly. When our inner world has been tasked with providing context and meaning for a polarity of jarring extremes—life and death, certainty in the midst of a persistent mystery—the task before us is to choose wholeness, to define for ourselves a congruity that can provision the path forward.  

 

 This is what I know. Equilibrium is an expression of motion.

 

“Giving the Snow Permission to Fall.”

“There is a balance point in the movement between intention and acceptance.”

Today in the Pacific Northwest, we have gone within, retreating from a record snowstorm that has effectively paused all movement, all forward focused activity. We nestle in a wooly, comforted quiet, and release our urgency into the drifting whiteness of the moment.

 A decade ago, almost to the day, I sat at another window watching snow fall. I was in a place I did not want to be, directed by circumstances I had tried to shape, elevate, redirect, and avoid; intending instead to align it to my sense of destination. In the wake of the economic collapse in the United States, I found my professional opportunities limited to really one viable option: accept a job I did not want, with a company I did not respect, in a location I would not have gone voluntarily. On that day, however, in that place, the weightless elegance of the snow becoming a meditation on grace, I gave it permission to let it fall.

Here’s what I know. There is wisdom in giving residence to that which is already true. There is a liberty in understanding where the journey begins.