A Lesson from the Labyrinth:
Not Everything is Meant for You
I have said I wanted to write a book before, usually in the throes of some hilarious anecdote I’m sharing over wine.
You may have heard this flippant remark: “Ha! Isn’t that funny? I should write a book!”
I did start a fiction novel just after high school. It was going to be a copycat of Sweet Valley High and my first writing session involved the description of a long tennis match, as I recall. Those poor tennis players never made it off the court, suspended in permanent animation as a result of my abrupt writer’s apathy (mostly because I was still young enough to go out on weekends).
This time, though, I have signed up with a publisher so I have an obligation to finish (barring unforeseen circumstances). I even have an outline, a time line and submission dates.
But every good author knows that once you commit to writing, things are going to get real. My outline was done, my submission dates were selected and I was feeling like time was on my side. But I kept hearing that it’s not uncommon for crazy things to start happening when you get into the heart of writing.
That is not a joke.
That’s when the dog attack happened. I was up for two nights in a row calming a frantic dog that kept re-discovering stitches near his private parts every two minutes and panting heavily at the thought. All. Night. Long. For two nights in a row I thought our dear dog was dying. We bonded extensively in the wee hours of the morning. I literally did not sleep.
Then, one of my brothers had to have a complex and lengthy surgery. We were able to get our dog’s night time anxiety under control before I headed to Canada to be with my brother and mother. The surgery went well and my brother and I had a surprisingly good time bonding after the actual surgery, despite the fact that someone had just cut him open and jangled around his facial nerves. He was a trooper. And I got to sleep on a chair two nights in a row (although the term sleep is an exaggeration).
As luck would have it, three days after I arrived home I was back on a plane to California. Another brother was getting married! The timing could not have been better. After the dog attack and nursing duties, I was ready for some sun and surf. And the wedding lime-a-ritas were not horrible either. You know life’s been rough when you see my mom drinking a lime-a-rita!
Anyway, grateful for the getaway and fully aware of how many deadlines I had NOT met for my book, I got home and realized that I had to reset my schedule, create new submission dates and keep my fingers on the keyboard. I had no more time to waste!
The funny thing is that our publisher keeps reassuring me this is all normal and that the book will be written with ease. It’s already finished somewhere in the “Ever when.” (I don’t know for sure, but she may have visited Colorado and eaten some brownies, according to her optimism turned hope disorder regarding my easily written book).
So, when I settled in to write early Sunday morning my husband brought me coffee in my Paris mug. It reminded me that last year at this time I was in Paris sharing a flat with friends in the heart of the city. It was a grand time.
In Chartres there is a prominent cathedral. Inside the cathedral is a labyrinth. Each Friday during the summer the labyrinth is available for walking and meditating. It is a sacred space inside the ancient church.
We made the pilgrimage to Chartres one Friday morning in hopes of walking the labyrinth with everyone else. It is said that if you set an intention before you begin your walking meditation and prayer you will be given insight upon completion.
I set my intention, took off my shoes, and started my inner journey.
All was going swimmingly until I caught up with a very pious woman who was going VERY slowly. I wanted to savor the experience, but she would sometimes stop as if to pray and do a ritual. I tried to bring myself back to my own experience, but I started wondering if she knew how to “do” the labyrinth more correctly that I did. Maybe I was doing it wrong? What did she know that I didn’t? I kept one eye closed and one eye on the woman ahead (what with her abrupt stops and all).
Just as I started to let go of my need to go faster, the crew working to clean the centuries old cathedral started carrying scaffolding across the labyrinth without regard for us meditative sorts. Ugh! Could they not see I was trying to concentrate on an inner revelation?! More deep breaths, more scaffolding, deeper breaths, and finally surrender. They were just doing their jobs. I’m sure Fridays full of labyrinth walkers wasn’t their idea of a good time either. We were probably slowing them down. I tried to ignore their coming and going.
And then there were the tourists. Yes, I was a tourist, but I was a respectful one. I knew this was a labyrinth and didn’t walk through it all catawampus to ogle stained glass or old pews. I wanted to yell, ” “Move aside people! This is not just a floor! We are not on a tour!” I only yelled it in my head. I just stepped aside and tried to go on.
By the end of my journey, you might suspect that I was left with nothing but frustration.
As I slowly made my way to the center in peace, I had a profound revelation that has helped me accept this whole book odyssey just as it is so far. With the deliberately slow woman ahead of me, the scaffold- carrying workers around me, and the unaware tourists cutting in front of me, I realized that none of it was meant for me. It was just stuff, the stuff that ebbs and flows in the course of a life time. None of that stuff was here to harm me nor was it necessarily meant for me. It has just here – often for my benefit.
My only job was to keep going. Maybe it was slowly, maybe I needed to deal with whatever intersected my path, but I would assuredly arrive.
This lesson has served me well. I write, I honor those moments when it feels hard, and I am half way there.
All will be well.
And while we were in Paris, it rained, but it didn’t dampen my spirit.
Sometimes, it’s not raining on you; it’s just raining.
the Busy Buddha
ANTIPASTO PASTA SALAD (EPICURIOUS)
This is the perfect metaphor about some things not being meant for us. Some things are meant to exist around us. Like the ingredients of this delicious salad, many items come together to create a perfect bite while remaining their singular selves.
Looking back, tell of a time that you noticed things happened around you but you knew that the lessons were not necessarily meant for you. Why did you feel that way?