“Blessed be the longing that brought you here
And quickens your soul with wonder.
May you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
That disturbs you when you have settled for something safe…
May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.”
― John O’Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings
Have you ever longed for something with all your heart and not known what you longed for? Have you felt sad, grieved, and wished you knew why? Have you accomplished something you thought would make you happy only to be left with nothing but ashes and dust? A desert bereft of inspiration where nothing has changed? No joy? No fulfillment? An emptiness where all you felt was longing? Nothing fresh and green that brought waves of awe and wonder?
I have. I spent the first half of my life like that. I thought that one day, if I learned enough, worked hard, did all the right things, impressed and pleased everyone, I’d find what I what I wanted and the longing would disappear. But it didn’t. It just got worse.
Now I know why. I was “looking for love in all the wrong places” to quote the title of Johnny Lee’s eighties country song. But I wasn’t just looking for love from another person. I found that when I met the man I’m still married to. But I was still looking for love. A kind of love I never quite got from my hard-working mother who, in the process of supporting our family, had to leave me alone much of the time. I didn’t get it from my father either. He was away from home most of the time until he died and was gone forever. Nor did I get it from my husband and children who didn’t know how to give me the love I still hadn’t found.
I was looking for the kind of love I occasionally felt when, as a child, I sat hugging my knees in my secret place under a clump of palmetto fronds. From there I peered out at the world beside the gravel alley in my backyard, imagining I was sheltered by the wings of a cosmic angel. My eyrie in the forked branches of the oak tree in our side yard where I read books on summer afternoons evoked similar self-awareness and awe at the miracle of my life. So did the cypress swamps of the church camp I attended as a girl in Ocala, Florida where I spent my summers as a camper, then a counselor.
I treasured those moments and longed for more of them, but didn’t know where they came from or how to recapture them. I thought family, school, church and accomplishments — all things in the physical world — were all there was. I believed that’s where I’d find the object of my longing someday.
It didn’t happen.
Then, in the middle of my life, a series of synchronistic events awakened me to the significance of my inner world. This was what I’d been longing for. An inner mansion where my soul was quickened with wonder. Where I pursued what I loved instead of what others thought I should. Where I felt uncomfortable when I settled for something safe. Where I opened my ears to my true feelings. Where I found the courage to question my culture, beliefs, and expectations. Where I was inspired to follow new paths, pursue new ideas, face new challenges, ask terrifying questions.
It was the most painful time of my life. But after years of tolerating the tension of my inner world conflicts and refusing to give up, I stumbled into the best time.
That time is now. This moment. Tonight. The place when and where I’m writing this blog post before I publish it tomorrow. Where I’m listening to thunder and watching the rain outside my window. Here, sipping this glass of organic, no-added-sulfite, white wine. Tapping this keyboard with these fingertips. Plumbing the well of my real feelings. Smiling with pleasure and gratitude for this moment in which I’m living in the truth of me.
These days I look for love in the right places. Places where my true self feels at home. Where I don’t have to pretend to be something I’m not. This is not where my ego expected to end up. No one told me all I had to do was listen to my own soul to find it. I’m not trying to impress you. At least I don’t think so. It just feels like I’m enjoying the reality of being me in the complex, messed up, bumbling, suffering, flawed, well-meaning, joyous space that is my soul’s own unique place. It feels like I’m in my real home. It feels really good.
I’m pretty sure this is what I’ve longed for all along.
“May you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
May you know the urgency with which God longs for you.”
Image credits: Longing. www.Katherinebdobson.com.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc. Watch for her new book, The Soul’s Twins, to be launched by Schiffer Publishing this October. For more information, subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com. This month she’s offering a free gift to those who pre-order The Soul’s Twins.
This is lovely
Thank you, Karen. Sending warm summer blessings. Jeanie
I can totally relate to your life experiences, except I’m still looking for the joy, love, and affection. Thank goodness for my walks around Poulsbo when I can meditate as I walk along the gorgeous bay, chat with people, and pet their dogs – my JOY in life.
It’s a long journey to our soul’s home–the place where we find joy–for sure. Even then it can still be fleeting. But when we do find it, with reflection we get better at taking steps that will bring it back…..just as you are taking your literal steps around the bay! 🙂
Writing about the inner life always takes me home. I guess that’s why I’ve kept this blog going for so long. I never tire of it. Being with animals or outdoors by water and trees does that for me too. Especially at night. Wishing you as much joy as you can hold, Jeanie
Thank you for these beautiful lines that ring so true if one has the courage to accept them.
As for me, at this moment, I accept them only on a intellectual level.
