About ten years ago, my husband bought a Jeep Wrangler. Typically, I don’t drive anywhere without a map and clear directions on how to get from point A to point B, but in this Jeep, I was an explorer. I would take the top off and boldly turn down roads I never would have turned down before. I loved who I was when I was in it-- in control, adventurous, never knowing the destination but always arriving back home a little lighter, a little easier, a little more at peace. This vehicle made me feel fearless.
Looking back now, I am awestruck at the little box I built around myself. When we owned that Jeep, my children were in high school, I was a few years into a career as an educator, we were living in a beautiful home, and by all means, life was pretty perfect. Yet, the only time I felt free was in the Jeep, and that only lasted a summer; we sold it and my little adventures down obscure dirt roads came to an end. Those paths just wouldn’t be the same in the minivan.
For the past few years now I have been on a new journey, a new adventure. Perhaps something in me stirred that summer years ago, stirred my spirit, and pushed me to begin looking for that feeling again. And thus began my spirit quest. A quest to rediscover long forgotten parts of myself, parts that used to bring me joy or lightness or peace -- or even parts I never knew existed. A journey whose destination was ultimately back to me. I have learned a lot during this time, but perhaps the most shocking to me has been the awareness of just how fearfully I was living life. I described it as a “passivity” in another post, but it ran so much deeper. Fear of judgement, humiliation, embarrassment, making a mistake -- I used all these fear-filled illusions as excuses to not take risks -- their possibility terrified me. And fear is a very big feeling.
And fear is (most of the time) a lie.
That’s right. A lie. A lie we tell ourselves because we think it keeps us safe. A lie we tell ourselves because it is easier to sit back and let life happen to us than it is to face the unknown and make the life we want. And we lie to ourselves all the time. Every time we say things like when I lose weight, then I’ll be happy. When I retire, then I’ll be happy, or when I win the lottery, then I’ll be happy. When I got my teaching degree, I thought my whole life was going to change. Now, I thought, I will be happy. But teaching never felt like the Jeep made me feel. What was the difference? I’ll tell you. I was living with the belief that something outside of myself was going to bring happiness to me, that somehow happiness was an outside event that would fill me with joy. But that’s not how it works. Nothing outside of yourself will ever bring you joy. It’s true.
The truth of the matter is that we already have everything we really need inside of us. It’s there! Look for it behind the fear. Beneath the lies. You see, the driver of the Jeep was no different than the driver of the minivan -- no more free, no more adventurous, no more fearless, no more in control. But this was the story I told myself, the story I chose to believe despite proof to the contrary. Looking back now, too often I put my fear ahead of my faith: faith in myself, faith in the adventure of life, faith in unknown destinations, faith in my own power. Instead, I wanted the map. I wanted guarantees. I wanted to know that I wouldn’t get lost if I went down a strange road. Isn’t that what most of us want? A guarantee we won’t get hurt, that we won’t suffer? And here’s the irony, choosing fear causes suffering anyways because the result may bring security, but rarely will it bring the same satisfaction and fulfillment as the choices that align with our God given gifts. For that kind of joy, you need acts of faith.
You want to know you’re alive? You want happiness? Take a risk. Make a choice that honors your gifts and talents and interests, a choice that challenges you to face the very things you may fear the most. Choose a risk that takes you outside of the box you’ve put yourself in. It was never the Jeep -- it was me; it always was. I turned down obscure roads by choice, by faith, not fear. I chose to drive forward with no guarantee that I would not get lost, and I did it by faith, not fear. Faith requires so much more courage than fear ever will! Now, I write a blog. I read Tarot. I interpret dreams. Not really the “typical” choices of a one time stay at home mom or English Literature teacher. But I took a leap, I chose that which stirs my soul and my spirit, and no, none of it really makes “sense” -- this is certainly one obscure road. And where will this take me? I don’t know, but what a ride! What a ride!
A funny thing occurred as I was working on this post. Coming upstairs, I noticed my husband was looking at Jeeps for sale on his computer. I couldn’t help but find this to be an extraordinary coincidence because he didn’t know that I just happened to be writing a post about our Jeep from years before. I asked him what he was doing. He told me he was thinking how nice it might be to have a Jeep to take on long drives and not worry about our car getting ruined on dirt roads. It might bring us more adventure, he thought.
I smiled. How sweet. For years all he heard me talk about was how much I loved that Jeep, how it was the only vehicle I ever really loved, and now he wanted to bring one back.
But I don’t need it anymore.
I’ve chosen faith.
Have you felt it? That uneasiness within that whispers something isn’t right? You think: I have so much to be grateful for, what am I complaining about?
