At five o’clock this morning I was journaling about my commitment to 2020 as a year of vision—not only retrospection and foresight about my life, but about inner vision, about my commitment to “see the light” one step at a time. I expressed gratitude for the trinity of body, mind, and soul that empowers me to see the lamp on each point of my path, and to move my foot into its glow, one step at a time.
I noted that I don’t need to see the big picture – the whole trail, the destination signposts, the aerial view of the path through the woods (or desert, or sea, or mountains) – I’m just supposed to put one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. I’ll get there when I get there—in fact, I am already “there” with every step, since life is the journey and not some place of arrival.
I wrote that “Living is not static or conclusive; it’s dynamic and perpetual. So life’s meaning is in taking each step, trusting that I’m going in the light-right direction, being thankful for my current place and the power to move forward. It’s in not turning up my nose at any of the people the universe puts in my path. Everyone and everything is a chance to serve or learn.”
I followed my journaling, as usual, with a few moments of meditation, to clear my mind for better reception throughout the day. But strangely, in the brief moment I was able to clear all of the words from my mind, out of nowhere (I thought) a sad, terrible image arose: of Robin Williams stepping off a chair to die at the end of a rope. I had no idea where that image had come from, or why it showed up just then, but it made my blood surge with sympathy. My heart ached for that miserable man, the sad clown who hid under his own brilliant humor, behind twinkling eyes and an ever-endearing smile. I imagined, for just a second or two, what he might have thought and felt as he took that step, and then I erased that too.
Today’s steps began at six o’clock, as they always do, with literal steps along the coast, in a stunning, soul-feeding setting suffused with new sunlight – a glorious beginning. My walk along the bluffs, wharf, beach, cliffs, village and river always suffuses me inwardly with joy, stoked in large part by my favorite playlist pouring out of my headphones, in “shuffle” mode. My morning stroll has a soundtrack determined by the universe, and every song seems aligned with every new shade of dawn.
But today I was more conscious of my physical steps, of the physical path I was taking, one step at a time. I was more aware of my commitment to go be receptive to people in my path, not just in my own music-and-nature-happy mind. I smiled at everyone I saw and said hello even though I couldn’t hear myself speak, because of the Plain White T’s or Fleetwood Mac. I stopped on the wharf to feed peanuts to the seagull who waits for me there each day, and I waved at the woman who does yoga there, facing the sun. I called good morning to fishermen as Phillip Phillips sang “Unpack Your Heart.”
But when I reached Depot Hill to walk along the bluffs, I saw a woman approaching whom I knew just well enough that I ought to stop and chat—she’s vivacious and bright, one of those effervescent people who can keep you awhile, though you can’t help enjoying yourself. Not ready to leave my private world, I considered just smiling and walking on, knowing my headphones would show I was occupied. I knew she wouldn’t think it rude if I didn’t stop.
Then I remembered my commitment to each step, to not turn away from any person put in my path. So I pulled the headphones down around my neck, paused the playlist, and said “Hey, how are you this morning?”
She replied, with a catch in her voice, “Oh, I’m so very sad! My childhood friend just hung herself Friday, and I can’t get past losing her. We used to walk to kindergarten together. We walked these bluffs together for years – she had a house up here, and this was her favorite place.” And she choked back a sob. Of course I gave her a hug, and we talked for awhile, about people who suffer, and the dignity of choice, and the merits of seizing the day and hugging our friends. She told me that her friend had been a woman full of laughter and love, who just couldn’t handle the pain of her ailments and life.
When we moved on, I paused several yards away, my music still on hold. It had been a sweet, short conversation that I hoped had served her well, but I knew it had served and taught me. My morning writing and meditation had prepared me to pause in my path, to recognize and honor the person placed there by design. The image of Robin WIlliams had preheated my heart to sympathize from my core with the woman who had taken her own. And I had learned that a conscious decision to see will bring on the lamp, the glow, the path, the momentum, the lesson, the meaning of life for me.
I turned toward the sunrise and started to walk, and undid the pause on my playlist. Which song, out of nearly two hundred happy love songs, came “randomly” into my ears? The odd dark song in my light-filled mix: Don’t Fear the Reaper, by Blue Oyster Cult.
Came the last night of sadness
And it was clear she couldn't go on
Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared, saying don't be afraid
Come on baby, and she had no fear
And she ran to him, then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodby,
She had become like they are
She had taken his hand, she had become like they are
Come on baby, don't fear the reaper
I don’t know why this sequence of situations and images and people were presented to me today—why the light shown on such sadness, why it gave me these visions of suicide and grief. I just know I followed the light this morning, and that vision and value are revealed one step at a time.