Writing my latest book, The Quest has proven an increasingly positive experience. In 2006 I walked off stage after forty years performing music. Unwittingly I embarked upon a mid-life quest for identity that has lasted fourteen years. That is a long time.
My true identity was enmeshed and broken by four decades of religion, performance, and a desperate need for approval. Last week as Gina and I enjoyed a chilly Florida evening in our backyard around a warm fire, I asked her a question. “What would you say is the favorite year of your life?
She asked for a few minutes to think, and after a relaxed time of contemplation, she responded, “This past year has been the best of my life.” It was precisely my response, as well. We are both over age sixty and have enjoyed many good years, but somehow this has been our best.
Why? As we continued the conversation enhanced by a delectable Old Fashioned, the conclusion was that for the first time in our lives, we have decided to go forward and leave the past behind. Without forgetting the wisdom gained from the lessons of our history, we have determined to proceed with life.
What does going forward look like for me?
—It means writing in the present and future tense. Several friends I hold in high regard have commented that my writing has been different for the past few weeks. I agree. It is coming from this new perspective.
—It means living a healthy life rather than a wounded one. It has taken a long time, almost fourteen years, to come to this place finally. The move to Dunedin last June is symbolic in many ways for the beginning of this forward movement.
—It means less politics and more philosophy. Fewer evenings around the television and more around the fire outside. Less screen time and more beach time. Less monologue and more dialogue.
—It means knowing and enjoying my self by making informed decisions based on the four essentials of my life. Curiosity, sensuality, freedom, and communion.
—It means the institutional chains of education, family, religion, and culture that have shackled my true being have finally been broken and left behind.
—It means remembering what I’ve forgotten and repressed about my body, soul, mind, and spirit.
—With apologies to the band U2, it means I’ve finally found what I’ve been looking for.
Every day I walk, run, and bike the Pinellas Trail, hike the beach, write new words, and paint original art. I reside in a tiny, quaint, seventy-year-old Florida beach cottage. And I exclaim, “I love this place! I love this life!” And then I ask, “Why? Why do I love it so much? Why does it feel so right?”
A few days ago I found the answer in a book by Dr. James Hollis I am re-reading as I write The Quest. He says, “Meaning is found over the long haul, through the feeling of rightness within.”
I found further clarity in the words of Herman Hesse, “We have to stumble through so much dirt and humbug before we reach home. And we have no one to guide us. Our only guide is our homesickness.”
This spiritual homesickness gives us the journey; the journey (if we let it) restores our life once again. A new friend sent me a quote by David Whyte this past week, “There is no sincere path you can take in life without having your heart broken.”
And finally, ah, at long last, I dare to believe my heart is whole again and I am home. And now I am ready to enjoy and celebrate the way forward.