The You-Turn

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA…But is it in your conscience that you’re after
another glimpse of the madman across the water?

– Elton John

The way I see it, we have two choices in life:

1) We keep ourselves under wraps, we counterfeit (to borrow a term from a fellow blogger) our feelings, we censor our identities. And we live a half-life at best.


2) We come out of the shadows and we takes our lumps. And we set ourselves free to be who we are. We live authentically.

But disaster looms. Coming out of the closet–any closet–promises to reach into one’s life and unravel it, thread by delicate thread. It is bridge burning taken to new levels, and it is arson by one’s own hand. We wonder if the precarious structure we call identity will be able to withstand the ensuant tremors as we begin to plumb the fault lines of our existence. And we hesitate, one foot off the precipice, one foot on, hugging the edge for all we’re worth.

These are the moments in which purpose is forged. Not in any teleological sense: no one can see into infinity. Farragut had no assurances of victory when he uttered his famous words at Mobile Bay. But he knew he would accomplish nothing by simply remaining where he was, and he knew better than to think he could go back and maintain any shred of self-respect. So he damned the torpedoes–as we all must do at some point–and leapt into the fray.

Purpose is simply this: movement. Movement that reflects who you are. Movement that honors who you want to be. We cannot know what is out there, but we can set out to meet it. On our own terms. In our own way.

But movement is, by definition, away from something, and toward something else. It implies leaving things behind: the static things, the things we can’t carry. In some cases, the people or the places. The safe. The certain. The comfortable.

It may mean cutting ties. There are relationships in this world that lift you up, and relationships that hold you back. You will know them by their deeds. The ones that lift you up also let you go, give you your head. Reluctantly, possibly, at first, but faithfully throughout. They let you explore, become, grow. They let you Be.

The ones that hold you back will strangle the life out of you, if you let them. On a deeper level, they are not real relationships in the first place, because you are not really part of them. Not really. Only the part the other allows you to reveal, just a shadow, an outline. Hollow; shallow; false.

But they feel real. And it hurts when they fall away. Which is why it is so hard to leave them behind. They are the training wheels to our bicycles, the nets to our tightropes. But these things only blight our vision. Their sole purpose is to obviate our need for wings. They anchor us to the ground; they mock our dreams of flight. They whisper to us, cajole us–this is as far as you can go, so stay. Here in the darkness, where it is safe.

Which will it be: the shadow, or the light?


8 thoughts on “The You-Turn

  1. This was a great read this morning; speaking truths at several different levels. Simplistic as it is, life does follow this logic: “Purpose is simply this: movement. Movement that reflects who you are.”

    There is such comfort with the familiar and steady, but at times such comfort turns to stagnation. People, work and a social circle, however comfortable they may be, may be saturated with this malaise of stagnation and that may prevent the movement needed to pursue life. It is at this critical point where the authentic life must be found. Movement. A great way to begin.

    1. Thanks, Randy!

      Yes, the best I can muster often is movement, plain and simple. That becomes even more difficult when physical movement (to a new town, or off on vacation, etc.) isn’t readily possible. So, there’s mental movement, known in my Missouri hometown as “just plain nuts”… :0p

  2. Was this for me, friend? I’m going to pretend that it was, at least in part.

    Thank you.

    I won’t be a counterfeit for much longer. The letter has been started, and you’ll hear about it soon.

    1. I have to admit I was inspired by your Valentine’s Day post. But it is also, I think (I hope), for anyone who’s ever been in our shoes, weighing the fear of remaining against the fear of leaping and trying not to fall off the ledge in the process…

      By the way, whichever way this goes for you, back inside or farther outside, I think all this still applies. You said in a comment on another blog that you fear the finality of telling others where you stand. But nothing is final unless you say it is, because no one else has the right to question where your heart and mind are besides you. To quote good old Polonius, “Above all else: to thine own self be true.” Sometimes being true to yourself means changing your mind or reclaiming old beliefs, regardless of the flak you take from others. I say this as one of the most mercurial thinkers probably on the planet: what you believe is not where you’re headed; it’s where you are today, and may no longer be tomorrow.

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