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Trees Reflection in the Water

Reflections

What does it mean to be human?

How do we nourish ourselves and find meaning, imperfect and messy as our lives may be?

How do we find each other - authentically, vulnerably, courageously - amidst it all?

 

Here I share reflections on topics we too rarely discuss: grief, death, shame, impermanence, motherhood, belonging, and living fully, with it all.

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  • Writer's pictureTaryn Gammon

You Make the Path

Updated: Feb 19

Ever feel like a broken record? Wanting change, waiting for change, making small changes that, sure, mean something, but end up feeling like a drop of water in an ocean?


Sometimes broken-record tactics come in surprising and sneaky costumes; ones that seem like they are moving you in the right direction, but end up being more of the same. Keeping you stuck.


One of my favorite broken-record tactics is learning. Yes, learning. That virtuous pursuit, that intellectual stimulant, that value that every well-intentioned parent and educator wishes upon children. I caught onto this pretty early - it was kindergarten when I received a "Love of Learning" award, and an identity that was high on reinforcement and praise by everyone I needed approval from. That, in combination with a school whose motto - written boldy on its entrance walls - was "college starts at 2." meant that, at 3, I was already behind. And then, always behind; always striving for something that I didn't yet have, always bettering, always improving, always learning, and never enough.


Fast forward 35 years. And a lot of therapy and soul work and unlearning and, yes, more learning. So much dismantling of early ideas of "success" and discovery of my own values and needs and desires. And yet, like a groundhog with her shadow, I find myself on the edge of transition and, eek, there it is again! Still lurking, still sneaky, still shapeshifting in the dim light, still keeping me stuck. The desperate seeking of mentors, programs, communities aligned with my values; the relentless pursuit of answers, helpers, teachers; of people who can guide me, lead me, show me the way to be more authentic, more connected to what matters to me, more expressive, more... myself.


So, what's broken about this record? What's wrong with seeking help, looking for wise guides to companion our journeys through this life? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.


Unless it's at the expense of our own agency. Unless it's reinforcing an underlying helplessness. Unless it obscures our own capability, our own power. Unless it helps quell the terror of actually making change, and absolves us of responsibility for our own lives.


Unless Antonia Machado's famous lines hit you, as they did me, like a dagger: "Pathmaker, there is no path. You make the path by walking. By walking, you make the path."


“Caminante, no hay camino,

se hace camino al andar.

Al andar se hace camino …”


“Pathmaker, there is no path,

You make the path by walking.

By walking, you make the path …”


~ Antonio Machado, quoted by David Whyte


It can be both relieving and terrifying to touch into the truth that there is no path. There is no one else who has done exactly this before, who has moved through the world with your exact constellation of atoms and stardust and history and dreams in this place in this time in this way. And so the path, sweet sweet human, is all your own. There is immense power in that, and loneliness; and, perhaps, if we let it, communion. We are all pathmakers. Perhaps it's not the path we inspire in each other, but the making.


No one, it turns out, is going to make our paths for us. Do we still need each other? Of course. Do we require support, companionship, community, mentors, elders, along the way? Oh absolutely; deeply, biologically, we are relational beings, and fundamentally depend on a village for flourishing. But we must be part of the village, too: aware and capable of offering our own gifts and strengths, our own medicine, our own wisdom and embodied intelligence and resources and creativity, our own exquisite mosaic of beauty and heartache and vitality.


So how do we know how to start? Ah, catch that thought. Is that the broken record again? How quickly it can turn to debate, to confusion, to paralysis. To more of the same.


Perhaps a more interesting question, offered by my own therapist, is this: Why do I want to not know? What is not knowing offering me?


With compassion and curiosity, can we come close to that part of ourselves - the part of us that doesn't want to know, that doesn't want responsibility, that doesn't want boldness, that doesn't want change? The terrified parts, the young parts, the parts that want safety and security above all else, even if it means this dull ache, this half-lived life, this broken-record spinning to the grave. Can we find her, see her, hear her, welcome her back, wrap our arms around her, and then lovingly, compassionately, separate from her.


And if that feels a little too big, I'll offer this instead: Dive in baby. Dive in.


You're It!




Lyrics: You're It by Wookiefoot


By the waters edge, the current running swift

She sat down for a minute trying to catch her breath

She said why am I so alone

Why are we all so alone


The floods came and divided us long ago

Nobody knew how to swim, stranded on islands of their own

She said I will no longer cling, to this shore of isolation anymore

She just jumped on

In the current, pulled and twisted

Knocked on rocks and flipped and lifted

Rolling through the rapids, feel like drowning

Head is pounding, lights surrounding


Starting to float

Starting to float

Drifting with the current, learning not to control


There's no way out, but thеre's a way in

There's no way out, but thеre's a way in-side


With the source of her homeland drifting out of sight

She had never seen the constellations burning so bright

New islands coming up over the horizon

Fine, surprisingly not frightening

Heart and mind filled with excitement

Spirit's rising, spirit's rising


All of the people rush down to shore

And they say who is this child is not afraid any more

Oh please come teach us, come and save us

Free us from all that enslaves us

Show us how you learned to do this

Please oh master help us through this


Oh she just smiled and she said my friends

I am not a savior, I would not try to pretend

That this is some kind of miracle, but I know where to begin

You just got to jump in, you just got to jump in


There's no way out, but there's a way in

There's no way out, but there's a way in-side

And sometimes you'll find yourself adrift

And sometimes you'll be adrift and find your self


Cause you're it

You're it

You're it

You're it


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