Excerpt from Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness
Opening the Shutters
In the apartment we have rented in Athens, the ceilings are fourteen feet high. Around the upper reaches is a two-foot band of sky blue clasped between white cornice and molding. Pale sunlight-yellow cascades to the floor. The herringbone wood cuts diagonal lines in dark and light shades of honey. A long, low leopard print sofa and great, weathered dining table that serves as my desk dominate the room, rendering it simultaneously regal and amusing. A chair covered in paper leaves from a stage play of Midsummer Night’s Dream completes the whimsy. Two sets of French doors stand shoulder to shoulder and let the morning light flood in while the birdsong sails in on the wings of the breezes that blow down from the Acropolis.
We are not yet a week in Athens, but already the crumbling of my old
life has begun, as I knew it would. I didn’t know how things would
shift, but what was started a few short months ago—when I cast off the
bowlines of permanent home—I held close to me until I felt I was in
an environment ancient enough to imbue my transition with wisdom
Here I am not home, but I have arrived at a place where I will stay and
write. The lure of the familiar and routine is no longer drawing on me
to be busy and distracted. Here, I must make sense of the foolhardiness
of putting all my worldly goods in a storage locker and getting on a
plane to a place where I do not speak the language. My soul seems to
know what is going on because I have never been so at ease or slept as
well as I have in this place. But my mind is still saying, “What the…?”
We all make choices, and I now choose to be who I am without apology.
However, it seems that to reveal my Self to myself, I must first let go
of everything that does not become me. So, dark in the recesses of my
locker in Toronto, stuff awaits my return. I will look with fresh eyes
and choose again when it is time to make a new home. But that time
is not now, and I have all that I require in a suitcase in the next room.
Oh yes, and in the one person whom I trust to share this passage with
Athan can be incredibly annoying because he holds a mirror to me
that I often resist looking into. I allow him to expose me to myself
because behind the mirror are amber-green eyes so full of love and
tenderness that my heart quiets, and I can look without embarrassment.
Ironically, I resist looking at my strengths and loveliness with vigor
equal to my resistance to looking at my weaknesses.
Actually, what I just described is my only weakness, and I think it is common to us all. We rarely see our loveliness, and we witness our flaws as the foundation of our incomplete Self. There are no real weaknesses in any of us, just the unwillingness to accept ourselves as we are, now, and to
see our challenges of Self as we play out our lives. Working through
the frustrations and obstacles to our inner happiness and fulfillment is
Life. It is not about reaching goals—financial, social or spiritual—it is
about being. The accouterments of prestige or wealth will come—or
not. The deciding factor to their showing up in our lives is our inherent
Many wish they could win the lottery, but a simple question will reveal
the truth of this desire: What would you do with a million dollars?
After the new house and the trip to the Caribbean and a few things
that deteriorate over time, we have pretty much expended our material
dreams. The two riches that really hold any lasting quality, and we
mistakenly imagine might be purchased with money are freedom and
love. Those do not come from the outside but from the deep well
within. Freedom is the letting go of anything that keeps you from
simply walking in another direction.
Love begins with you, for the you that you are right now, in your
fullness and in your flawed-ness. Love is like water. When it is poured,
it finds every chink, fissure, and hollow, and fills it to overflowing. You
cannot guide the path of water; water finds its own path—and so does
love. When you pour love out of your deepest heart, you stand in the
center of the fountain of Life itself.
I came here to Europe to find out which parts of me were real and which parts of me were habit, or derived from wanting to please others, or from whispers from past generations that had nothing to do with me.
A friend commented to me once over a chatty lunch, “You, of all
people I know, have done the most work on yourself, and yet you are
still like this!” She was wondering why I still hadn’t “arrived.” It made
me wonder, too, as I described the onionskin aspect of being revealed
to one’s Self. I no longer wonder. I know.
My zeal for self-awareness through psychotherapy, Reiki, yoga, and all kinds of therapies and practices only shone the light on the deep kernel that I had constructed my life around: My innate unworthiness. The unworthiness was real. It was a shell as hard and tight as an oyster that held within it the pearl of my own divine essence.
Oh, I’ve chipped away at it over the decades. I’ve learned through
relationships—business and personal; ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I’ve learned
through raising two sons and know that our children are our teachers.
