Without a Southern accent in Durham, North Carolina, sometime I’m asked, “Where are you from?” Hah. “That’s a long story…” Because of what I do, and if there’s time, sometimes I recall my geograhic history, including one job that had me on the road for 4 years!
My life’s list looks like this: Durham, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, San Diego, Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Pittsburgh, Mobile, Montgomery, Ogdensburg, Staten Island, Myerstown, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Berkeley, Bristol, England, Pittsburgh, Costa Rica’s San Jose, Tucson, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and I was born in Chicago ….whew! [Pittsburgh is mentioned here a few times because it is where my folks lived, it’s the town in which I graduated from high school, and I worked there professionally too. Thus I’m a Steeler’s fan to this day.] I did the math of all these locations. There is exactly 3 years, overall location average. Hah!
This is my geography. It traces my growth, my spiritual journey, and the people and values that have become sacred to me. It’s my life. Like my list of towns and cities is the story of ME, you have a list like this. It about more than geography. It’s about your spiritual journey as well, the ‘where’ of what made you the ‘who,’ and ‘what’ you are. too that includes all the same elements. Our lists are about where our passions and my questions led us, what they introduced us to, and what we made of every daily encounter. me, what I learned, how decisions had consequences, all my successes and of course, a few misjudgments as well.
A defining part of our humanity is that we are able to reflect on ourselves, as I do here through my list. We are “self-conscious.” Other people see us, but not necessarily as we see ourselves. As embodied Souls (see previous post, Caution: Soul at Work), we live inside our skins, and paint on those skins all the beauty and goodness of our lives, our self-image. We create a picture or tapestry that we can look at and admire. As we do this, we’re also able to see parts that don’t fit in with our vision. That is how we choose to change. We observe ourselves as art, a work in progress. Pivotal moments on this path of geography and psyche are like bookmarks in this tale that’s still telling itself. Bright spots are the moments of new commitments that paid off handsomely. Dark spots are those, seen in hindsight usually, when things “took a turn for the worse.”
We all have a history, a history of steps. Its chapters of each person’s history raise the perennial question, “Where are we headed now?” A simple question, but important. Location isn’t just geographic; it is psychic as well, the story of our self-development, the building of our “character and calling,” (cf, James Hillman), our identity, the set of beliefs that define who we are, and how we make choices, under what or who’s influence.
I love tracing people’s histories. I marvel at people’s growth, their ability to transform themselves, to be healthy and balanced. This is what Soul does, and what our Inner voice speaks to constantly. Changing the image, we keep painting our picture, or weaving our tapestry. Life pushes us (or does it pull us?) into our future. When we reflect on our past we can measure our success and joys, our progress and our disappointments, and plan or change accordingly.
But of course, real change is harder than it appears. When we want to change our self-reflections take on a new importance. We can put them to work! Ultimately, large or small, this means we are choosing a new purpose for ourselves. With these choices often come lengthy commitments, like new learning, marriage, parenthood, divorce, joining the armed forces, or moving to a new place. Such turns may be quick and sharp, ninety degrees or more; some are slower and take tremendous leverage or support, like turning an ocean tanker around, a degree at a time.
Whether quick or slow, the best “turnings” are those we value enough to seek out expert support. Implicit in new and important lfie choices are numerous questions. Experts, each in their field, are experts because they reflect with you on the deeper values, options, risks and possibilities in your important questions in order to make the best choices.
What You Are Is Where You Were When,* says we are the sum of ALL our choices. Today is the final page in writing your story — but only up to today. Tomorrow may be the beginning not just of a new chapter, but of a whole new book. Partners who know us well help us examine deeper layers in the onions of our choosing. Questions that occur in reflection and planning new purpose include: Underlying Beliefs – whose, still useful or worn out?, Responsibility — to what or whom exactly?, Commitment — to what, really?, Values — well chosen and examined or hand-me-down, inherited?, Trying — half-hearted or truly committed? Busy-ness of life or the certainty of success can sustain us for years on a path but is it the One we most Want. Is it turning into happiness, that balance of responsibility and freedom, passion and joy that Soul wants for us?
Mindful life changes, whether by choice or by circumstance, require deliberate choices based on our own wisdom and clear goals, which takes time and energy. Only we can take steps for ourselves in the direction of our “best” evolution. And “best” most often takes support to get it right. You Are What You CHANGE Now.
What’s next on your list?
* What You Are is Where You Were When is a training video from self-development pioneer Morris Massey from 1986. For a brief taste of his unique and refreshing style and content, check out this snippet of his original What You Are is Where You Were When video.