“Some of my friends don’t know who they belong to. Some can’t get a single thing to work inside,” lyrics by Gram Parson, from “A Song for You.”
I spent years in the condition Gram Parsons describes in the song lyric. I had no idea who I belonged to. I seemed to be isolated in the universe. I would sometimes have a fleeting feeling I was part of something larger than myself, but it was usually an odd inarticulate sense. It was certainly not a feeling or a sensation I could call up for support or comfort.
I had great difficulty trying to get anything to work inside. I had a head full of noise – insecurities, uncertainties, fear. That didn’t stop me from trying to accomplish things – a writing career followed by successful efforts to launch and grow a publishing company. From the outside, my life probably looked orderly and deliberate. In reality my life was a whirl of dashing from one thing to another – putting out some fires, starting others.
At some point during adulthood, we all reach a point when life just doesn’t work any longer. When we get to this point, we usually realize life hasn’t been working for a long time. Even if we do everything right – whatever that means to us – things just stop working inside.
If we have half a brain and a little bit of guts, we throw up our hands and say, “Wait, just wait! I want off this crazy train.” Tom Waits described that feeling of desperation well in the song, “Fumblin’ with the Blues.” He sang, “Two dead ends and you still got to choose.” That’s when it’s time to change your life.
Some turn to alcohol or drugs. Some turn to therapy. Some turn to spirituality. I tried all three. What worked was the therapy and spirituality. Slowly I began to become aware there was a tiny light inside. I began to gain some new enthusiasm for life. I loved singing the words, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
At the time, I didn’t really understand that tiny light. I thought it was mine, and I thought it would only show up intermittently. When I sensed it, I would feel wonderful warmth and encouragement. Inevitably, though, things inside would go dark again and the noise in my head – the fears and insecurities – would return.
Real change in my life began as I came to learn that the tiny spec of light wasn’t mine at all, but something larger. And it wasn’t distant and intermittent. It was constant and inextinguishable. I came to realize the light was spirit and it was always in me. The light wasn’t tiny at all; it was everything. What was tiny was my ability to perceive it, my ability to truly believe in it, my ability to call it forth into my life.
The noise doesn’t go away when you come to believe in the infinite light within. Fear doesn’t go away. But it becomes less important. You notice the insecurities and anxieties, but you let them go. They’re the cage-rattling of the ego. You learn that the noise doesn’t have to threaten the truth, and the fear doesn’t have to disrupt your life.
If you focus on the light inside it grows until you are aware of it most of the time. You come to realize whatever truth we find in this world resides there. The light will guide you. The fears and insecurities that were once vicious monsters become mere gnats that are easily swatted away. That’s when you truly know who you belong to, and that’s when things really begin to work inside.