Parenting reveals our Selves to ourselves most clearly if we accept the
true nature of the reciprocal dynamic. I learned through the death of
my husband, whose love was like a fortress of protection. When he
died, I found that my foundations crumbled because they were built
on his truth of me, not my own truth of myself. Life with George felt
better because I could quiet my nasty little voice when I looked into
his eyes, rested in his arms, and lived in our home together. I was loved,
and that was enough.
As surely as a single drop of rain will find its way to the ocean and ascend once more, we all long to find our way to our true source, and that is Love. It is what drives us. Where we get messed up is in withholding
Love from ourselves until we have achieved some perceived right to
worthiness. We look into a mirror darkly, and our reflection is obscured
by what we are looking for. The body? The intellect? The house? The
clothes? The title? The youth? The spirituality?
Many religions tell us that, at some distant time, presumably after death, we will see ourselves as God or Creation sees us. We will know our divinity essentially when it is too late for it to do us—or this world—any real good. Is it any wonder we are confused? We have to claim divine eyes right now and see ourselves clearly as perfected spirits unfolding through human
I think we are living in a cosmic car rally, and all the clues are there in
ancient scriptures and myths, and also in the abundant metaphors that
nature offers us. We are driving too fast to read the signs correctly. We
think we get the gist of it, and off we go over the hills of distraction,
looking for something that we will not find. The answer is right here,
and it is the love you have for yourself as you are right now. Here and
now are the only compass points by which we are truly able to navigate.
All else is in the abundant play of infinite possibility. If I stop writing
and go for a walk, what series of incidents will play out and differ from
if I stop writing, go make coffee, and see what Athan is working on in
the other room?
Since I have chosen to continue writing, I am moved to say that—
knowing that we exist in a pool of infinite possibility, countless choices
that lead to countless times a zillion outcomes—we have no concrete
past or certain future. We have illusions of past events and probabilities
for future outcomes. In the one glittering moment when I discovered
that someone I thought had loved me all my life proved he didn’t, and,
in fact, he hated me passionately, all was made clear to me, and the
past as I knew it was dissolved. I am no longer committed to my own
illusion and now am free. Actually, I was always free from a past that
has infinite subjective versions, just as you are.
So, what now? I am committed to my own “now.” I am writing the
book with which I have teased my soul for decades by writing snippets
on a blog, in articles, short children’s stories, or poetry. I have let my
truths dribble instead of surge out of me, which left me anemic and
looking for fulfillment elsewhere. I am okay with writing and not
knowing whether it will be relevant to any other person. It is relevant
to me, and that is enough. There was a time when George said, “If you
have one flaw, it is that you want to change the world.” My response at
the time was, “Yes, and?” Now I know what he meant, and I no longer
want to change the world. I can’t, anyway. All I can do is change myself
and adjust my own bearings until I am sailing with benevolent winds
on a sea of happiness.
I wanted to change the world because I hurt so badly. Each time I
found a healing salve through meditation, Reiki, or whatever, I wanted
to shout it out so that everyone would be saved from hurt. But it is our
struggle with the constraints of our acquired roles and relationships,
the abrasion of conflict within ourselves and with others, that gives us
the strength and patience to emerge from the enclosure of our little self
into the full color and freedom of our larger Self. Just like the butterfly,
we need the process itself to gain our radiance.
Of course, not everyone wants to be saved. Not everyone wants to
ascend. Not everyone questions the meaning of life or desires any kind
of answer. Lots of people are okay just being okay.
All I am doing is polishing my own eyes from the inside so that I see
the gorgeous world in its infinite unfolding of creation, the source of
which is pure Love. This is the love that cradles both dark and light.
We come to our own self-love by peeling, chipping, dissolving or
bludgeoning our way through the layers of untruths that disguise our
No relationship or experience is without merit in contributing to this
quest. However, each relationship and experience can more deeply
encrust our true nature if we remain unconscious. I know. I spent a
lifetime trying to please others in an effort to overcome the inner bleat
of unworthiness. The voice I discovered was not my own, nor a higher
guiding wisdom, but rose from unexamined messages of generations.
This morning I have opened the shutters and opened the doors. The
spring breeze is cool but promises a warming sun. Over the rooftops
and high above, I glimpse the crumbling but majestic monument to
the Muses on Filopappos Hill and know what has brought me here.
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