Fire is the greatest alchemist the world has ever known.
There are so many sayings that we attribute to fire and its power: one “passes through” the fire to be made into something else; it can be used to soften metal and then to harden it; it is the great destroyer of everything in its path; it turns life to ashes, and ashes to dust–
And from dust we all were made.
The reason fire has come to mind to me, recently, is that I’ve had a lot of things which, viewed in particular light, could be considered things of a “fiery test”–
- I broke up with my girlfriend.
- I’ve reached a plateau at my career and now need to pivot to the next challenge.
- My relationship with my (now ex) girlfriend involved changing my relationship with my family.
- My body continues to test me in different ways.
- While I love the home I’ve built in DC, long-term, there isn’t anything there for me, so I need to go to the next place.
Every day, we face stressors and challenges which we could represent the passing through of little fires – candle-sized, matchsticks – or big, forest fires, high-licking flames that turn the sky orange and the sea hot.
We could bow our heads at the heat.
We could succumb to the smoke.
We could give up.
Or, we could just get on with it; walk through the hot coals; bear under it and come out, remade into someone stronger and more resilient. Someone new.
Relationship. I still maintain that my ex-girlfriend is one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. At the same time, we came to a chasm, and there were flames underneath. I leapt over to the other side and I turned around and put my hand out – I said I’d help her – she didn’t trust me, didn’t trust us, didn’t trust this. She looks out at the world, and sees all of the danger. I look out at the world, and I see all of the opportunity. One view isn’t better than the other, but if we can’t look together and see what we can do together, and agree on that, then there is nothing else to be done.
Family. I’m sitting in a villa in desperate heat of Florida this week with my family. The thing about family is not that they are always there – blood isn’t really thicker than water, and families do break apart over many, many things. But, you can’t know the true strength of a family if you don’t test it, if you don’t voice your truth; they could fail you, or you could find yourself like me, sitting in a villa in the desperate heat of Florida wondering why the children never, ever speak (just scream) and knowing that we are stuck with each other… for the better.
Work. More than anything right now, this is where I am catching fire. I am lit up; I’m awake. I have never skimped on having professional goals, but they have always been a thing put in front of my personal goals, as if the two things were incompatible. They’re not only not incompatible, to really get there, they must be aligned – and they are! There are so many things coming ahead of me, so many things that I can taste, I can sense are right in front of me, and it’s up to me to grab hold of them; it’s for me to keep leaping over chasms and passing over flames.
It was been a good, long summer. I’ve spent nearly 4 days every week in the pool. I have done some of the better work in my life. I had a good relationship that reached its natural conclusion. I’ve traveled to new places this year: Bermuda, Puerto Rico; I’ve traveled to old favorites: London, Boston; I’ve been home: New York. I celebrated friends’ engagements, births, pregnancies, and marriages. I have drank and danced and laughed myself to tears.
It has been so good, and even with the downs, they are momentary; they are the fire that we all must pass through to emerge, on the other side, as something new that has been made powerful.
I’m on fire.