I have often felt challenged by inhabiting a culture in which agency is presumed as paramount. In this worldview, achievements and failings, struggles and joys, are born singly with pride or shame. They have the potential to sink into our psyches and our bodies as talents or as character flaws. I experience myself differently. I do feel a sense of agency, but I also feel that life is an expression of a sacred collective. As Kahlil Gibran describes it, we are “the sons and the the daughters of life’s longing for itself.” The part of me that recognizes and lives for my purpose knows that it comes from outside of me: both the inclination and manifestation emerge from something far more vast and infinite than my lived experience. The part of me that retains agency has responsibility to live that purpose. It has taken my whole life to recognize that my greatest offering to this world will be both me and not at all me.
This hit home last week when I found out that Without a Map: A Caregiver’s Journey through the Wilderness of Heart and Mind has received two Reviewer’s Choice Literary Awards from Reader Views and is a finalist in the Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award. The news was exciting, unexpected, and yet another curve in the unfolding of this whole “book experience”.
When people have told me how much the book has meant to them, I have a really hard time accepting the commendation. I am also challenged to accept congratulations for these exciting awards. You see, the book hardly feels mine. From the very first inclination to turn my words into something to be shared with others, the book has felt compelled by its own momentum. I needed to embrace the challenges of self-disclosure, self-doubt, and hard work along the way, but the hardest part of my job was to keep showing up for it. Each day, I only needed to sit at the computer and make myself available to the work of excavating, honoring and, ultimately, recording the raw experiences and emotions that had marked my way. Along the way, I was nudged, nurtured and sometimes shoved by the invisible energy that invites creative expression. I felt a tremendous sense of responsibility to manifest the message I felt drawn to share with the world.
My relationship with my Dad unfolded in a similar way as his dementia progressed. My family members often expressed gratitude “for all you are doing for Dad.” I almost always demurred, unable to truly take their complements and kindness into my heart. I know they meant it and wanted me to receive their gratitude but, somehow, it didn’t quite feel appropriate. Yes, the situations and decisions were challenging, confusing, and heart breaking, but it also felt like I was only doing what I was meant to do. Ultimately, my time with Dad during those years was enriching beyond belief. In the openness, acceptance and love of each moment we shared, there was space for a sacred trust and presence to emerge. I recognized that space is always available and have continued to nourish and appreciate the beauty and mystery that arises there.
Remaining open to the learning and self-discovery that experience initiated, I have found myself on a new journey. Writing, editing and publishing the book were only the first steps. Now, sharing the book and my experiences with individuals or audiences, I am invited to listen to others share their stories. Being present and holding space for that which needs to be expressed, I am again simply doing the work that I was meant to do. I feel pulled into kinship with the human community in new and unexpected ways. My sense of connection with my own history and with others is growing stronger. My sense of purpose is becoming more and more clear. I will continue to show up to the work that is mine to do, my sense of self getting both sharper and more vague, both me and not me.
The internet can feel remote, but your presence and readership turns each of these posts into the beginning of a conversation that you can continue with me, with a friend, or in your own thoughts. I am grateful to each one of you. Without a Map: A Caregiver’s Journey through the Wilderness of Heart and Mind also initiates meaningful conversations that bring people together. You can participate by sharing the book with individuals and communities by: suggesting it to a friend, proposing a book event in your community, writing a review at Goodreads or Amazon, or forwarding this post. Thank you!