Well, if something has felt off, you're not alone. This pandemic has forced many people to begin taking stock, and some of the biggest questions a lot of people are asking are who am I, what is my purpose, why am I the way I am, or why do I make the choices that I make?
These questions are terrifying to face because they require an authentic response free from all of the stuff we’ve been conditioned to believe is true. Such as, you may ask. Everything. What it means to be “good” according to society, religion, family, genetics, sexual identity -- you name it! If it provides a description or expectation of what you should be, or how to “properly” operate in this world, it’s an attitude or behavior founded on a limiting belief that is probably not true, and that’s preventing your soul from singing and your spirit from soaring.
What do I mean? Here’s an example.
Growing up, I learned that there was a hierarchy of order and control, and my father was at the helm. I lived with a very traditional family and what my father said went. There is nothing inherently wrong with this; however, what I came to understand was that I had no power, that men held the power in relationships, that men had the control, and that peace was maintained by doing what I was told. Because I was young and didn’t understand the world, to make sense of mine, I adopted a behavior that lasted well into my forties: I became passive in life because it kept the peace. Except, it didn’t. (Almost) everything from what we ate for dinner to what movies we watched and how we saved and spent money was decided by my husband, and not because he wanted to -- it drove him crazy that I would not make decisions -- but because I had adopted a behavior that worked when I was six years old and I had never let it go. Instead, whenever a decision had to be made, my six year old self (who was on autopilot, apparently) would leave it for my husband to decide because, unconsciously, I believed that to keep my husband happy and to keep the peace, it was better to let him have control. In the process, I would feel frustrated because, surprise, I felt powerless. Ha! I wanted control over my life, but I wouldn’t make a choice. I wanted to be heard, but I wouldn’t speak up.
The truth is, in adulthood, I was so wrapped up in conforming to the role of being the wife and the mother and the teacher, that I never really took the time to pay attention to the core of me. And, any opportunities to honor my self, I would give away to others because I consistently chose passivity over action. The COVID-19 pandemic amplified my need to answer the question: who am I and why am I like this? Why did I feel like I was settling for less than I was worth? (And, how terrible of me to want more!)
When I started trying to answer these questions, I was forced to dig deep. This is how I came into shadow work and really began unlocking aspects of myself that prevented me from living an authentic, empowered life. Part of this process helped me to uncover those behaviors and attitudes I described above and start taking responsibility for them. The other part forced me to own and honor that which fulfills me, that which makes my soul sing. For me, I love all things mystical and supernatural. I always have. But honoring such woo-woo aspects of myself went against all the traditional structures of my life -- what mother, what wife, what teacher does Tarot? Sees psychics? Goes to an energy healer? I feared judgement and humiliation. I came to a crossroads: live authentically or die with regret.
I had strayed so far away from that which brought me joy because I saw those things as frivolous, as unimportant, as side interests or hobbies, and most certainly nothing to pursue except only occasionally, and most definitely in secret! Believing these were unworthy of my time and energy (as compared to all the other people and responsibilities in my life) was the first step I took in dishonoring my spirit, and dishonoring my self.
Does this mean that to make your soul sing, you need to dig deep and identify your wounded inner child? No, of course not. That was my path -- but even to type these words and say, “Hey, world of strangers: I dig the mystical and the spiritual” is a leap of courage that overcomes every (imaginary) boundary that held me back!
My journey is still very much in progress, but if I could offer you a temporary shortcut to making your soul sing, it would be to honor your passion, that which makes your spirit come alive. Identify it and bring more of it into your life, even if -- especially if-- everyone else thinks its woo woo. This will bring you more joy. But it won't make your soul sing.
To make your soul sing, you must share your passion with others.
Love art? Do more of it -- then, volunteer online to teach it to others, or throw a virtual painting party with your friends, just for the fun of it! Take your children on a virtual tour of the Louvre and recreate a masterpiece together! And if your kid hates art? I guarantee there is a child (or adult!) somewhere that would love to try! Is sports what makes you come alive? Join a team, and then coach one or create one for disadvantaged youth. Love music? Play more of it and then share it. Do a concert in your backyard for the neighbors! Worried people will think you’re crazy? That’s the fear talking, but you need to decide -- you need to choose whose voice you want louder in your life: fear or faith.
We don't have to quit our jobs. We don't have to turn our world upside down. But when we share our gifts with others -- not for likes on Instagram or YouTube -- but as an authentic extension and expression of our truest self and our greatest joy, well, that is how to make a soul sing.
(Your inner child will probably dig it, too.)