There’s a distinction I’ve learnt through Landmark Education: am I being at the source of my life or at the effect of it?
Most of us, most of the time, live at the effect of life. We tell ourselves we can’t do this or that because we don’t have the time, the money, we’re not young enough, old enough, pretty enough, smart enough, senior enough, because of how our father is, how our mother was, our husband, our son, the economy, blah blah blah.
We locate the responsibility for our lives outside ourselves, in circumstances and other people. And yet it’s an illusion. Behind each of these statements and all their kin is us. To distinguish this illusion, and take responsibility for one’s experience of life, is what it means to be at the source of our life.
I have a friend who has her share of sorrows and struggles, and like all human beings, a unique curriculum which she is here to learn. What she also has is an unusual degree of mastery of the distinction “being at the source of life”.
N is somewhere in her mid-60s. She’s cagey about the exact figure. When I asked her one day, she offered an anecdote instead. “A few years ago, I used to tell people I was five years older than I was and people would be stunned and intrigued that I looked like this.” This made me laugh. Only N would trade vanity for the possibility of magic for herself and others. In fact, this is what she does in every aspect of her life: she lives in the expectation she’s going to create magic.
We examine the same situation and where I might see nothing, she gives her giant kaleidoscope a quarter-turn and sees possibility.
She sold a house she owns last week in order to buy another in her dream location: on an island, within walking distance of the beach. Mind you, she hasn’t yet found the house in the dream location, but there is nothing more certain than she will. Anyone else would be happy enough with the sale. Not she! She immediately started speculating how she could use some of the sale proceeds to bring forward the month-long holiday in Venice she has planned for her 70th birthday. “And maybe I could work there too, and extend the stay”, she said, completely oblivious to any issues to do with visas, language or being of an age when most people are retired.
She actually owns four properties, despite earning a very modest salary as a grief and trauma counsellor for many years, working in hospitals and government agencies. She’s single, with a daughter and three grand-children. When she was 40 she almost died at Mt Everest base camp from an undiagnosed heart condition. She was once wrongly imprisoned by the Indonesian militia when Suharto still ruled East Timor, has lived in a cult community in the US in the 70s and travelled around the US and Europe on a shoe-string budget with a small child.
When she moved temporarily into a down-at-heel apartment block a few years ago, within the week she had mobilised the semi-comatose residents and launched a painting and gardening transformation. Naturally, all the materials she either found or was given.
N is a wise, wild woman, a woman who with knife and shield and magic makes the world her own.
Image: Alice Popkorn