When I was a kid I hated going to sleep. I guess most of us were that way. There was so much left to do. My father's childhood Erector Set was strewn across the floor, holding a mystery I had not solved by 9pm. The adults were playing Gin Rummy downstairs, telling all sorts of stories that I wanted to hear. And Madeline L’Engle was just beginning to explain what a tesseract was, so how could I go to sleep without knowing? I would lay there for what seemed like days, annoyed with the injustice of it all.
I still feel the same about going to sleep although I have learned to appreciate the morning perhaps even more than the mysteries of the night.
This morning it happened again: the light peeked in. I opened the big shade in my bedroom to answer the rat-a-tat-tat of the light against my window and ran to the kitchen to turn on the coffee. If how I felt at that moment could be put into words it would be, “Oh boy, oh boy!” The sun was just beginning to climb above the trees and as I opened the door to run onto the grass to watch it rise, I realized I forgot to pee. I like to catch the sunrise before it is over the horizon to see the morning hues and hear the birds coming awake and was a few minutes late today. I didn’t have time to pee but these things must be done.
Pee complete, coffee brewing, I ran out the front door to my favorite sunrise-viewing spot between two big trees. Halfway there I heard a very loud and ominous “SHHHHHHH!!!” that stopped me in my tracks. This sound is now familiar to me: it is the distinctive whooshing snort of a deer when it perceives a threat. It is the sound of fear.
In my haste and not-quite-awake state, I failed to look where I was going and interrupted their breakfast. Stopping just a few feet away from Mama Deer, wondering what her next move would be, she chewed slowly, staring at me as if I had just asked her to pass the salt. Baby was farther away, copying Mama in her relaxed chew and bored stare. Pops on the other hand (we call him Onesie because he has only one antler), the alleged snorter, was staring me down.
This little deer family saunters through my yard a few times a day. They have seen me many times watching them from my porch or walking down my driveway. We are simpatico, I think. Still, it seems I haven’t won over Onesie yet.
In what I like to think was exasperation at her partner and not me, Mama slowly began to saunter off. Baby followed and Onesie waited, watching me closely, making sure they were safe before following them to the neighbor’s yard.
The song Morning Has Broken came to mind so I began to sing it under my breath. As I sang they stopped, turned to stare at me for about 20 seconds and then continued off. Onesie looked back a few times either to make sure I wasn’t a threat or, part of me wondered, out of legitimate wonder at the strange human in the pink striped pajama pants singing Cat Stevens.
Early morning is my favorite time of day. For those who are not morning people, I am your greatest fear. But it wasn’t always this way.
The Big Chill
For decades, I “adulted” in the way society had modeled for me which meant constant striving, which in turn, meant never being enough, which in turn meant exhaustion and never feeling like I was in the right place. I was floating down the river instead of setting sail. I thought I was being badass with the degrees and the promotions, but in reality I was following the script which was okay. I needed security for a while.
As the years passed, morning became a game of how many times I could hit the snooze button without opening my eyes. I would cover my head with a pillow, groan and think, “Didn’t I just do this yesterday?” It wasn’t that my life was terrible or that my job was torture, for neither were true. I was fortunate in so many ways. Instead it was that I knew I was not living the life I should be living; I was in the wrong place. It may have been the right place at one point, but it wasn’t any longer. I did not know how to get out it and was afraid I never would. “Is this how it is supposed to be?”
This is when apathy can set in, my least favorite emotion and perhaps the most dangerous. Everything is gray there.
What do you need to be who you are?
Recently I was talking to a friend who is questioning his next steps in life, something we eventually do when we are called to live more authentically and willing to answer the call. I asked him “What do you need?” The question gave him pause. He replied, “I don’t know how to answer that. I don’t really think about it.” And oh, how that resonated with me! I could not have answered that question back when everything was gray for me because I didn’t know what I needed or, maybe what I needed felt so overwhelming that it was easier to bury it. My entire life was set up around the script.
Then he asked, “How did you know what you needed?”
At the time, I didn’t but I knew it was not what I had. Still I had what I needed to survive so some part of me thought I must be broken. Why wasn’t it enough? I searched for a long time for the thing I was missing in books, courses, and doctor’s offices. In good wine, chocolate and peanut butter ice cream, and too many fitness classes.
I did not know what I needed but I knew the life I was living was not aligned with who I am; a scary and necessary realization. How did I know my life was not aligned with who I am? Because there were no “Oh boy, oh boy!” moments for me there. The colors had dimmed and I was so close to accepting all of it which felt like a sort of death of something beautiful. I couldn’t do it.
“How did you know what you needed?”
I started listening to my heart and following the leads that made it jump a little. For me, the leads were into places that excited me, places that didn’t fit the script. They were sexy and fringe and interesting, especially compared to the box I had built around myself. I made a few mistakes along the way but they were fun wrong turns.
I had to practice hearing the whisper through the noise and heeding it which is the hardest part because there are no guideposts there. Most of us have trained ourselves to not listen to our intuition or our “gut” because we don’t trust ourselves. I certainly didn’t. How can we trust our gut when it goes against the grain? How can we trust our gut if following that whisper means turning over the apple cart and losing friends or confusing our family? What if we are wrong? What if we fail? Something must be wrong with us to feel this miserable, this exhausted, this bored, and this frustrated. We must be selfish, egotistical, needy, or weak. We need to put on our big boy/girl pants, lock away those childish dreams, and get to business.
I finally said no to all that because as I mentioned before, I felt like I had two options at that point: the death of something beautiful or choosing what I wanted even if it made no sense. I had to get that far in the process, to the point of considering lopping off the part of my soul that says “Oh boy, oh boy!” and I hope you don’t wait that long.
We need to tap back into that childhood curiosity, whimsy, and intuition. We need to stay up late with the Erector Set and build something while everyone is asleep. Maybe we need to get naked and run the acre late at night alone under the moon. Maybe we need to remember that the idea of a safety net is always an illusion. What’s the worst that can happen? It may take a few weeks, a few months, or even years, but we can build it.
You know why we keep hearing that whisper, the one that keeps us up at night? Because we are meant to do important things with our lives. That whisper is God/Universe/Shakti/Soul directing you to your inner fire.
Look at the world around us – full of people who aren’t listening, who were never taught to follow the leads; people who do not understand how important they are, how much they are needed in the world. People who have forgotten that they have something unique to give, something constructive and not destructive. Don’t do that. Listen.
Each small step we take toward the whisper will eventually get us there even if we don’t know what or where it is. Some steps may be in the wrong direction but the wrong direction helps us find the right one and can be a lot of fun too. There’s a bit of a game in it, don't take it too seriously.
It took me a few years to finally respond to that whisper inside, that inner fire. And even now I still need to remember to contemplate: “Which way do I go?” As my sage friend said to me recently, “Trust your intuition. Ask yourself if it is in harmony, integrity, and coherence with who you are.”
I wish “Oh Boy, Oh Boy” mornings for all of us. And here’s the good news: you can choose what is true for you. In fact it's sort of your responsibility as a human. It is your life.
Go. Do. Be. And listen to the whisper.