“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~ Ram Dass
I came across the above quote recently, and it really struck a chord within me. As the popular saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” Together, what these quotes said to me is that we’re all here to help each other find our way back to our heart, our Authentic Self, to live the life we were born to live.
Young children (especially before the age of 5 or 6) don’t wonder who they are, and always know what they want. As we grow up and learn to lead socially acceptable lives, we become separated from the simple and effortless knowing we had as young children. We lose connection to our heart, our Authentic Self. We realize that we may have done all the “right” things but are far from happy. We feel a hunger, a yearning from deep within that can’t be denied, but we can’t quite articulate what it is either. We feel we have lost our way, and need to find ourselves—to find the way back to our heart.
Of course, we don’t experience any of that in isolation. There are people in our lives—family members, partners, friends, colleagues, etc.—even adversaries. They are our travel companions on our journey home. Some of them are meant to be with us for life, while others walk with us—personally and/or professionally—for a finite period of time, fulfilling very specific purposes, before our paths diverge again.
It’s very tempting to judge certain segments of our journey and the short-lived relationships as detours. However, I’ve learned that there are no detours or accidents in this life. Instead, they are all very much part of our path, even if the experiences while going through them are painful. No one with whom we cross paths is ever “wrong” for us, even if we experience hardship while being with them. After all, by virtue of walking with us for a time, they help us gain clarity about who we are and what we want—even if it’s through the contrast of reflecting back to us who we are not or do not want to become, and what we do not want to experience.
A lifesaver from the Universe
As I contemplate the above in my own life, it makes me think of those who have walked with me professionally and personally, whether they’re currently in my life or not. I want to use this post to pay tribute to the first significant travel partner in my adult life: My first husband.
When I met him, I had just turned 18, but already a junior in college. He was a newly minted Ph.D., 10 ½ years my senior. He was my modern-day knight in shining armor in every way: smart, educated, confident, charismatic, worldly, funny, and so very handsome. Most of all, he was the lifesaver the Universe threw me when I was drowning. After all, I had come to the U.S. two years prior to escape my childhood and the trajectory ahead if I were to remain in my hometown of Macau (a Portuguese colony then, to be reverted back to China in 1999). I was woefully ill-prepared for making it alone as a teenager in a foreign country, thousands of miles from everyone and everything I knew. It was sheer will and an unrelenting determination not to fail that kept me grinding my teeth, holding on for dear life to the dream of a better future in the U.S. When the man I’d end up marrying appeared in my life, he was a much needed reprieve from the raging storm my young self was weary of weathering alone.
We were together for 9 years and married for 7. For a long time, my memories of this relationship were filled with the problems we had and how insignificant and lonely in love I felt. Most of all, I deeply resented the sacrifices I had to make repeatedly to be with my ex. They included giving up a dream early on in our courtship, followed by becoming a trailing wife through cross-country moves. In Year 9, faced with the need to make another significant sacrifice in order to stay married, I couldn’t abandon myself anymore. It really broke my heart to have to choose at all, but I felt that I finally needed to choose me. If I didn’t, no one else would have.
For anyone who has been through a divorce, you know how disorienting life can be after marital dissolution. For a long time, I felt deeply ashamed for having failed miserably in my personal life. Social and cultural stigma aside, failing was a particularly tough blow, since I practically lived by the mantra of “failure is not an option.” I also felt dishearteningly off-balance, as if I had only one leg to stand on, that a significant part of me had completely disintegrated. After all, my identity up to that point was mostly wrapped up in being someone’s wife. I wondered if I would ever be whole again. I also questioned if I could ever trust myself again to make the right life choices. Most of all, I didn’t know if love would ever find me again.
Thank you for walking me home
Some 15 years later, I could judge my failed marriage as a major detour in my life. Yet, I don’t see it that way at all. Instead, I recognize my ex-husband as a critical travel partner on my way to finding myself. He was the first significant figure in my life who truly believed in me and recognized my intelligence and potential—long before I myself did. He was my rock and my shelter while I began growing into the woman I was born to become. He propped me up before I came into my own sufficiently to stand strong. He literally showed me the world, and enriched my life. He always knew who he was, and stood tall for what he believed in, never feeling the need to apologize to anyone for any of it. He modeled beautifully for me how to be true to myself.
Many years have passed since that chapter in my life closed. Today, I remember and honor my first husband with Pure Love—not the romantic, passionate love I felt for him many years ago. But the Pure Love that knows exactly why we were meant to be together for those 9 years. The Pure Love that powered forgiveness and healing, and gave me perspective I didn’t have when the heartbreak was fresh. The Pure Love that over time has distilled all the good in that marriage and transformed all the pain—the totality of which has become a beautiful and indelible part of who I am today. The Pure Love that is of my Authentic Self, even before we were officially reacquainted. While my first husband and I parted before death, for as long as I shall live, I’ll always be profoundly grateful to and for him for walking me home.
What about you? For whom in your professional or personal life are you grateful for walking you home, now or in the past?
If you’re new here, welcome! I invite you to subscribe to my blog via email or RSS feed. Simply look for the “Subscribe & Connect” box below.