“In the middle of my life, I awoke in a dark wood where the true way was wholly lost.” ~ Dante
What happens when we awaken in Dante’s dark wood and find ourselves lost and confused in the middle of our life? How do we find the light again? The path? The way? Where do we go when we can no longer go home?
Although it feels as if we’re surrounded by darkness with no way to turn, we’re standing at the frontier of who we were and who we will become. The past always inhabits the now. Who we were, what we’ve done, who we’ve been in community with throughout our lives, goes into making the person we are now. But even that is fleeting. Who we are now is a fleeting moment which moves ahead into the future and backward into the past, simultaneously. Much like a rapidly flowing river viewed from the shore. Rivers drink from a deep and distant source, and as we find our way to that deep source in our own lives, we’ll find our life’s river gives generously to the landscape around us.
Ask yourself, what is “now” inviting you to do? Where is the current of the now asking you to go? Be impatient with trite explanations. We want the answers and the questions that bubble up from our river’s deep, undying, undrying source.
Perhaps this season of life is calling you to a time of silence. Of hibernation. A time of hiding. Time alone is a natural process. A bear hibernating through the winter. An injured animal taking time alone to heal. The stillness and quiet of a time of seclusion can bring greater self-knowledge. And self-knowledge can help lead us into – and through – the next frontier of our lives. Savor the aloneness.
Stop your life’s current conversation and listen. Is it superficial? Caught up in daily-ness and busyness? Be still. Quiet yourself. What is the big question of your life? The beautiful question? The essential or serious question? Find your question. What gives your life meaning? What lights your soul’s passion? Your essential question can be different at various times in your life. Don’t resurrect older questions, although your new question may be a variation on a theme.
Ask your own question, not someone else’s. When you find the question that’s hibernating in your heart, allow it to help you find your new voice. Let it welcome you into the new conversation of your life. Give it opportunity to lead you to your new identity.
Along with a new question and a new identity, you may find your entire life reorganized, including the community around you. This may be unnerving and a bit frightening. But do the brave thing.
Put your head down and make your way through the dark woods into the light of the next phase of your life. You’ll come to a place you don’t know, but in the process, you’ll come back to yourself.