When I was about ten my mom got me a book called What’s Happening to Me by Peter Mayle and Arthur Robins. It was pretty much the hippy parent’s guide book to puberty, complete with cartoon sketches of sperm and girls in training bras. I remember my friends and I would flip to the pages of girls and boys in their varying states of puberty and marvel at what we would become in a few short years.
The thought has crossed my mind that it wouldn’t have been cool over the past couple years if the guys who wrote that book had made a version for us forty year olds, you know: “So You Want to Buy a Motorcycle: Revelations of the Midlife”, with cartoon drawings of 40 year old women getting their kids out of the minivan, or men test driving convertables.
For me, and I think a lot of women, the metamorphosis in our 40s is less about changes in our bodies (though that is happening as well!), but more it’s a transition from our mundane existence into finding our true selves.
My life is good. It always has been. I have a wonderful husband who listens to me and provides for the family as much as we need. My kids are smart and clever and (relatively) well-behaved. We have always enjoyed family dinners, vacations together, evening bike rides in our quaint little beach town, but a few years back something inside me started tugging. Actually it did a lot more than tug, it shook me to my core. I’d wake up in the middle of the night, and the room would feel cold, my heart beating deep in my chest, in what felt like an out of body experience. It was as if some external source was telling me “You needed something more”. I had no idea what was going on.
During my days I’d look at my husband, my kids and feel riddled with guilt. How could I even entertain the idea of being anything but a mom and wife to these good people? Yet as the months passed I kept feeling it, this calling, a yearning for a life beyond carpool lanes and grocery stores.
Pretty soon my thoughts began to wander and I started planning imaginary escapes to far away places, scheming more and more on ways to get away. These were all fantasy of course, but their presence in my mind became so prevalent that it took on a sense of realness.
Meanwhile my life outside the house was getting more and more exciting. I had made lots of new friends and my writing career was budding. I was more socially engaged than I ever had been before, but as I did this I became more detached from my family. It was clear that I was happier when I was out and about, then when I was home.
One day, in the midst of this change, I visited a friend who is a hypnotist. During hypnosis she did a basic healing exercise where I was asked to visualize the blood in my veins going to and from my heart. As I followed her words something remarkable happened—it felt as if my heart had burst open with joy, like a warm white light was glowing from my center and I was filed with an overwhelming sense of wellbeing.
For days afterwards, I swear I felt like I was a teenager who had just found herself a new boy friend, totally in love, but not with a single person, with everything! The people I met, the songs on the radio, the play of waves on the shore were all divine.
Unfortunately after a few days the sensation wore off, and I returned to my sense of isolation. So, with guilt as my constant companion, I went into therapy hoping to bring myself emotionally back to my family. Talking to someone worked in the short term but inevitably I always returned to a state of yearning.
Around this time I bought myself a motorcycle and taught myself to ride. This was a wonderful, empowering outlet for me. So, I continued with my writing career, took regular walks on the beach, and kept tapping into things that brought me to a place of wholeness. Peace became my prerogative.
Around this time I took up mediation and fairly quickly I was able to tap into that heart center that I found in hypnosis. On command I was now able to awaken that inner joy. My daily practice became an exercise in simply being love.
As I read spiritual books and quotes from the masters I realized that the thing that had been calling me had always been my own heart. It was a call for joy. A call for divine love. I awoke to the possibility that maybe conditional love had driven my life thus far….an unhealthy play of give and take, neediness and want. I was seeing how flawed these sort of relationships were and was learning that unconditional love, even in small bursts, was completely possible.
Of course, knowing a truth does not make releasing old habits easy, so one day, still steeped in the muck of guilt and desire, I told my husband I wanted to get away alone. One night. I reserved a room in a bed and breakfast about an hour out of town, packed my bags and rode my motorcycle away from home.
While I was there, I spent time alone journaling, writing letters to the people I love, listening to music and crying, purging myself of the twisted pain I left back at home. In the morning my host, (who I’m pretty sure was an angel), fed me and shared her stories of travel and motherhood. She was both a spiritual being, deeply connected to that same love I was uncovering, yet also wonderfully present and grounded as a mother.
As I watched her cook breakfast for her guests while pausing to wipe dirt from her two-year-old’s face, I had an ah-ha moment.
I had compartmentalized my spiritual awakening, separating the divine sense of yearning and adventure from my plain, seemingly mundane sense of family. All this time I resisted my role as a wife and mother, opting for something outside myself.
As I rode my motorcycle home that day I felt a change. I got it. Life is not always about outward adventure, it’s not always about attaining the next big goal, sometimes it can be (and more often is) beautiful and subtle.
What I had been searching for was actually with me all along. Love is within, it is in the details of a leaf, the creases of your lovers eyes. There is nothing wrong with looking outward, there’s nothing wrong with yearning, in fact desire is what pulls us forward, but it’s when that yearning, that sense of seeking takes possession of you that the problems occur. When illusion and desire become your master, the path home is obscured.
What I have learned on this journey is that Love is alive in EVERYTHING…it’s not out there waiting for you on top of some big mountain, or hiding in some deep cave or in some sacred book or some magical mantra. It is right there, in the mess of cracker crumbs that your child left on their chair, in the completed art project hanging on the wall, in the playful teasing of a friend, in the greeting of a stranger, or the dance of clouds across in sky.
The call I heard those nights a few years back was not of some external being telling me to run away, but instead it was my own heart asking me to find my source.
As I walk this daily path away from fear and towards my heart center I am reminded that guilt, worry, jealousy, anger are all just spoiled children vying for attention in my mind. They need not be given power. In fact the less we give them, the quieter they become.
Love is calling. Listen to its song and you will be free.
Peace is in your palm.