“Why don’t people’s hearts tell them to continue to follow their dreams?” the boy asked the alchemist.
“Because that’s what makes the heart suffer most, and hearts don’t like to suffer.”
-Paul Coelho, The Alchemist
If you clicked on this to read a medical vignette, my apologies. This piece is going to be a bit more existential. Or metaphysical. Or something less concrete. But I’d love to have you come along for this ride. For months I have written and talked about changes that were coming. I have shared the angst and discomfort I felt as I approached July and the change in my work status to part-time. And I have commented on the parallels to other moments of change in my life. Change Redux, How did I get here, Ch Ch Ch Changes.
And now it is here.
It’s interesting how the best laid plans can change in an instant. For more than a year, I have planned to hit the ground running by lining up some part time and consulting opportunities. Writing daily as the sun rises, working on projects and pieces. All aimed at opening new doors in the near future.
And then life happens. Things change. Prior “knowns” become unknown. Presumptions and assumptions no longer hold true. The early work filling in this new canvas of mine, crumbles into little pieces now scattered by the swirling winds in the background of my life.
The discomfort and angst is no longer from “thinking” about my future but is actually now from living the struggle. What I thought would be a static playing field seems to be shifting on a daily basis. I find now an ache inside my heart that is teaching me the true meaning of suffering.
Less time physically working at the hospital has not eased the burden on my heart, but it has on my brain. I no longer jump minute to minute from one crisis or medical emergency to another. And with this increased head space I have the opportunity to turn my usual outward gaze inward. Soul searching. Introspection.
I have been reading again. Searching for possible answers within the written words on the pages. I reread Illusions by Richard Bach and thought again about the limits placed upon us. That what we can do in this world is constrained not by physical barriers but by the constraints we argue for ourselves.
I reread Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and rethought the definition of the word “quality” and its role in my life. That quality it is not so much an intrinsic characteristic of objects or events, but more defined by our relationships to them. A song or piece of music can be music to my ears and pure noise to another. Therefore, “quality” is not necessarily an innate property of the song itself, but more a description of any individual’s relationship to it. It is something no longer static but dynamic and alive. And something that I can strive to improve upon. My relationship to my family. My children. My friends. The world around me. My place in this world.
I recently read The Alchemist (how have I missed it the past 25 years?) and thinking of what my own “personal legend” is, how to find it, as well as help my family and children find theirs?
Through this journey inward, I try to find and listen to my own heart, and hear its quiet voice. Quiet because it’s afraid that if actually heard, it may suffer even more than it does now. Quiet because it’s questioning what would actually happen if its voice was followed?
I have taken the first step off the reliable path of the known and routine and onto the unsteady and uncertain. My heart, suffering as it is, still timid to speak any louder. But as difficult as moving forward on this path may be, I see my family take their own tentative steps listening to their hearts. I see them take on the challenge, and the struggle and suffering that comes with it.
And then I ask myself, how can I not?