Are You Rearranging the Furniture on the Titanic?
Urgently fluffing the nautical throw pillows, shifting the groupings of crisp white deck chairs, desperately trying to get it right as the great ship sinks down into the cold, black night.
It’s such a ridiculous image of futility, yet we’ve all done it. We put years of energy into forcing a sinking job, relationship, lifestyle, ideology or even habit to work, when we need to grab a life vest and leap into the ocean.
In 2007, I left San Francisco for what I intended to be three months in the desert to get perspective on a life I had recently gutted. I was desperate to understand and was willing to try anything, and then I met the psychic.
“You’ve come to the end of the line,” she said. “You can keep asking the dealer for more cards, but there’s nothing left in the deck. There’s nothing left in your hand. You have to stand up and walk away from the table.”
This is actually true. I have it on a battered cassette tape she handed me as I skulked out into the excruciating summer heat. I have record of the exact moment I was forced to acknowledge my life was failing.
I’d spent years changing jobs, changing relationships, changing cities, trying to rearrange the circumstances of my life hoping for a small slice of peace. Although it seemed full, even glamorous at times, I was starved and lost. Looking back, I don’t think I ever felt I deserved it, so I knocked myself down whenever it got too big. My sinking ship was a destructive belief system that I had to decimate before I could pick myself up from the sandy sea floor.
Once I started the difficult process of changing me, my life actually changed. I began to notice the repeated messages and worked hard to release habits, thoughts and even people that were no longer healthy. I’ve slowed myself down so I can listen to the small whispers, and I can now touch some of the miracles embedded in every day life.
Our sinking ships come in all shapes and sizes: Queen Marys and day cruisers, yachts and surfboards. They are the habitual living patterns, big and small, that don’t support our lives. Yours might be giving too much and burning out, waiting for someone to take care of you. Or pointing to others as your oppressor when you’re actually holding the keys. Listen to the symbols, words and messages around you. The more they repeat, the more they have to share with you. They have gifts hidden in them, clues to help us reach for the life vest and jump into a new way of being.
I’ve spent the last few days opening moving boxes in my Virginia cottage, time-capsuled friends reminding me of all I gave up, and all I gained through this work. I watch a train, weaving car after car through the land outside my window, and a shadow inside me longs to hop on it, shaking things up before they even settle. It wants to be swept up by the rush of movement, the anticipatory pulse of the unknown. It wants to run away from the boxes sitting heavily on the floor surrounding my desk. But I want to create this new life; to finish my novel, build sustainable relationships, commit to a community. Maybe get a puppy.
I let the cool air fill my lungs and send it down to root in the red clay below my house. I know the train will come by again tomorrow and the next day and the next, so I can resist the old pattern. I’m going to ride this one out by staying where I am. At least for now.
Are you rearranging the furniture on the Titanic?
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