For my 42nd birthday this past week, a dear friend of mine gave me a book called, “Finding Your Own North Star” by Martha Beck. For those of you who know me, you’re aware I’ve started a company called North Star, so the title of this book fit perfectly. It isn’t the title alone that grabbed my attention, but the opening paragraph. In addition to the partial quote above, it goes on to say: “I don’t even want to remember how scary that space was – makes me feel like I’m gonna die or something. I’m only telling you about it because a lot of good came of it in the long run. So anyway, I don’t even know how I ended up so far off course. I felt like I’d been sleepwalking.” – Dan, age 41.
I’ve made this statement quite often, especially among some of these blog posts. According to Beck, the above is a loose rendition of the first twelve lines of The Devine Comedy written in 1307 by Dante Alighieri. Changing course in the middle of life seems to be a common theme throughout history. Moses was forty before he began to free the Israelite slaves, Abraham was already married and well-seasoned when he separated from everything he knew to wander into the wilderness, and even Jesus himself was thirty-three before being called into the desert and starting his short-lived ministry.
Beck goes on to claim that everyone is on a journey, searching for three main things in life – truth, love and joy, and these aspects she calls collectively the “North Star”. Everyone knows the Stella Polaris is fixed in the heavens and doesn’t move. Everything else moves, but this a fixed central point.
“You may think you’re utterly lost, that you’re going to die a bewildered death in the Dark Wood of Error. But brush away those leaves, wait for the clouds to clear, and you’ll see your destiny shining as brightly as ever: the fixed point in the constantly changing constellations of your life,” Beck writes.
Wow, that’s exactly how I feel… utterly lost and hopelessly bewildered; like a bit of my soul is dying every day amid the pain, confusion and worry of this mid-life shift. I don’t know what tomorrow holds and I fear meeting even the basic of my needs, but in the middle of my fear, with shaking hands and wobbly knees, I march forward. The pain of my heartbreak is so thick and so strong, I can barely breathe at times, but I move onward.
I pray I can brush away these leaves – the ones tussled in my hair from falling on my face – and look skyward to see the clouds of my despair parting, because I really need to find my “North Star”. I know it’s there, I’ve seen it before; I’m lost without it. I don’t want to wander this wilderness anymore. Beck writes that when we can’t see our North Stars, we have built in compasses to help guide us in our search for our true paths. The following chapters of this book promises to help us discover and learn how to use and rely on these inner compasses, so that when we find ourselves once again (for there will be many) lost, cloudy or off course, we have to go on faith and trust our inner compass in order to stay close to our right life, and live the life we were meant to live.
That’s one hell of a tall order, but right now I’m taking a chance on faith and trusting Beck knows what she’s talking about. What do I have to lose? Will it be painless? Not in my experience. According to Dante, the way back to la verace via, the true path, lay directly through Hell. THAT I understand, but fighting and surviving Hell was always worth the effort when I knew what I was fighting for or against; knowing that purpose (North Star – destiny) helped keep me focused no matter the pain. I need that again, I need to find and be reminded of my North Star. Perhaps the name of my company means much more than I initially realized?
Do you know where your North Star lies?
Till next time,