"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."
~ Joseph Campbell
I've always loved this quote of Joseph's, but I've modified it to reflect a recent mid-life soul-diving discovery of mine.
"We must be willing to let go of the life we might have led so as to live the life we have now."
~ Lila Danielle
I think there's a marked difference between the two. This is not to dis on good ol' Joe. His wisdom has encouraged me many a time to find my own. "Follow Your Bliss" has hit me over the head, traveled through my heart, and changed my life plenty.
I've quit jobs that paid me a shit-ton of money so I could do work I loved that paid practically nothing. I've left relationships despite being in love because I knew love wasn't enough. I've had flings and I've literally flung myself off cliffs following what felt good at the time. I've spoken my mind and pursued my passions all in the interest of experiencing bliss. So, I like Joseph and yet, I feel that this particular quote of his just doesn't do it for me anymore and here's the reason why; his quote speaks of the future.
It's good to have plans and be excited about possibilities, but that's not where we human beings typically get stuck. We get stuck in the past. We ruminate and sometimes regret what's already taken place. We wonder what could have been and perhaps worry we royally fucked up our lives or another's. We can seriously make ourselves suffer (and keep ourselves in that sucky stuck place) when we wish we had made different choices.
No offense Joe, but I'd much prefer to let go of pondering the life I might have had and fully immerse myself in the life I'm currently living in - the present, the here and now, this moment of bliss. I wish this was as easy for me to do as it is for me to say. If anything is becoming easier the older I get, I suppose it's recognizing the difference between fondly reminiscing about and remembering important lessons of my past versus lusting after the life that might have been.
The life that might have been....
The lovers I might have taken. The places I might have seen. The opportunities I passed on and the dreams I might have made come true. Yes, I might have led a very different life, but the choices I made then have brought me to where I am today and the truth is...I love my life.
The deepest longing I have, the one I always want to be fully aware of and alive to, is loving my life as it is.
Fulfilling that longing is not only about being mindful of and grateful for all the choices that created the life I have now, but is also about gently and continually letting go of the life I chose not to have. What has been most unexpected was feeling (and admitting) that the depths of my mourning what could have been rivals the depths of my longing for what is.
I know there are more mid-life smacks to come, but this one has been profound. At times it has rendered me speechless and I've experienced a familiar ache of wanting to return to who I was and who I might have been. But then I look into the depths of me and I see the life Joseph was alluding to; the life I have waiting for me is the one I have right now. It's the one I've chosen and it's the one that finds me at mid-life really seeing I am exactly where I'm meant to be.