The landscape of my life
The day started out poorly. Bobbi and I had been discussing one of the problems that we wrestle with from time to time. These are not big problems. More like rough spots, mild but chronic irritations. Sometimes we make progress. More often we fail to make progress and disengage--we live to fight another day. Occasionally we solve one of these long-lasting problems and put it behind us. But until we do, these problems persist. When one creeps up on us, it demands our attention. The bad thing is these things exist and they don’t just go away. The good thing is that we keep communicating and loving each other.
There’s a pattern, and we were following it that day. As we talked, we moved from point A to point B. Then we talked some more and reasoned our way to point C. Then after some more discussion, we got to point D, And then, after a while, we discovered we had gotten back at Point A. We've done this lots of times for each of these chronic problems. Our discussion wanders around and around and usually gets us nowhere. But we keep trying.
That day, suddenly, I had a vision. I saw our discussion as though we were traveling a path in the landscape of my life or ideas. Instead of being located somewhere, and seeing where we were and the paths that would lead to the next place, I saw myself above the landscape. I could see the path we’d been on, circling that central issue--but from above the path, not somewhere on the path. The path we had been on was well-worn and rutted. It led us in a circle.
And I could see more than just that path. I saw places off he path that I’d been to occasionally--places that I’d found by taking different, less traveled and less well-marked routes. The well-worn path was the easy path that went in circles. It was the one that I naturally--and foolishly--followed. But if I looked carefully I could see the traces of other paths that I'd followed and the places that they'd led to. And I knew that looking from above I could more easily find one of the less-traveled paths that led to one of the better places.
And in my vision, I realized that I could do better than that. Because I was above the landscape and I could see the places I had been, I didn’t have to find a path and travel overland. I could just go there. And just like that, I was in one of the better places. Or more accurately, I was there, yet still above the landscape.
And in my vision, I could now see more of the landscape. Not just the area around the problem we’d been circling, not just the better places nearby that I'd gotten to, but the landscape over which I’d travelled during my life--including the places I'd never been to. I saw a landscape of something--perhaps the mental or emotional states that I had been in or could be in--the paths that led from one state to another. I could see the paths I’d turned into roads that got me quickly to desirable places. And I saw other paths with wrong turns and false starts and dead ends. I could see the best places I’d visited, the ones I’d managed--through hard work--to get to. And I could go directly to any of them. And I could see places I'd never been to--places that I'd imagined getting to. And perhaps I could go directly to some of them as well.
And I could see this pattern:
At night I’d go to sleep somewhere in that landscape. And in the morning I’d wake up in a place different from the place I'd gone to sleep. Most of the time I’d wake up somewhere nearby, but not always.
On most mornings, I’d wake up in a place that was slightly better than the place where I’d gone to sleep. Occasionally I'd wake up somewhere much better. But on a bad morning, I'd wake up in a bad place--or even a terrible place. I’d have gone downhill. I might find myself in a small depression, one that would be fairly to climb out of. A cold shower or some coffee might do the trick. But sometimes I’d find myself in a deeper depression. Maybe a ditch. Maybe a valley, or a crevasse, or even an abyss. And then whatever else I had to do, I would also have to spend time and energy climbing out of that low place. Sometimes it would take days to get back to a good place.
Sometimes something would happen--a setback in life that would knock me away from where I'd gotten to and plunge me into confusion and depression--places I'd need to climb out of. Less often something good would happen and I'd find myself suddenly in a better place than I'd been in shortly before. But sudden setbacks tended to be more common than sudden victories, and setbacks meant climbing out of the bad places I'd been thrown into.
Over the years I've learned how to get out of bad places. I’ve learned and developed techniques to help me climb and travel faster and more easily. I can reason my way out of some bad places. I can use music or dance to get out of others. I can practice gratitude. I can meditate. I can talk to people who are good at helping me climb. I can write.
Getting out of a bad place is not easy. It's always hard work. If I find myself in a bad place I've been in before then Iknow that I can look for the path that led me out before and retrace it. But sometimes I forget the path and I have to discover it again. And sometimes new obstacles block a path that once led out.
One obstacle is the desire to give up. I’ve climbed out of enough bad places to know not to let that stop me. I know that eventually, if I keep going, I’ll find my way out. What used to take me days now might take me hours and what used to take me months might take weeks. It always takes time. And it's not much fun. But I know I'll get out.
I could see that falling into a hole that I’ve fallen into before meant I could use the knowledge I've gained to get out faster. And I could see that the fact that I've fallen back always makes me feel stupid and then angry. That makes climbing out it harder because I carry that anger with me.
I could see that I could create new patterns. Going directly to any place on the landscape that I’d ever been was a new pattern. I didn’t need to find or follow a twisting difficult path within the landscape. I could move above it.
That was my vision. But the day was just starting. And there were more visions to come.