Because I value my relationship with the cosmos, and with myself as an indivisible part of the greater whole, I listen when the voice tells me to do something.
'Light this candle for clarity,' it instructs me, 'and eliminate all escapist impediments to your fuller consciousness until it burns out. You will discover what your evasive efforts have been covering over.'
I want to please the deities, whoever they are, whether they dwell atop Olympus or in a dusty thatched-roof village, inside the candle's flame or within my head and especially that one character who has chosen me, the cool-headed king whose proscriptions I fumble at consistently observing. He has called me to this exercise, and it feels to be the very least I can do for him, for me, and for the particulate speck of the universe I am charged with shepherding to loving-kindness.
But before I have even lit the candle, I am already wishing it to have melted away. I do not want to put myself through this, though I know I should. I also know this is not the sort of 'should' we needlessly burden ourselves with, out of obligation to an externally-imposed sense of propriety or subjugation. It's the healthful, transformational type: I should defer my behaving a certain way, in order to make a different choice, to foster a different outlook and/or a future positive result which would otherwise be unavailable. It is discipline as 'restraint for self-mastery', not discipline as 'punishment'though the instant-gratification kid in me feels punished anyway.
The past few months have been hard, productively (as opposed to futilely) so, but nonetheless difficult. To reach a personal high-point in approaching one's rightful calling more closely than ever (as I've publicly shared has recently happened to me), and then, to stomach a scene-change and return (or so it seems) back to where you were before this is a contrast that makes the formerly satisfactory (though not necessarily fulfilling) conditions nearly excruciating in their mediocrity.
'Structural Dissatisfaction: Returning to circumstances that once pleased you, having experienced a more thrilling or opulent way of life, and finding that you can no longer tolerate them.'
Yet, the unrelenting awareness of this contrast is a beacon a vision for what to move towards, and what to move away from. It guides you into the future by rehashing what it was about the past you had merely settled for rather than relished. Without that mouth-watering taste of something better, how would we ever know, in our bones and our blood, there was any possibility other than more of the same? Creativity thrives on such contrast.
In this candle-beckoned clarity, a sadness is unmasked. I so badly do not want to claim it as my sadness, I went back and changed that prior sentence, excising the possessive pronoun attaching it to me. I keep trying to tell myself this is a natural human emotion, that it will pass (as all things do) that resting right next to it is deep contentment, eagerly anticipating my acknowledgment of it like tipsy guests at a surprise party who have been told the person of honor has just pulled up out front. Still, as long as I keep pushing this untethered sadness away, it continues to drift back, demanding my attention until I give it its fair due. I don't want any part of this.
Because I am not sad. Because I am living a blessed life. Because I do nearly everything I want to do and if I have not yet done it, it remains on the list and, if nothing else, I'm very good at completing items on the list.
Then, where are these poor-me sentiments I've begun to externalize coming from?
As the frantic claustrophobic mind rattles off its supposed discontentments, I try to pause for ten deep breaths. Have you ever tried to keep the mind from reciting its undermining thoughts for ten deep breaths? Yes, I suppose that is what they call 'meditation', a practice I have irregularly dabbled in though isn't meditation just another deed to master, an achievement to conquer on that lonely climb up the mountain, the tip of which always seems concealed by clouds or fog so you never know how much further there is to go?
Burn, magic candle, burn. The faster the bottom of the glass jar snuffs you out, the more quickly I can move myself off this hot seat and return to an accustomed sense of human normalcy. Alarmingly sharp alertness is not for all people all the time. Though a striver by nature, I now merely jones to muffle my role as a spiritual grade-grubber... to catch another evening of artificially-induced relaxation. I lose myself in work. I lose myself in books. I lose myself in the so-called reality they televise. I lose myself in shock-absorbers, mood-manipulators, bodily-consciousness-erasers. The only opportunities I leave myself to engage in internal debates come in dreams, the late ones squeezed into the last morning moments of slumber, featuring exonerating conversations with exes or fantastical reconnections with friends who have become successful writers.
The deal was: Concentrate on clarity, for moving forward and that's it until the wax has all evaporated and the flame has served its purpose. I kick myself for signing on the line.
Then, at the lowest low, I find myself embraced by an agent of the sentient universe I glorify and revere. This could have come in any number of metaphoric forms (for we do not always recognize the grace being offered us when we need it, its language artfully cryptic), but it came as a literal embrace from a person, a warm pink symbol of my blessedness. The universe held me, stroked me, as I unfurled a symphony of shame-ridden falsehoods about myself and cried and cried and cried, somebody daring to love me anyway. Perhaps because of. He thanked me for being vulnerable and choosing to share with him what was on my mind.
'And see how quickly things changed from disconnected to connected?'
('Because', in my whispered reply, 'everything always changes.')
Finally I recognized the deep contentment resting alongside, tasted it, breathed it in.
Now, what's for lunch?