See the shy-looking girl sitting on the ancient rock wall within the Roman ruins at Ephesus in Turkey? She wasn't shy at all. She took risks, had big dreams, wandered the world at just 19. She wasn't afraid to try anything. She wasn't shy. If anything she was sullen because the adventure she was on was being delayed a bit by someone else's decision.
This young woman grew up fairly fast, marrying and becoming a mother at age 22, and then watching her first-born son breathe his last breath when he was three days old. One year later she was given the gift of another son, this one healthy and full of life. This young woman, full of dreams and a sense of adventure had to grow up fairly fast and leave those follies behind. She learned early that bad things can happen. To anyone. At any time. She probably became a little too wary of taking risks, a little too careful with everything she did. She was a mother after all, and she had something very, very precious to protect.
Fast-forward 27 years. As I sit here looking at this photo of myself I am surged with memories. Not just of how that misty day in Turkey unfolded, but of so many things that have transpired in the almost three decades since. Some of them are wonderful, to be sure. I have mothered two beautiful, amazing human beings whom I treasure above all else. I've lived many years in a marriage that brought me great joys as well as sorrows and I've had the insight and courage to leave it when it was no longer healthy or sustainable. I've nurtured my spirit through some pretty rough valleys and seen myself soar out of them with the help of many friends and my endlessly supportive family. Come through breast cancer by losing my breast, but not my life, for which I am so very humbly grateful. I've learned about what it takes to support myself, going to work in jobs that I had very little affinity for, but which taught me the reality of what an hour of pay really is and the worth of a hard-earned dollar. And finally I found a job that I loved, something that actually used my talents and skills and most importantly used them towards something I found of importance and great value to others.
And then suddenly, last week, that wonderful job was taken away.
People lose jobs every day. I'm not alone in that boat. Sure, it's rough out there finding employment in this economy and it's a great worry when you don't know where the money will come from to pay next month's bills. This is one part of my disappointment. But the greatest part is losing trust in something and someone I believed in. Realizing, once again, that life is hardly ever fair and that people, even people you greatly admire and trust, will disappoint you. Certainly I've done my own share of disappointing others, and so I am trying hard not to judge. Somehow, though, it's more dramatic when it happens to you, and especially when you believed what was taken from you was an answered prayer. I'm trying to keep all things in perspective, but honestly right now my heart is just plain heavy and confused.
I won't go into what happened with my job, as I don't trust myself enough in the state I am in to not start finger-pointing and that won't serve anyone justice. I really want to rise above those negative thoughts and feelings. I will say though that it's more than a job that I am without. I also lost a piece of something very important to me. To my spirit. It's been a difficult trial.
But back to that girl in the photo. If that girl had found herself in the same situation she would have laughed as the storm pushed against her and forged ahead right through it. She would have let all worries of doing the right or practical thing evaporate with the morning mist. She would have followed her heart and took a risk. Unfortunately one of the pieces of baggage that she has been collecting over the years holds a huge bundle of prudence. She knows the future is forever uncertain, that bad things can happen at anytime, and there is hardly room for risk in that landscape. Instead of letting one door close behind her and thinking, "Wow! The possibilities! What can I do next that I really love, that I'm really meant to do?" she is instead looking at returning to a job that about did her spirit in, that has nothing to do with her vision of her ideal life, that uses none of her talents or skills, just so she has the security of knowing the bills will be paid. That, dear reader only says one thing. She has a very anemic sense of faith in herself. And what kind of message is she giving to her children? Especially when she is always encouraging them to work hard and follow their dreams. Do as I say, but not as I do?
Prudence is certainly an important virtue. It's a form of wisdom, of foresight, but as William Blake said, it's also "a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.” There is a time and place for it, but what if it becomes an enormous brick wall that keeps getting higher and then becomes so high that you can't see the possibilites of the road ahead any longer? What happens when prudence becomes the stronger arm of the fear of the unknown? I think what happens is that it gets a hold of your weaker arm and holds you back from your true potential. And that is just what I'm allowing to happen to me.
I'm being strong-armed by the fear of what not being smart about life might mean.
Why is it that following our heart, our intuition, our dreams is seen by society as being ignorant? I mean there are lots of ways I can be ignorant and blockheaded, but I can remember a time when I truly trusted my intuition. One thing I do trust is that the longer we live and the more we are educated the clearer it becomes that we really know very little! But what we do have is our gut instinct. That inner voice we are all born with, but that slowly dilutes and dissipates bit by bit with each and every failure we encounter along the way.
How many times have you made the wrong choice, or not the "smart" choice and it ended up backfiring on you? Probably too many to count. But, hey, how many times did you make what might be seen as the wrong choice and it ended up being one of the most miraculous things in your life?
Prudence may be a form of wisdom, but I wonder if it's also not just a little back-up plan, a defense, against making mistakes? Against failure? I can think of many times when doing the prudent thing would have kept me from following my passion. I can also think of plenty of times when I did the prudent thing at the expense of having strong-armed my intuition, giving me the false-reality of having done the "right thing" but in the end it kept me from exploring the very thing I was meant to do. We hear it all the time...don't take your intuitions lightly.
Prudence means to have forethought for the future. What happens when you are so focused on doing the right thing for the future that you look right past the opportunity that is staring you right in the face?
That shy-looking girl up there isn't shy at all. In fact, I think I can hear her singing. "Dear prudence, won't you come out and play..."