I long for the courage of heart to live them
Thank you for writing, Andrew. I was 37 years old before the longing got so fierce I could no longer ignore it. That’s when I seriously began to consider acting on it. The timing is different for everyone, and there are many who never come to that point. But for those who do, it can be a time of great suffering because the risk of leaving your safe home of conformity and venturing into the unknown territory of your soul is terrifying. Half of you yearns with all your heart to make new, more personally affirming choices, and the other half believes that’s a terrible mistake. It took me ten more years of tolerating the tension of both sides of my conflict without taking any drastic premature actions. Enduring that time of simmering in the alchemical vas did the trick for me. I discovered Jungian psychology and re-discovered my passion for writing, and that’s “all she wrote.” 🙂
If you’ll forgive a little shameless self-promotion, may I direct you to my forthcoming book, The Soul’s Twins? It’s about exactly what we’re talking about: exploring your inner world, learning more about yourself, and acquiring the courage to act on your truths.
Blessings on your journey home!
Lovely, lovely, Jeanie. I could feel your sense of self as you wrote. 🙂
Thank you, Dale. I was very close to my center when I wrote that last night. I love it that you could feel it! There were several other things I had to do before I could start writing and when I sat down to do it I didn’t even have a theme in mind. That was shortly after dinner, and I thought I’d never get it written and scheduled to be published by midnight, but it only took a record two hours from start to finish. It usually takes between four and eight! I guess my ego is learning to trust the Self. Much love, Jeanie
Beautiful, Jeanie. I shared this on my FB page this morning where I share pieces I love and less about grief all the time. I’m glad you’ve found your inner and outer home. Last night, I struggled with Zoom issues from the host in my writing group and almost said “the hell with it,” but I stayed and ended up writing something I love. It’s deeply satisfying to express something that matters to me and have it show up unplanned–and it’s deeply satisfying to release Monarchs every day. Four fly today which makes 23 this week and more coming each day. Each one feels like a prayer. Sending you rest, safety, and love.
(You have a small typo you’d probably rather fix than ignore. “Nor did I get it form my husband…” That’s it. It’s perfectly clear what you mean.)
Thanks, Elaine. I knew you’d know exactly what I meant about stumbling into that special unplanned space where, just for a few minutes, you are able to express your soul’s truths. I know that watching your butterflies grow and releasing them brings you into that space too. I think it must feel something like your soul saying, “Yes! That’s s me. I’m free to fly.”
Thanks for the heads’ up about the typo. Fixed it. Knowing that my soul accepts me as I am makes it a lot easier for me to accept my imperfections these days! 🙂
Blessings of love and safety and rest to you too.
I don’t know how this passed me by Jeanie but it didn’t really because now I’ve found it. Even if a day or so later. I reckon that a yearning was with me most of my life if I think back, sometimes stilled when I was engaged in something that brought me out of my introversion, which when I learned about Jung was a start and then was in a group when we studied Jung with Centerpoint – late 80’s I reckon. Amazingly I was in the right place and time when the Jung Centre (under a different name) was making inroads and I was the chairman’s handmaiden – early 90’s – which meant organising all sorts of events, dream workshops, visiting lecturers from abroad (including Murray Stein btw) and their lectures, the newsletter and much else besides. And, when we had our first Jungian analyst resident in Johannesburg, I promptly went into analysis. This widened my view about everything and fed my soul richly.
Thank you for this lovely post Jeanie! Hope you’re all keeping well and safe – love, Susan
Wow, what a rich banquet you have feasted at to ease your longing! Jung’s theories did the same for me: showed my how I had imprisoned my soul and then slowly began to lead me out. I’d only been studying Jungian psychology and recording my dreams for a year when I decided to leave teaching and write. Shortly after my last day of teaching I dreamed that another woman — the daughter of the warden—and I had been released from prison. My studies not only eased my longing but freed me too.
I never had formal analysis because there are no Jungian analysts where I live. I wish I could have had that experience. But what I had instead was an insatiable hunger for self-understanding that kept me on the journey. That hunger, another form of yearning, I suppose, has never gone away. I know it will never be quenched…at least not in this lifetime…and I’m coming to terms with that reality. I’ll never fully understand the universe within myself any more that science will fully understand the limitless universe without. But it’s sure been worth the trip to try. Thank you for writing, Susan. Love, Jeanie
Thank you for your lovely response Jeanie. A few days before I began analysis I dreamed I was standing at the edge of a vast cavern in the ground looking in. On a desert like plain. Standing behind me was a male analyst (not my one) and my friend who was (she died a few years ago) an anesthetist ie she who makes people unconscious – well, what could be more graphic – this was probably about 30 years ago –
What an extraordinary dream. An experience that let you know the Self was paying attention and saying you’re on the right path. Like a shout: “Wake up! Seek self-knowledge!” You can’t forget a dream like that. Thank you for sharing it here.