It’s unexpectedly 87° in London. I’m sitting under a gnarly tree straight out of an Arthurian legend. There is barely the hint of a breeze; the sun is glazing everything with a shimmer.
I was taken back to a moment last December to a moment in Mexico. I was sharing a cab with a fellow traveler I had just met at the airport who, like me, was headed to the small beach towns on the Oaxacan coastline.
The cab had stopped on the asphalt road for about half an hour because of a blockade. I remember us asking the driver to turn on the air-conditioning, and he said there would be an extra charge for that. I can’t remember what we decided, but that moment with the windows rolled down, felt precisely like this moment in London.
I had been in cooler Mexico City; she was escaping for a short vacation from the wintry U.S. So, we both sat there, absorbing the heat, reveling in the awareness that it was not going to give way to chilly winds or snow. We listened to the birds chirping in the shimmering thickets, and in between shared our stories, two strangers in resonance, anticipating the week ahead.
I got dropped off first. We stayed in touch, exchanging notes on our adventures, comparing the vibes of the different beach towns strung along the coastline. After a week she returned to the pressures of her work in the U.S .and wrote:
“…back to “real life” and reminiscing fondly on the days of travel.”
A thought crossed my mind, so I replied:
“What if the days of travel and the energy and everything they encompass are the “real life”? The other life is our scripted, sometimes dictated life. Bringing the two together I feel is the key.”
Back to this summer moment in London. I’ve recently lost a dear friend, who passed well before his time. George was a gifted musician who brought a standard of excellence to his work, and love, laughter and zest for life to everything. He had been living the “real life” I spoke of in my text — little was scripted and dictated, and he was doing what he loved most.
George won awards for his musical direction and touched so many people along the way. While his life and plans were cut short (there was so much more that he wanted to do) he transitioned in peace. I know that he looked back at his accomplishment with tremendous pride.
His death reminded me of the urgency of living the life we choose, not the one chosen for us. For many, what we call “real life” is the latter, our scripted life. It’s the life birthed by the dictates of society, our upbringing, and limiting beliefs we have not questioned. It’s the manifestation of thoughts had, beliefs held, and decisions or choices made.
If this life is not the one you want to be living, don’t give it more solidity or sanction than it deserves. Know that the life you really want, the life that energizes you, the life that lies sleeping, dormant, waiting for the kiss of awakening that only you can bestow.
One way to begin this is to accept that your unlived life is waiting in the wings. Imagine it, flirt with it, and allow it to start dancing with your scripted life. Live, if you can, in the space between the two lives, moving back-and-forth, sometimes awkwardly, sometimes aligning serendipitously. Barbara De Angelis expresses it beautifully:
“The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.”
Look for and welcome this dance of life. Let this unlived life lift you into the air, spin you around for a dizzying moment, so you feel its aliveness, being OK with what is and anticipating what is to come.
In time, this more resonant unlived life will begin to feel more real to you. Look for an opening., and then slip through unnoticed by the scripted life with its ever-vigilant judge and jury.
Begin to fill in its details. Watch for the moments when this other life seems to move through you with more ease and grace. Notice its pull, even in the most mundane moments like sitting in a cab on a hot, cloudless day on a road in Mexico.
There is a natural rhythm that surfaces when you assert your birthright of belonging to this world, as natural as the melodies that magically emerged when my friend George would put his fingers to the piano.
Silence the haranguing or deceptive voices of the world and allow your inner voice to speak to you of this unlived life, the one truer to who you are. Do your inner work until you’re no longer willing to be led or resigned to playing second fiddle, forever waiting in the wings for your turn.
At first, your scripted life will resist the dance and insist it lead. But when you invite your unlived life to dance, its steps will become more practiced. It may trip up here and there, but it does not seek perfection, for it does not dance for a judge.
It dances because it dances.
Infants learning to walk do not have a destination; they walk for the joy of walking. If they fall, they do not judge themselves for doing it poorly. They get up and keeps going. Be like that.
Choose to let your unlived life lead the dance. You have that power and once you realize it was always yours, gracefully or in a sudden deft move, decide to wrest the lead.
The scripted life fully exposed now in its fears and fixations, that only ever knew one set of moves, falls away. Leave it behind. Don’t give it any more energy. It doesn’t need to be maligned or regretted because it’s done its work to get you to where you are. It has no new moves to show. Don’t worry, you’ll take what you need and come up with new steps.
Brazilian modernist, Mario de Andrade wrote a poem called My Soul Has a Hat, about crossing the threshold into having less time to live than one has lived. The closing line is profound in its paradox:
“We have two lives and the second one begins when you realize you only have one.”
One day, you will awaken fully in your new life. It will feel different, yet true and familiar, whether sensed in the pulsing of your heart, or the grounding energy of your gut. It will feed you plenty and infuse you with all the power you need. It will throw challenges your way so you can draw upon your creativity and strengths to meet them.
One day, there will only be this one life, the one that you belong to.
Dedicated to the memory of my beloved friend, George Fulginiti-Shakar