In “Cutting Ropes and Sailing Free” I described the roots of my recent depression and the process I was going through to break free. I wouldn’t have had the strength to cut ropes unless I let myself feel what it was I truly desired.
I was born with sails. The ropes that I attached to other ships happened out of necessity, out of a need to stay safe, to stay afloat, to not be abandoned. The belief systems I inherited from my parents, from the church I grew up in, from other survivors notched so many conflicting beliefs into those ropes stretched out to one ship and another. I believed I shouldn’t shine too bright. I believed I had to be happy or successful so other people wouldn’t be disappointed in me. I believed my ship was inferior to others. I believed I needed others to make decisions for me because I couldn’t make my own (good enough). I believed it was selfish to set sail and go after what it was I really wanted…
As I got older, another coping method formed. I chose certain ships to follow. I knew that I wanted to sail and leave the harbor. But I didn’t know how to do it on my own. So I set my sights on one ship than another, trying to live my life just the same as them. I even did this with characters in books I read, people on TV, in movies, as well as the real people in my life. The open seas were too terrifying to sail all on my own. I believed if I could step in the exact steps of others, I could get a piece of the same fulfillment that they had. If I couldn’t feast for myself, I would settle for crumbs from their feast… But, this isn’t how it works for us. The fulfillment I enjoyed was superficial and the crumbs only bore frustration.
I have that unique lantern burning deep within me that holds all the stuff I need to sail my own ship. My desire dwells here. My Mom recently contributed her very honest story of how she wanted to “get into my skin” when I was younger and live my life for me better than she thought I was living it myself. Her belief system about happiness was skewed. In a way, she truthfully saw my capabilities and my gifts and she wanted me to take full advantage of them. But her plan of helping me become truly happy was coming at the process from the wrong angle. The roots of the process of happiness start with validating that burning lantern deep within us. It doesn’t begin with the appearance of our ship, how it is better than other people’s, how fast it is or how pretty. It doesn’t begin with having perfect destinations in place to sail to in a certain time-line (church, accomplishments, early marriage and plenty of children…) The belief system my Mom was trapped in neglected that burning lantern. My Mom bought me dolls to play with, taught me home-maker duties. When I was little, I loved to pretend that I was a business woman coming home from a busy day at work. I pretended I was serving coffee up and down our driveway, pouring water from a watering pot! I loved playing store, counting the money, adding things up on the adding machine. These things that I loved to do spontaneously were coming from that unique burning lantern deep within. These things reflected my true desires. Even deeper beneath these activities was the fundamental desire to love and be loved for who I uniquely was.
After a lifetime of not trusting these desires or paying attention to them, it felt very difficult at first to see them and believe in them. It’s like trying to see the vibrant life and colorful rocks at the bottom of a murky, muddy lagoon. It takes time. But learning to pay attention, to focus my eyes differently, to keep asking myself “what is it you truly desire?” is the process that has connected me to that burning lantern and fuels my own amazing journey. It was the process that gave me confidence to pursue counseling in the first place. In that process is the key to my true happiness. Harnessing its power frees me to furl those sails and gives me the courage and hope to cut away the ropes that I no longer need.
We have what it takes to sail our unique journeys!