I'm Burning My Ticket to the Struggle Bus
Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. Case in point: yours truly. I'm no longer a young dog, but I'm mastering a trick that's cracking me open, personally, professionally, spiritually, in my relationships; in every way imaginable, I'm rewriting my own experience. What I've been learning has been a long time coming, and clichés aside, it's really light on the trick and heavy on the magic. I call it...
Not surrender, as in war. No the masculine definition of surrender, giving UP. This isn't the waving the white flag, crossing the line into enemy territory and submitting the rule of another kind of surrender.
I'm not talking about giving UP. I'm talking about giving IN. And not to some other side, some outer force that's trying to take over my territory. Quite the opposite. The kind of surrender I'm engaged in isn't about ceding ground, it's about claiming it. I'm surrendering to what is already mine. I'm giving up the fight, alright. But I'm not waving a white flag of truce, showing the forces rising up against me that I quit. I'm raising my own banner, and to hell with what the other side thinks.
This kind of surrender has nothing to do with the other side. In this magical moment, there is nothing outside of myself to consider. This is all about me--my flag, my boundary lines, my soul and my spirit. This isn't about crossing a line in the sand to become a part of someone or something else. This surrender is about coming home, becoming a country unto myself. This is about my castle, my rule, my Queendom.
As I learn how to sit on my throne, I'm coming to realize that there never was any "other side." The battles I have been fighting--for years, decades, lifetimes, centuries--were within myself. Against myself. All of my warrior spirit has been focused on defense, when there was never an attacking army. I've been driving my warhorse furiously, back and forth across miles of invented battlefield in a flurry of entirely unnecessary activity. The struggle was real, but the fight was a monstrous figment of my imagination.
My country is my soul. No one can take my ground from me, even if they tried. There is nothing to defend, because what and who I am belong, only and always, to ME. There is no enemy territory, no foreign land from which invaders can pour forth. There is now, as there has always been, only safety. What I have been fighting all of these years is resting in that peace. What I have been struggling against is me; being me, being easy in my own soul.
I've been such a silly dog. My old tricks were terrible! I spent nearly half of a century fighting--forcing, pushing, demanding, struggling for control. I lived in fear, weighed down by the armor I chose to wear, exhausted by the battles I imagined I was waging, trapped in a constant cycle of fight or flight as I grappled with a war that never existed. Silly, silly dog.
I have always been home. I have always been safe. I have always been whole, complete, and perfectly formed for the moment in which I was standing. But in order to see that truth, in order to lie down in peace on what was never a battlefield and feel the grass on my shoulders, the sun on my face, and the presence of my own perfect Queendom, I had to surrender.
Hindsight truly is 20/20. Looking back now, I can see the inauspicious beginnings of my surrender in a moment of clarity that hit me 10 years ago. I was standing in front of my desk in my home in a beautiful farming town in eastern Washington, surrounded by gracefully rolling hills covered in wheat and lentils. But I wasn’t enjoying the view from my windows, and what purpose had originally driven me to the desk I can’t say. Whatever it was, I certainly wasn’t engaged in it. Instead, I was lost in reflection, riding a speeding freight train of memory down tracks that drove through Downtown Divorce, a place 10 years in my past, and through the serial ghost towns of Disastrous Relationships that had followed.
The noise in my head was cacophonous, like the train was plowing full speed through a china shop. But beneath the clatter of my mental wheels, the screech of memories like steel on steel, the brittle jangling of broken hearts like china cups, shattered and scattered about, I heard a mournful sound. It was like a hobo’s harmonica, barely audible over the ruckus. Nonetheless, the song was recognizable. It was my song, and I suddenly realized that it had been playing in the background, drifting up from a distant freight car, all along.
Woven in the melody was a knowing, and the train suddenly flew off the tracks in a stunning undoing of the fables I’d been writing for myself. The ride down the rails of memory stopped abruptly as I plowed directly into this fact: every time I had done something that ended in disaster for me, I had known. My song had been playing, my inner voice had been speaking (at times even screaming), but I had intentionally turned a deaf ear.
The clarity in this moment was staggering. It was a silence as profound as the mental noise had been only moments ago. It was the silence you experience after an explosion, when sound remains in the world around you, but your ears are too traumatized to hear it. Hearing returns, slowly, beginning with a ringing buzz, which then forms humming waves that finally crystalize into individual notes. And there it was again, in the aftermath of the derailment--the sound of my authentic voice. This sense of knowing had never once abandoned me, in spite of all the times I’d pushed it aside, willfully ignoring its sage advice. Through all the years of shoving my way through life like a rampaging toddler, intent on ruling the sandbox and incapable of grasping the consequences of my ignorance, my voice had been there. My true self had been there. And deep down, like the harmonica’s song reverberating in my bones, I had known my truth. All of my fight, all of my struggle, had been to deny THIS.
