A year ago I took myself to the fall festival in Yellow Spring Ohio. The weather was beautiful: blue skies, warm, calm breeze. However, the weather within my soul was turbulent.
I walked down the main street stopping to visit artists and vendors, taking my time and soaking in the mastery and the people.
At the end of the main artery was a beating heart. A group of hippies were dancing and singing, beating on drums. A young man was leading the Army of Love with his guitar, calling on people to come and share their testimony. I was stunned by the positive energy that overflowed from the group. I stopped.
Someone was holding a sign that read “Free Hugs.” I couldn’t remember the last time someone had given me a hug. So I walked over and he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed. Somewhere within my walled off heart I cried. Externally, I thanked him and in a daze I sat myself in front of The Gathering. I listened, absorbed and smiled.
For hours, days, years, I sat in that space and soaked it in. There was the young girl in the long flowing skirt, a patchwork of colors, her long hair swaying as she moved back-and-forth to the rhythm. Her sun tanned belly button exposed as she hit a tambourine on her hip. There was the row of men on chairs beating drums. Dreadlocks and a beard next to a crewcut and flannel. They rocked together, their hands swift and deliberate. They laughed and sang. There were the children who picked up drums or were dancing to the music, weaving in and out around the musicians and the dancers. There were the artists painting in the presence of the music and there were the people who stopped to listen.
I was mesmerized. And I asked myself: How do I get what they have? How do I feel that joyful? Where did I go so wrong in my life? And then that insidious voice gave me the answer: You are too old to be a hippie. Your time has passed. You have bills and a job and children and obligations.You are stuck. And with that I stood up and took myself home. I was resigned to my life. Or was I?
The life that I have lived in the year since that sunny day in October has been nothing short of extraordinary. In one year, I have journeyed to the depths of darkness, walked through fire, languished in the desert. And, I have flown on new wings, bathed in healing waters and followed the sunrise on my new day. I no longer live a life of obligation. Instead I live my life on purpose.
So, today I danced in the street at the festival. I danced with abandon. I clapped and laughed, and smiled and sang about love. I hugged. I hugged friends, family, and strangers. I hugged myself.
I finally have what I saw and wanted a year ago. But here is the real truth. I always had it – that joy that overflows from within the deepest part of my being out into the world around me – it was always there. I just had to take down the walls that I have built around it. The walls that blocked the pain and the joy. The walls that portrayed the pretty picture. The walls that created the cage that was swallowing me. And with these walls in ruin, I am now free to fly, to feel, to love, to dance, to sing.
And today, I am alive. Fully, truly, deeply alive.