Shifting scenes on the backroads/In a lonely place in your mind/Deep, deep inside of you something is born/ And something else must die/You are in for a big surprise
I tell myself I did the right thing, even though what I did broke my heart. Even as I did it, I protested what I was doing, wondering if I’d lost my mind. Wanting to slap myself and say, “What are you doing! Stop!” But I didn’t stop. I kept walking.
Through tears and anguish, I tell a friend and colleague I think I did the right thing. And she smiled the Wisdom Woman smile I’ve come to count on from her. She suggested I stop weighing this as “right” or “wrong.” Rather, she said it was, before anything else, an unstoppable force. Its name is authenticity. She said my need for authenticity was more instinctual than logical. That sometimes this instinct just erupts as an unstoppable force. And that, in those moments, there was really nothing I could do about it. It’s a reflex. I just act.
A teacher once said to me that, if ever I was unsure of who I was, what I really wanted, what I really valued, what I was doing and why, what I was really choosing … then look down. Look at your feet. Notice which way your feet are pointed. Notice what your feet are moving toward or away from. There’s a good bet, my teacher said, your answer is there. You are choosing where your feet are going. That’s who you are.
All you know are pristine scenes on the highway/Of a life you have made out of mirrors/Can this be you with the hammer raised/To smash all you hold dear/Or thought that you held dear
Have you noticed that there is … two of you? Your ego-self and your essence. Or, as I like to say, your Regular Self and your Deeper Self?
Sometimes self-respect, first principles and authenticity demand we break our own hearts. Said another way, our Deeper Self simply erupts. We act from instinct. And our Regular Self is shocked and surprised.
Regular Steven is my abiding, everyday sense of self. He thinks, he feels, loves his friends and family, loads and unloads the dishwasher and vacuums, though the latter not often enough for most of the women in his life. He is generally happy and optimistic, though he also is filled with regular self-doubt and sometimes anxiety about who he is and his place in the world. He is productive in bursts, then lazy for inexplicable stretches. He is at once capable of profound and generous presence to others, yet regularly descends into unwitting self-absorption, oblivious to how this makes him stop paying attention to people who deserve his love and attention.
All in all, he’s an okay, ordinary guy. I like him. Though I’m terribly hard on him.
Deeper Steven lives in a world beyond thinking and feeling. He tends a crucible inside me that is most often unconscious. That is, Deeper Steven and Regular Steven don’t talk much. I suspect that, like a lot of people would say, it’s hard sometimes for Deeper Steven to get Regular Steven’s attention. Truth is, I don’t think Deeper Steven seeks Regular Steven’s input at all. Oh, he loves Regular Steven … enough to ignore Regular Steven’s railing, spiraling emotional and intellectual machinations about what really matters.
Deeper Steven always knows what really matters.
So, from time to time, Deeper Steven just erupts, instinctually. From the gut. He grabs Regular Steven by the collar, takes out his own personal set of commitment papers on him, and says, “You’re coming with me!” And that’s when Regular Steven just jumps out of the airplane without a parachute, terrified and surprised that he has done so. And, so far, every time, Regular Steven builds wings and learns to fly as he falls.
He screams a lot while he does this.
When Deeper Steven decides to act, it’s an unstoppable force. There’s not much Regular Steven can do about it.
On some level, Regular Steven must trust Deeper Steven, if only because he always does what Deeper Steven says to do. But it doesn’t feel like trust. It feels like terror. Deeper Steven seems a little crazy and dangerous. At least inconvenient. Certainly unpredictable.
Sometimes your Deeper Self will tell you to build a nest, to place yourself and something you love into the nest and light it on fire. Burn it down.
And your Regular Self will do it, not having the slightest idea how, whether or to what you will be resurrected.
But you will be resurrected. And you will be changed. And inevitably standing exactly where you need to be.
Destiny is hard to miss, even if your Regular Self seems bent on missing it.
You stand at the edge looking down into nowhere/And then you hear the call/Something inside of you says to jump/And build your wings as you fall
(You may write Steven Kalas at firstname.lastname@example.org. Steven Kalas is a therapist, author and Episcopal priest who writes a regular column for this newspaper. He is the author of the book “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing.”)