This is the preface to my first book Questing Marilyn.
Author: Marilyn Barnicke Belleghem M.Ed., is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist.
See more at www.mbcinc.ca
Living is about learning. It is a lifelong Quest. Come with me on a part of my journey and discover living with a new point of view.
As a young child, I learned things from my parents. By their words and actions, they taught me their way to live. In general, I believed what I was told to believe and usually behaved as I was coerced into behaving. I was fearful of making decisions for myself. I feared I might make a wrong decision. When I trusted in my own decisions, I expected criticism and was filled with terror. I was bewildered. I tried to make sense of my experiences. Anxiety was often my companion.
I was taught that if I followed certain rules, acted in specific ways, and did certain things, my life would be happy and calm. Happy and calm was the goal. Keeping my parents happy and calm was part of my perception of my responsibility too. Being nice was a big part of achieving this goal.
In my childhood years, I feared that if I made choices for myself that were different from those that others expected me to make, my life might go wheeling out of control into chaos. At that time, I didn't understand that it was the adults who had difficulty with me because they couldn't control me. I thought that I must do the right thing, according to the definition of right set first by my parents, then by the priests, and later by my teachers. I must, at all costs, be good, by their definition of what that meant. When I managed to conform to their ways, I escaped their emotional reactions which I found so disquieting.
The safety and security of being directed, parented, and protected is seductive. However, as I grew in age and experience, I realized that those who were trying to show me how to live did not have a corner on the truth. I learned that other people did not live as we did. Our way was not the only way, or necessarily the right way, to go about the experience of living. I began to question those who told me that there was only one way to live. I asked many questions. I was not always given satisfactory answers.
Living within the controlling limits set by others is comfortable for a while. The cage of these restrictions confines me as much as a cage confines an animal in the zoo. For me, it eventually becomes unbearable. When feeling safe and comfortable with the familiar is no longer enough, I must break the "rules" listen to my own inner drummer, and move to that beat. I must create my own path. I must follow a spiritual Quest.
I was called rebellious. I was rebuked, punished, and avoided by some people when I did not behave like one of the "nice" girls. When I did not follow the expected norm and maintain the status quo, I was criticized. That was when I first experienced loneliness.
When I roamed the fields and woods near my childhood home, I found my Self in the solitude of nature. I did not feel lonely because I had my Self and my imagination for companionship. I could pretend to be anyone and act any way I wanted. The birds and squirrels never scolded, and when a blue jay sounded as if it was doing so, I could laugh at the imagined rebuke and carry on with my play. This was not the way I handled it when others were present. I learned that, by using my imagination, I could be led to a healing of my Self and the sadness of not being accepted just didn't matter. I sometimes thought of my companion as my guardian angel. I also heard her referred to as a guiding spirit.
Travelling through the process from dependent child to self-responsible adult has been a hazardous journey, fraught with pain and fear. Taking this journey has brought me face to face with some of the vital lessons of a fully lived life. The freedom to make decisions for myself and live with the consequences is often frightening and lonely. However, as a critical, thinking being, I have the power to analyse, observe, and decide for myself. I can develop the flexibility to look at alternative choices. I can create my own life.
The foundation of how I live my life is built on my beliefs. The ideas I was originally taught about how a life should be lived have often come into conflict with the life I want to live. It is the tension between these two forces that I now recognize as the anxiety that leads me into the decision-making process. Knowing my inner conflict is about my beliefs and wants versus the norms expected of me by others, I can look carefully at the choices I face. My beliefs and the myths I have learned guide my steps and shape and limit my choices.
My fears keep me from stretching too far beyond the way I was in the past, while my desire to learn and grow leads me to new ways to be my Self.
When I dare to listen seriously to my inner Self, I often feel fear. I know this fear. It has become familiar and it has power in my life. As I live with it, I discover I can venture forth into the place where I feel it most acutely. It leads me into territory that has previously been only a dream, or perhaps a nightmare. In the past, I have been told that everything is possible, and I have been told that some of my dreams are unattainable. The contradiction between these two concepts creates tension within me. Sometimes I just want the tension to go away so I can keep on doing the same old things that are familiar and safe. This is when I try to bury it with busyness.
I sometimes think that my life choices are unique to me; no one has been in my position before me, no one really understands me. I believe my life and my choices are as diverse as I am as a person. I am special.
As I have matured, I have gradually realized that there are common elements to life and developmental stages through which we all progress. I am travelling a route others have travelled before me. This awareness calms and comforts me. I need not feel isolated. The knowledge that I am at a normal and predictable stage that countless others have experienced and survived, stretches me from the disappointment of realizing that I am not so special after all, to the joy of not being totally alone.
Like a formless ghost gliding just ahead of my awareness, the next stage of growth beckons me to follow. My spirit sees the apparition and senses the adventure. I follow just at my growing edge, travelling where I have never dared to go before. The excitement of the anticipation pulls me onward. I am not the only factor that controls my destiny. I hear a drum beat, a calling from deep within. Some force to grow lures me on.
There are those who have travelled this way before me and those who will travel after me. Life has order. There is a grand design. Those who travel behind can learn from my experience. I can learn from those who went into this territory before me. I am part of the flow of human existence and the flow of the evolution of our species.
I can actively seek like-minded others to share my time and experiences. I have discovered that I can choose my friends. If I have no sense of choice, then I am not living my life in full consciousness. Sometimes, those who think like me drop into my life as if by magic. When I spend time with these like-minded soul mates, my previous panic settles into a sense of common adventure. Sharing personal stories of triumphs over oppression, conquered terrors, and fresh ways to be alive in the world, stirs my imagination.
I am choosing to flow with the current of life rather than lying in a tide pool experiencing the same things again and again. To do this, I must be brave. I must accept that at times there will be chaos. I will have to let go of needing to be in control and trust the universal forces.
Living life with purpose and meaning is exciting. The energy of the universe flows through my being and creates more energy. The experience of this process is contagious. Sharing this universal life force is the essence of being truly alive and present in the act of living. The results are well worth the trials and tribulations I have met on the way. Journeying has become my way of life.
I now actively search for the next phase of my personal growth. I know I am planning to visit a "land" that is not entirely foreign, only foreign to me. As an adventurer, I am on a journey that I believe will last me my whole life. A new relationship, discovery, or awareness excites me. I then apply the new skills and ideas in my life. This is how my life experience expands and changes.
When I realize I am doing something I have never done before or thinking in a way I have not experienced thought before, I practice the new-found skill to test it. Once I realize it has a broad spectrum of applications, I want to share my new discovery with anyone who is interested. I want to be your guide on this journey. This is my intention in sharing this personal Quest with you.
Please read, learn, and enjoy.