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Wisdom from the Walkabout Woman

I call myself "The Walkabout Woman." Three months ago, I sold most of my belongings, stored the rest in Ashland and set out by car on a walkabout to discover and live my longings. So far, my walkabout has been anything but peaceful.

It has instigated change and stirred up inner turmoil. In my mind's eye, I can see the old petty dictators of my psyche brandishing swords and refusing to be overthrown. I can taste the fear.

On the other side — the side of truth and beauty — is my walkabout. It has also taken on an imaginary personality of its own, that of a trustworthy little soldier who seems to have my best interests at heart — but is relentless in pushing me to confront things I would rather avoid.

And these "things" would be the painful unhealed relationships in my life.

On a regular basis, my walkabout guy cheerfully leads me to the center of the relationship volcano and says, "Here, jump right into this lava. It will be good for you." I cover my eyes and say, "No — no," and he leaves me alone for a couple of days, only to return and suggest, "How about this bed of hot coals — take a stroll," or "Look at that raging forest fire — why don't you skydive into it?"

I get what my walkabout wants me to do. It wants me to take an appropriate level of responsibility for those relationships (not all or none), have compassion, offer and receive forgiveness, and ultimately feel gratitude. I know the drill.

But knowing what is good for you is one thing. Doing and feeling it is another, so I am taking my first tentative steps, walking through the fire, and living with uncertainty about ever healing or being at peace.

I hear this Rainer Maria Rilke quote a lot: "Live your questions now, and perhaps even without knowing it, you will live along some distant day into your answers."

But the indefinite waiting around makes me uneasy. It's hard to live the questions. I want to take those questions by the throat and squeeze the answers out of them. That distant nether area, which may or may not deliver, makes me want to distract myself with pizza, marguerites, excessive chocolate or a major religious tradition.

Here is what I've done on my walkabout to cope — to achieve some semblance of inner peace:

1. Everyday stress or fears: I firmly require myself to be present in the moment. When I worry about my "what ifs," my children's futures, my health, where I am going, etc., I stop and appreciate the blessings of the moment — that we are all alive and on our paths.

2. Bigger calamities: I recite the first paragraph of the Serenity Prayer over and over like a mantra. I didn't find it at church or AA. I discovered it at a Dollar Store checkout counter and thought it was brilliant. It goes like this: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

3. Daily practice: I do art, write and share it on my blog and in social media. These things help me make meaning and sense out of my life, and help me feel less alone.

That's it. I wish I could offer you a magic pill, the definitive self-help book or the ultimate savior/guru incarnation. But, add in a little chocolate to the above.

This piece was first published on Betsy Lewis' blog, which can be found at www.thewalkaboutwoman.com. Lewis is a social media consultant, artist and writer who has lived in the Rogue Valley for 21 years, the last two in Ashland.