Feeling like two different people on two different paths? Unite the splintered paths.
After my son was born and my husband went back to work, I was in charge of taking care of our new baby all day. I quickly became depressed, and I didn’t know why. I thought that it certainly couldn’t be because of the baby. After all, I loved my son and felt nothing but pleasure in being his mom. Or so I thought. That belief was coming from a splintered “mommy path.” On this path, I was supposed to feel nothing but pleasure in being a mother and in loving my son—and no other feelings were allowed. Yet there was another, equally real path on which I was not a mother at all and was pursuing graduate school and a dissertation about perceptual learning in the auditory system—and no other feelings were allowed.
When I began to realize that the cause of my depression was that I had split myself across at least two different paths, I went into my inner lab and had a discussion with the parts of myself that were on each of those paths. I realized I felt anger about being completely responsible for another person, my son. I also felt grief about losing my old life, in which I’d had more time to think about intriguing ideas. I also discovered new, joyful feelings in the life I was living now. I felt excited to learn what my son was like, how our relationship would turn out, and what being a mother was all about. I spent time listening to and allowing myself to admit to all of my feelings.
Once I had admitted to myself that all my feelings were legitimate, a solution came to me. I called up my dissertation adviser and told her I would be returning part-time to finish up my dissertation, staying at home with my son the rest of the time. That action, born from listening to all of myself and taking all of my feelings seriously, put me on my way back to a single, joyful path.
Suzanne: Uniting Splintered Paths
Suzanne Clores is a podcast producer, fiction and nonfiction author, and essayist. Her calling is to create an open discussion about psychic functioning and self-expression. When I asked her to voice her calling, she said, “To get the conversation about psychic experiences and how they fit into my psychological landscape out into the world. What are my episodes and experiences and why can’t I let them go? I’m looking for some type of resolution, and I think it will help people. Now that I say that out loud, it’s very scary that I’ve chosen that, because I’m resistant to shining light on it. Just now, it suddenly seems like a bad idea!”
We talked about her resistance to voicing her calling, and she told me that as a child her family pushed her to perform. She hated the experience of being pushed to be in front of others, and to avoid that experience she went the other direction—she became a writer at least partly to escape being seen. Writing helped her be more comfortable, but it also shut down her voice, in a way, by narrowing her possibilities as well as her skillset. It’s as if she put part of herself on a narrow writer’s path, which didn’t include using her voice. Meanwhile, she loved to sing and talk with others, and she started toying with the idea of creating a podcast about extraordinary experiences. One foot in front of the other, and she’s already working on planning another season of her podcast, The Extraordinary Project.
Through working with a voice teacher as well as making other changes in her life, Suzanne called part of herself back from her narrowly visioned writer’s path. She can still write as part of her work, and she will always do so—but her true work is not strictly about writing. It’s about doing everything that it takes to get a particular conversation, a difficult and controversial conversation, out into the world. And she’s even open to changes in her calling if they show up on her unitary path.
When I asked her what she would say to her younger self, a ten-year-old girl who felt a passion for writing, she said, “Rather than trying to hide, don’t rule out the idea that you can still be big. And that could be fun. Play more. Don’t be afraid to exhibit the playful part of your voice and being. Find supportive environments. Say what you are excited about. You’re glorious! Full of energy and power and potential. You’re already doing it and being it. This is it! Rest in grace. I love you.”
What does it feel like to travel on a single path? It feels like your energy is no longer dissipating. It feels like your authority remains in your authentic self while your path forward is unitary and joyful. Sound good? Great! Let’s make it so.
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This is an excerpt from The Calling: A 12-Week Science-Based Program to Discover, Energize, and Engage Your Soul's Work by Julia Mossbridge, published by New Harbinger Publications. Copyright 2019.