Why I turned away from this knowing, why so many of us throw on the armor, mount up, and ride out to fight the imaginary fight against the mythological army that doesn't exist, is a topic for another post. For now, suffice it to say that I did. And that's where the fight began. Not against some foreign soldiers in a far-off land, but against my own nature, my own soul. No wonder every skirmish felt so ponderous, so inescapably vast and unwinnable. The battle could never be won, my enemy an army of phantoms, and the wounds were dealt only to me. Every victorious slash was actually a cut in my own flash. Every drop of blood that fell was mine. Feeling the cuts, I kept fighting. Shield up and sword out, I kept slashing. Threatened, bleeding, struggling without end to deny what I'd always known was true.
I might have gone on that way forever, even after realizing that there was a truth within me that I'd been denying. But that day in my living room I made a choice. I decided to listen. That's a trick I'm still mastering, and in that moment I was entirely unware of the fight. But now, looking back, I can see this was the first step in my surrender.
I began working to hear my own voice, and eventually to speak my truth into the world around me. But the concept of surrender would be another 8 years coming. It fell into my lap in the fall of 2019, as I was driving the interminable miles of I-90 stretching between southwest Montana and northern central Wyoming. A dear friend of mine had a brain tumor, and after its successful surgical removal she experienced terrifying consequences, nearly dying. She was a decade younger than me and had a three year old son. The ravages of her illness were carved into my heart. Unable to see any useful strategy for this battle, I packed my grief and my suitcase and was traveling to her home to help care for her son and she spent her fifth month in the hospital.
I am, in many ways, an old soul. I still buy books--the kinds with covers and pages. I rarely listen to audiobooks...unless I am driving for six hours through some of the most uninspiring country within the borders of the United States. Or experiencing a strong need for escape and comfort. In this case, both of these things were true, and my speakers were bathing me in the dulcet down under tones of the voice of Rebecca Campbell, reading her soul searing book Light is the New Black.
In the book Campbell describes her own surrender, the moment when she finally gave up the fight: "All I ever needed to do was surrender and let my soul courageously lead. Call off the search party. I was inside me all along." She talks about how quickly things began to align for her once she let go, how the Universe rushed to guide her, lifting her to her highest good almost without effort. As I listened to her describe how hard she'd struggled, and how easy things had become as soon as she gave in, I felt something inside of me tear. I felt the weight of my armor, making it hard for me to breathe, the weight of my sword tearing the muscles in my arms, the weight of my battle breaking me down. And I had a glimpse of rest, of peace, of what might happen if I gave up the fight.
Not the white flag. Not the rush of enemy hordes, pouring into my territory to rape and plunder. Not defeat. Victory. Glorious, divinely supported, graceful and easy victory. A return to the place I had always been, even while I fought so valiantly to deny the existence of the location and my divine right to rule there.
I cried. Hard. So hard I had to pull over. And I shouted in my car. "Alright! Alright, I get it. I get it!! I surrender. I surrender. I surrender." It was among the most powerful and terrifying moments of my life. I meant what I said. I had no idea what I meant. But I knew, all the way to my bones, that this was my path. The time had come to give up the struggle, to give in to my soul. What I needed was surrender.
And surrender I did. A little. As much as I knew how to, in that moment. And I have repeated that glorious action again, and again, and again since that day. Each time, I have surrendered as much as I was able. And each time there has been more surrendering to do. More giving in. More coming home. More laying down of arms, releasing fear, accepting grace, and finding power.
Yes, power. That's the greatest difference between giving UP and giving IN: the former is about releasing power, the later about claiming it. Power is the most significant gift of my surrender. The power to choose what's best for me, when to hustle and when to rest, who belongs close to my heart, how I want to walk through the world, what my legacy will be. I thought fighting was powerful, but I was wrong. Struggle is power misdirected, energy wasted on imaginary foes. In grace and ease there is more power than in every sword ever forged. The power to rule my country, my soul, comes directly from surrendering. Like the land of my Queendom, the power was always there. I simply had to surrender to see and use it.
And so I do. Surrender. Rise up in my power. Give in to my soul. I'm getting skilled in this arena, but I know I'm not done surrendering. In every area of life where I've given in, I've found peace, abundance, and miracles beyond measure. But I still find myself fighting. My hands remember the shapes of sword and shield, my legs the feeling of bracing for battle, my heart the fear of losing. Learning to sit quietly on my throne is work, but I WILL be victorious.
I've struggled enough. I'm ready, not just to end the fight, but to rest easy in my own power, to rule my life like the Queen I'm meant to be. I drove the struggle bus like the commanding general that I was. For half of my life I have engineered my own battles. Now, in the second half, I'm coming home. I'm taking off my armor, burning my ticket my for the struggle bus. I'm meant for victory, but not the spoils of war. My triumph lies within. I surrender.