When the World is on Your Shoulders by Laura Ding-Edwards
A friend posted this rallying poem on FB a few days ago and I know why she needs it right now. She is fighting for her life with every ounce of strength she possesses.
But I want to make a case for “losing the war”.
We all live our lives “battle-ready”. We go out into the world armed to the teeth with all manner of weapons ranging from our degrees, our looks, our clothes, our titles, the quality of our accessories and above all else, our willingness to ruthlessly compete with others. We are all competing to win in the human ‘race’. We jostle for higher placement on the social ladder and block the progress of our competitors if we can.
Every day we defy the odds in our trenchant battle for survival. We set future goals and mark time in myriad ways – ranging from T.S. Eliot’s ‘coffee spoons’ to counting likes on Twitter. We live our lives in a state of defiance and daily battle against the odds, even the odds that we might die that day. We will certainly die one day. But until then, how to spend our days and our time profitably because every day is an investment in a better future.
But rather than keeping our weapons, psychological and physical, how about we drop them and lose the war? What’s the worst that can happen? Death? That will come eventually anyway. Imprisonment? Aren’t we already trapped in our longing?
Letting go of longed-held dreams and longed-for outcomes can release us in ways that seem impossible when we’re trapped in warrior-mode. Being battle-ready means staying alert, anxious and primed for aggression. It uses a great deal of energy just to keep anticipating defeat or violent engagement. If we let go and lose the battle our energy is freed up. Our senses are flushed with new life and even though we are standing on a suddenly empty stage we may at last feel ALIVE and free.
In quantum physics and new age philosophy there is a stream of thought that all possibilities flow through a single moment. If we can let go of the outcomes we are fighting so hard for we may become aware of other possibilities and potentialities and we may even allow our curiosity to guide us towards a different outcome.
Let’s take the worst case scenario – death. Who really knows what lies beyond the veil? What if a whole raft of new adventures and new ways of being live in that realm just beyond our consciousness? Personally I believe that is exactly what awaits us all.
And the second worst case scenario – imprisonment under the victor’s flag. In the end nations homogenise and life finds its usual balance of trade and toil but we are still prisoners of our longings, unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams.
But what if we could “lose the battle” in our minds and bring the afterglow of death into our present reality? By that I mean, stand still on that empty stage and allow the glimpses of different futures to flow into our awareness without resistance. For curiosity’s sake why not follow a couple of alternate futures in our imagination and just try them on for size? Do they fit? Are they so bad? Is the current situation worth defending so strenuously?
Those of us for whom rejection has been a constant have learned to find grace in small things and special moments. We weave the small beauties of life into a tapestry that mantles and soothes and assures far more consistently than the shields and armoury of warriors who hide behind them battle-ready. We who are used to “failure” and ‘loss” have learned to find grace in disconnected moments that envision as-yet undreamed of futures.
Many years ago an angel told me that the future is built through our choices and gains definition through our faith. “It is like pictures building,” said one angel who went on to explain that even though I could not see a positive future emerging from a life of daily rejections ‘they’, the angels, could see a future building out of my faith and the small actions I took every day after I finally allowed myself to ‘lose the battle’ in almost every area of my life.
Two decades ago my world fell apart and I was left standing alone in a place that had no familiar fall-back positions. I was living in America, divorced and disconnected from my family and friends and finally accepting I would never be a famous singer or actress. I had nothing familiar to hold onto, not even my rescuing dreams of fame. I had no weapon or defence to cling to, no battle to win except the raging war within that urged me not to give up on my lifelong dreams of success as a singer/actress. I eventually had to silence that screaming voice inside just to stop from going mad. Madder. Finally I stopped listening and allowed myself to lose the battle I’d been fighting all my adult life, the battle whose victory would be a happy marriage, a thriving career, a beautiful home, lots of friends, blooming health and happiness. I had nothing. I was working as a cleaner and struggling to find a reason to stay alive. One day a client invited me to join her at a writers’ conference after I had shown her a poem of mine. I can’t say it happened overnight or even at the conference but by relaxing my grief over my lost life I saw a glimpse of fulfilment for me in a different but associated creative medium – writing.
Slowly I began to explore this new way of being and by standing still my soul took root and simultaneously reached for the sun. Of course in time I appended my ambition and energy to this new expression and today I must wrestle with the fall-out of that and find the balance again in the small enriching things like contemplation of nature and laughing with friends. And despite a degree of success in writing I must remember to watch for those subtle signatures of other worlds and other ways of being.
I must keep my vision clear and not obscured by shields and amour or the veneer of success.
‘All of us are lying in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars.’ Oscar Wilde
Starry Starry Night Van Gogh