Those of you who have been following me on Facebook, my blog or through emails know that the Pabouet-Sigafoose family, are relocating from Ocean City, Maryland to Den Haag, Netherlands. Let’s just say that’s the last thing I expected to happen to me, shifting away from my family, friends, business connections, and the life I’ve grown quite comfortable with.
In short, I want to go.
But just being married to someone who wants to be in Den Haag wouldn’t have been enough to force Patrick to move. A bi-continent relationship would have been preferable on several counts. But there was another consideration: our relationship. By my values, we need to be together. That pretty much ends the discussion. I have choices, but I made that choice BEFORE we got married. It was a sacred commitment to be there for each other, to give him what my father and mother did not give me, to be certain that he could stand on my shoulders, rather than in the hole I’ve been shoveling frantically to fill most of my life.
Can’t back down from an obligation like that. And that has been the first foundational position. “I” made this decision. It was and is in alignment with my deepest values. How do I know? A simple test:
1) Does my youngest self agree with this? In other words, does it match with my childhood dreams and aspirations? Can I find a way to wiggle it in to what I needed and wanted as a boy? Absolutely. I wanted a husband, someone to love and nurture and support me. But, I also wanted to travel and work in another country and I did not want to go off on my life’s adventures and leave Patrick to manage the home.
I will burn in hell before I put Patrick through that pain. To serve each other, to love and nurture each other, is a gift to the boy I was.
Well, that’s settled. That boy in me wanted a husband, and didn’t have one, but I could and did grow up to be a husband he wanted and needed. You have two chances to experience the bond of marriage: one when you are a child and can see it in your parents, and again when you are an adult and you except the commitment yourself. I’ll take what I can get.
Then there is the second aspect:
2) Does my oldest self agree with this? When I see myself on my deathbed, tubes up my nose and the doctors making long faces, what does that ancient me think of my life? My father died well. While he had made mistakes in life, he had come to terms with them. He and I had forgiven each other, loved each other. And his ravaged image sits on my left shoulder, reminding me that life is a river that flows in a single direction: you don’t really get do-overs. Be cautious.
To be on one’s deathbed with conscious awareness of the curtain’s descent is to step beyond ego and illusion. All striving is passed. The fear and pain can grow so severe that one is forced to do what the wise do far earlier: to cease identifying with the “me” or the body. My brother, Chriss, said to me once after he was diagnosed with cancer “Carey, I have cancer.”
“No,” I replied. “Your body has cancer.”
And that reply set my brother free. He got the joke, in a way that those who have hope and ambition and clever egos can’t understand.
To “Die before you die” is a Sufi expression for which I have great respect. It is a clue to the nature of that state called “Enlightenment.” What is important to people in that state? It is not work, that’s for sure. Not fame, or money, or fun toys like that. When death comes to the aware, it seems to have a purifying effect – illusion, doubt, fear, and ego burned away, and what remains are those values actually closest to the heart.
What does that elder say?
To love my family. To live my deepest values. To take every step, every breath, as a gift to the world and to the divine and therefore to one’s truest self.
My brother’s cancer-ravaged image and my fathers stroke image, will always be with me, they remind me to tell the people I love that I love them EVERY DAY. To dance every day. To learn every day. To contribute every day. To live in the constant awareness that the curtain is descending. Play my part with full awareness, total joy, and take a freakin’ bow. Enjoy the light, while it lasts and most importantly take the people you love on your journey with you. That is if they want to come, but that is another story.
And that older Carey knows that one of my father’s greatest regrets in life was not being there for my mother. Well, then…that kinda settles that, doesn’t it? Yeah. To live one’s life is great, but to smooth the way for yourself is the only way you can honor your teachers and mentors. It is the flow of life itself. The final step of the Truth’s Journey that allows you to move on to the next level. The Student Becomes the Teacher. Then, of course, the Teacher becomes the Student once again. Ah…yes. I can “get” that. Feel it. Have lived it. There is truth there.
Now, then, the following is important: I have nothing more important to say than this.
Where the youngest you, and the oldest you, agree on the path…that is the road to walk. The youngest is your passion and hope and ambition and desire. The oldest is your wisdom, clarity and egoless grasp of reality. Do a Venn diagram. Where they overlap, where they agree…that is your path.
Do all you can to align them. Harlan Ellison said: “Success is to bring into existence, in adult terms, your childhood dreams.” I love that.
And I have heard wisdom from elders in the Sufi, Native American communities say that wisdom is to live as if advised by your own self at the moment of death.
And the path between them may be hard…but while walking that path for a while I held my husbands warm hand. And there was nothing more worthwhile I have ever done.
Patrick is mine to shepherd and I am his.
Whenever I wonder what I should do, how I should be, what values I should hold dearest, to what I should exert my considerable energies, I ask myself a question: “How long will I be dead?”
Armed with that, I make my choice. Patrick. That means I choose US. That means that this is the life “I” chose and I chose to do it with you. Netherlands, here we come.
The rest is just details.
I have my footing.