Driving in a rally race with a blindfolded navigator is how I’ve often described my life – never really knowing where I’m going, pedal to the metal, and hoping for the best. Life, it is said, is a journey. Implicit in this metaphor is guidance, direction, and a destination.
The guidance I received in my formative years came from a father who spouted the words of Dale Carnegie, Vincent Norman Peale, and Kahlil Gibran – all good wisdom, but it was targeted towards us as criticism to point out our failures, and mostly in direct contrast to how he lived. Or, at least, that is how it felt.
It was only in later years that I began to question the validity of my upbringing, and look outside family for guidance, although the stain of abuse made it difficult to discern motivations, and, therefore, value.
Directions came from my same-sex parent, whose belief was that women should be beautiful, upbeat, and submissive. She excelled at all three – an impossible standard for a geeky, temperamental, anything but submissive personality. She reminded me frequently that not only did I not fit in, but that my oddness would likely leave me lonely and unloved. Whatever direction I might have chosen for myself seemed hopeless.
Entering adulthood without a compass or a roadmap is not a plan for success – it is an itinerary destined to feature obstacles and dead ends. Even when I did achieve, I never really knew if I was fulfilling my own dreams or just trying to win my mother’s approval. Do we ever really know?
Death, I knew from an early age, was the only given in terms of destinations. Death visited our extended family far too frequently, picking off the young, and carving out an expectation of pain and suffering.
Who was I to complain about anything, given I was still alive? I learned to hold my breath and wait. Sometimes, I idealized death as a final solution to the interminable anguish.
With age, the sharp edges of youth’s blades soften. Idealism, slain by cynicism, is replaced with practicality. Rage either motivates or dissipates under wisdom’s tutelage. Fear changes its focus.
I’m not driving in races these days, and the choices I am making involve eyes wide open. That journey, I now appreciate, is inward, and I’m learning to seek guidance that enlightens, follow directions that lead to truths, and have faith that the stops along the way are only ever temporary destinations.
(V.J.’s challenge this week is questions. The caption above came from Willow Poetry’s challenge: What do you see?, and Laura Bailey’s Manic Mondays 3 way prompt: journey. Thank you to both for providing the fodder for continual pondering. I don’t think I’ll ever stop asking questions.)