To Be or Not To Be. What’s the Real Question?

how bright will

A bird does not ask if one day it will fly. A fish does not wonder if it will swim just as a river does not worry about where it’s flowing. It just flows.

It’s only us human beings who wonder, “What will I be?”

It starts at an early age.

When I was a little girl I would tell people I wanted to be an actress when I grew up because I wanted to make people laugh and cry and feel all the colours of the rainbow. That occupation did not sit well in my household so I changed it to a psychologist – maybe I could help people smile more?

And then, I grew up, (well at least kind of) and neither of those occupations were on my radar. But then, neither was becoming a leader in the not-for-profit sector working in homelessness on my agenda either. It just kind of happened.

Which brings me back to Hamlet’s famous question,

“To be or not to be.
That is the question.
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

There is nothing noble in suffering. No rewards. No commendations. No aspirational title like, “Chief Sufferer of Life’s Slings and Arrows.”

There is only suffering in suffering. And I don’t know about you, but when I’m suffering, I kinda like to see the world as suffering along with me. It feels less lonely.

The situations that create suffering in our lives are not always of our design or choice. The things we do to keep us tied to the suffering, well, those are sometimes based on choices we make, albeit often unconscious and often circumscribed by the limitations of our environment and history. And while it is possible to change our circumstances, when we’re mired in suffering that keeps us tethered to the pain of our existence, it’s hard to recognize — there is another way To Be.

Working in a homeless shelter, I encountered daily people whose belief in themselves was so limited by their circumstances they could not see any hope of the possibility of change. Their roads had been dark so long, there was no glimmer of light in the tunnel of the dark and gloomy past, present and future they believed was theirs and theirs alone.

When I first started working in the sector, I started an art program in the shelter where I worked. I believe that it doesn’t matter where we’ve landed on the road of life, what matters is we stand up again and again and take one little step after another, again and again.

And that can be hard when the bottom feels like it is constantly falling away.

Which is where ‘creative expression’ plays a leading role. Standing up is hard without a foundation. Tapping into our creative core gives us access to a solid place to begin to see there is a possibility of some kind of ‘different’. As we dive in, we begin to see the world in varying hues of grey until the darkness opens up to all the colours of the rainbow.

And so, I come full circle.

The view from where I sit this morning as I type.

This morning, as I look out through my window at the beautiful blue sky above, two birds fly swiftly by. A gentle morning breeze brushes the snow clinging to the bare-limbed arms of the tree lining the river, pushing it gently into the air. Beneath the surface of the swiftly flowing river, fish swim in its depths.

Birds fly. Fish swim. The river flows. The sun rises and I smile at the symmetry of my life.

Once upon a time, I wanted to be a light so that I didn’t feel so alone in the dark and maybe, others wouldn’t too.

Today I know there is no choice to be or not to be a light. The question is, “How bright am I willing to shine?”

How bright are you willing to shine?

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