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Walking through fire on my way to inner peace

The Volcano Mandala

I call myself “The Walkabout Woman.” Three months ago I sold most of my belongings and set out by car on a walkabout to discover and live my longings. I chronicle my experiences here on this blog.

So far my walkabout has been anything but peaceful.

It has instigated change and stirred up inner turmoil. In my mind’s eye I can see the old petty dictators of my psyche brandishing swords and refusing to be overthrown. I can taste the fear.

On the other side — the side of truth and beauty — is my walkabout. It has also taken on an imaginary personality of its own, that of a trustworthy little soldier who seems to have my best interests at heart — but is relentless in pushing me to confront things I would rather avoid.

And these “things” would be the painful unhealed relationships in my life.

On a regular basis, my walkabout guy cheerfully leads me to the center of the relationship volcano and says, “Here, jump right into this lava. It will be good for you.” I cover my eyes and say, “No – no!”, and he leaves me alone for a couple days, only to return and suggest, “How about this bed of hot coals – take a stroll,” or “Look at that raging forest fire – why don’t you sky dive into it.”

I get what my walkabout wants me to do. It wants me to take an appropriate level of responsibility for those relationships (not all or none), have compassion, offer and receive forgiveness, and ultimately feel gratitude. I know the drill.

But knowing what is good for you is one thing. Doing and feeling it is another, so I am taking my first tentative steps,  walking through fire, and living with uncertainty about ever healing or being at peace.

I hear this Rainer Maria Rilke quote a lot: “Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into the answers.”

Frankly, all that indefinite waiting around makes me exquisitely uneasy. It’s hard to live the questions. I want to take those questions by the throat and squeeze the answers out of them. That distant nether area, which may or may not deliver, makes me want to distract myself with pizza, margaritas, excessive chocolate or a major religious tradition.

But lately I’ve tried a few other things.

I am a little embarrassed to tell you how I am coping. It’s pretty ordinary — not very impressive.

I want to be helpful to you all. I want to give you the answers. I don’t want you to sit around forever mired in the mud with Rilke.  But here it is. Here is what I’ve done on my walkabout to cope – to achieve some semblance of inner peace:

1. Every Day Stress or Fears: I firmly require myself to be present in the moment. When I worry about my “what ifs”, my children’s futures, my health, where I am going etc., I stop and appreciate the blessings of the moment – that we are all alive and on our paths.

2.  Bigger Calamities: I recite the first paragraph of the Serenity Prayer over and over like a mantra. I didn’t find it at church or AA. I discovered it at a Dollar Store checkout counter and thought it was brilliant. It goes like this:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

3. Daily Practice: I do art, write and share my results here on my blog and in social media.  These things help me make meaning and sense out of my life, and help me feel less alone.

That’s it. I know it doesn’t seem like much. I wish I could offer you a magic pill, the definitive self-help book or the next best savior/guru incarnation.

But,  add in a little chocolate, and it’s the best I’ve got.

16 Comments Post a comment
  1. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other, Betsy, it’s the only way I know to move forward. Good luck on your journey!

    November 14, 2012
    • Hi Fred – thanks so much for the encouragement! Betsy

      November 14, 2012
  2. Deb #

    So glad to read your posts Bets. It keeps me connected with you even though we are half a country apart. I send you love and support and think of you so so often! I am finding in my own sometimes fire filled life that I become so focused on the fire, the big flames in front of me, that I don’t notice just one step to the left or right is a clearing. A green expanse. A new perspective. I guess what I am finding is that my focus on the fire is just another way of distracting myself. I am the ‘go big or go home’ girl. So of course I will rage against the biggest fire………distracted and not noticing everything else that is going on in my world. Ah-ha! Thanks for letting me ramble through this! I think I am on to something here!


    November 14, 2012
    • Hi Deb – so good to hear from you. Are you interested in doing a guest post about this??? I would love to hear about the green expanses and new perspectives! Miss you. Take care, Betsy

      November 14, 2012
  3. Jeanne #

    Wow, Betsy, my new friend! Once again life has seen to it that I get what I need, and right now, that happens to be your wisdom. Thanks you. Thank you so much!

    November 13, 2012
    • Hi Jeanne – I am glad this happened to be what you needed. I find that all the time too, when I start to look and pay attention. Welcome new friend! Betsy

      November 13, 2012
  4. Oh hi….don’t mean to intrude……but are ‘Walkabout Men’ allowed in here?
    Just a thought after that blog, from Joe,

    “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

    Joseph Campbell

    November 13, 2012
    • Absolutely! Men are allowed and their comments and perspectives appreciated! Betsy

      November 13, 2012
  5. Joanna #

    I remember talking about “living in the moment” at retreat. Never in my life have I needed that lesson as much as I do now! We recently lost a great, wonderful, vibrant person who made everyone feel special. She was 2 years younger than me. Betsy, thanks for the blogs and I look forward to reading more!!

    November 13, 2012
    • Hi Joanna – I am sorry about your loss of this special person. There have been a lot of losses in the Imnaha Canyon recently it seems. Yes – these things always remind us, “Stop right now and pay attention!” It is also nice to add gratitude in such moments, I’ve discovered. It’s icing on the cake! Thanks for your comment Joanna. Take care, Betsy

      November 13, 2012
  6. nancy bardos #

    p.s. I love your walkabout woman mascot!

    November 13, 2012
    • Thanks Nancy! You can probably guess I crafted her under the supervision of one Cathy Dorris 🙂

      November 13, 2012
  7. nancy bardos #

    excellent, Betsy! I send you applause and some virtual hugs and “atta girls”…….it would appear the yearnings of your soul stirred you to some very courageous action. just keep taking small steps and one day you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve gone. so glad to be tuned into this journey of yours thru your blog. you’re an inspiration!

    November 13, 2012
    • Thanks for reading Nancy! Thank for your beautiful words of support – they truly do make me feel less alone as I confront the more difficult aspects of this walkabout.

      November 13, 2012
  8. Well my coping strategies with being faced with a version of facing the fires in my life is crackers crackers bread and more chocolate! Can so relate. Also prayer has revived itself in my life in the deepest ways and that’s so important to and for me. Continued loving vibes to you Betsy.

    November 13, 2012
    • Hi Alaya – thanks for the vibes! Crackers and bread work too. Here’s wishing you well too on your fiery path!

      November 13, 2012

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