“The light at the end of the tunnel is not an illusion. The tunnel is.” ~Unknown
In this society of ours, parents teach their children to do, to perform, to produce. We learn that to be adult, we need to be “productive members of society.” At social gatherings, more often than not, the first question among strangers is “What do you do?”
My first memories include identifying so deeply with my movie director father that when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always replied, “A writer and director.”
Then life happened, and I spent decades acting out the painful and abusive relationship I had with my mother. Although I wrote almost daily, my life settled into a hand-to-mouth survival existence that had nothing to do with writing.
A string of abusive relationships with men took the place of my unresolved relationship with my mother as I continued to act out the trauma of my youth in a repetitive cycle, all the while trying to keep a roof over my children’s heads and food on the table.
All thoughts of any kind of career fell away and were replaced by anxiety, depression, and the urgent need to pay this month’s bills.
When my mother died, much to my surprise she left me everything she had in the world, and I was able to buy a home and live for several years without worrying about money.
During that time, I quit my job and started to write in earnest. My goal was to publish a memoir about growing up in a motion picture family in Hollywood and share the lessons my childhood taught me about love.
These are the vastly over-simplified facts of my life. Less obvious was my growing self-identification as “writer” and a subtle yet mounting despair as time passed and I struggled to find a publisher or an agent to represent me.
Recently, in a rare moment of absolute clarity, I realized that I had come to identify so deeply with the book and the rich and enviable career of my wonderful father that I saw both as extensions of myself.
Worse, I had come to believe that my value as a human being depended upon my ability to sell myself as a writer and create a career around that identity. I even found myself wondering what purpose I was serving on earth if my gifts could not find a home.
I am fortunate in that several evolved souls number among my friends. Yesterday, one of them shocked me by pointing out that I had been so neglected and abandoned in childhood that I had formed an equation. That equation was: if I could only shine more brightly, then perhaps I would be noticed and appreciated.
This had come to dominate my life, he said.
My friend’s comment knocked the wind out of me as the truth of it brought tears to my eyes. I came to earth believing I was precious and loved, but my relationship with my damaged mother changed the way I viewed myself.
My mother’s neglect and abuse initially shocked me but later convinced me that I needed to do more, and perform at a higher level in order for her to recognize and value me.
Over time, this subtle yet powerful pathology took over my psyche to such an alarming degree that I even began questioning my right to life! My focus had become so externally based that my only concern was how others viewed my work.
I had completely lost any perspective of balance, equating my personal value solely with the quality of my occupation. (I wonder how many of my fellow humans are currently operating under a similar, painful delusion?)
Now that I see what was underlying my obsessive need to sell the book, I feel differently. I can see that I was overburdening my relationship with the book by giving it sole responsibility for my sense of personal worth and, in fact, for my entire life. I have since readjusted my perspective.
Ours is a world of opposites: the more solid and “real” something appears, the less intrinsic value it actually has. Cars, houses, and bank accounts are meaningless in the greater reality.
Our suffering as human beings comes from investing our focus in the external illusion rather than the internal reality.
When careers, activities, and possessions become more important than humanity, compassion, and kindness, we know we’re in trouble.
Don’t get me wrong—the way we spend our time is important, but our daily activity needs to be an expression of our true nature rather than a way of defining it.
We need to be who we are first and then allow our activities to flow naturally from that source. The external world is here for our growth and also for our enjoyment, but we can only truly appreciate it when it is a reflection of our internal light, not a replacement for it.
Life is magical, a mystery. Although our society would have me believe that I am here to do, to have, and to own, the truth is that I am here to be. The natural world reminds us of this constantly.
Every creature and element on earth has a place and a purpose, arising effortlessly from its basic nature: the birds don’t question the value of their songs or the quality of their nests; the sun and rain don’t look to us for approval.
It’s quite funny when you think that we humans consider ourselves superior to animals because we have the ability to experience guilt, regret, anxiety, and stress!
So, how do we transition from a life based on the manic drive to accomplish into one based on living in the flow, one that allows our inner being to expand and flourish?
How do we release the fear that would have us believe that who we are isn’t good enough?
How do we find the courage to express our true nature instead of creating a false persona based on the activities of our day?
We first need to remember that we have come to this planet for only one purpose, and that is to live in love.
Living in such a fashion, we bless everyone who crosses our path and remind them to live in love, as well.
We can only live like this on a moment-by-moment basis by connecting and staying connected to our higher nature and making the energy of our day the important thing, rather than the activity of our day.
In this way, when there is a choice between love and fear, we can always go to that higher place, illuminating our lives and the lives of our fellow humans by choosing love one moment at a time.
Photo by MartaZ
About Tiela Garnett
Tiela Garnett is a life-coach and writer. She has created the site Personal Guru to assist you in empowering yourself through connection to the Master Teacher within your own life. Contact her for inspiration or one-on-one coaching at Personal Guru and visit her new site pathofthetrueself.com.