I have arrived on a quest to find a place to pause, and without hurry, tend to the questions that keep nagging at me… “have I become all I am meant to be? ... Is there a next right answer waiting for me? ... What does it really mean to live my best life?”
I’m in the reception room of Goodnestone Park Manor, the big 17th century wooden staircase curling around me. I inhale, more than a little excited, it feels like I have travelled through time. All the relatives looking down from their gilded frames encourage me to stand just a little bit taller, to hold myself with just a little bit more conviction.
Imperceptibly, I stretch my spine upwards, feeling the space between my vertebrae expand. That one degree shift in my sightline opens a new vista, both outside and within. Big houses inspire big thoughts.
I slowly wander through the rooms, where gilded names of former inhabitants on the doors make me wonder about them and if they asked themselves similar questions? Did they live their best life? Did they spend time thinking about it, or is it just me who wakes in the middle of the night with a vague sense of wanting an elusive "more"?
I let my fingers touch the rich hanging fabrics, trace the carved armrests and get lost in long forgotten diaries left on the bookshelves. As I hear the echo of my footsteps on the wooden floors, it is easy to feel the centuries blur. Who would I have been if I had lived in this house? Would I be asking myself the same questions, seeking my next right answer?
And just when I think I cannot be more enchanted, my gaze is drawn outwards to the century old trees on the front lawn. Suddenly, I can’t resist and I throw open the window wide enough to stick my whole upper body out, to be enveloped in the breeze and the fragrance of the gardens, full and alive.
Leaning into the sky feels carefree and unencumbered; an unobstructed romancing of my own destiny.
I can’t do this at home, too many things get in the way - bug screens, child-protective openings and the alarm of neighbours keep me inside. While I appreciate their intention of safety, now I see how they withhold me from this moment of untethered joy. And I wonder…
what other things have I set up in my life to keep me safe, only to have inadvertently held myself back?
I tuck that question into my journal. It is the beginning of my quest, but first I want to sit a little longer in this feeling. My next right answer is not a destination, but rather an intention…to get there I will need to pull back the heavy curtains, secure them with thick cords, throw up the sash and rush to take it all in - the sounds, the view, the experience of living my life with a little more of the unexpected.
Looking out I admire the two ancient trees that are the centre of my view. Steadily, focused only on the business of becoming, they have evolved into majestic beings. Though they are siblings, they have emerged differently; one has pronounced its glory by unfolding an unencumbered canopy gathering all of us under its wingspan, the other, planted close to its neighbour, has shot up to look at the horizon over everyone else; the first to see the sun, the last to bed the day.
Both equally glorious, they have realized their purpose with little regard to the conditions they were planted in. I can’t imagine either of these trees spent any time dithering about who she was meant to be or bemoaning the circumstances she was planted in. Gazing at them, I swear I hear them tell me to,
quite frankly, just get over myself and get on with the business of being - stop the fretting about getting everything right and just push down roots and stretch out branches.
We can’t control the circumstances, just as we can’t deny the drive to manifest into whatever was meant to be. They stand there, growing without hesitation, oblivious to the woman now inspired to do the same. I scribble this second question in my journal, unaware that it would become a mantra for the year to follow …
when did my fear of not being enough become greater than my conviction that we are all meant to stretch our branches to the sky?
I have played with these questions tucked into my journal, they have acted as portals to a new way of seeing my life and stretching into a different sense of happiness. A year later, I am about to return to this grand house, to sit again in the drawing room where Jane Austen likely asked herself these same life questions; who am I meant to be? where am I meant to take myself now?
I feel a sense of excitement to sit and ponder the life I have created since - one with less hesitation and more conviction - and dream the one yet to come. As Dewitt says, 'move from good frame to great frame', there is always a next right answer to be found.
This grand house is like a great aunt, full of gentle lessons and firm encouragements. She dared me to live into her greatness and by doing so I have begun to live into my own.
If you drive by, you will see me hanging out the bedroom window, taking it all in.
***Join me on retreat at Goodnestone Park Manor!
The Radical Sabbatical is welcoming 10 questing individuals on a transformational adventure- a pause revitalize yourself, your sense of who you are and what you can accomplish. Each sabbatical is obsessively designed down to the last detail, ensuring that you leave feeling both joyful and transformed. www.advivumjourneys.ca/retreats
If not now, when?