The Lightness of Responsibility

I had dream conversation last night with an old friend who, in my mind’s eye, is always smiling, laughing. She’s bright, talented and full of light. When she laughs, she laughs big; throws her head back and laughs with her whole body. You can feel her laughter run through you. It’s contagious and contains the essence of a full life. Even though she’s been through tough times in her own life, I believe she holds, a near-constant lightness of her own being and throughout her life.
   In the dream, she shared with me that she felt that I had gotten away from myself; I had lost an essential part of my true self along with my recent journey. (To give credit where credit is due, my wife Chris, shared the same things weeks ago.) That I had gotten away from my own lightness of being. She pointed out that I used to be light, jovial, full of smiles and laughter, even in my professional world. That this was a core part of who I am that seemed missing. Where did that bigger part of me go, she wondered. Where is it now?
   When we go through difficult times, as I have over the last 18 or so months, we become enveloped by these seemingly overwhelming forces. Health issues within my family, challenges with my business, contemplation of life re-direction, have all been near-perpetually on my plate for the last year and a half. With the issues we face, we are called to manage through them, grit them out and solve the issues. We call on ourselves to buckle down and get serious. To fix, to solve, to work our way through. The strategic mind kicks into overdrive.
   The dream with my friend was short but impactful. And it reminded me of the wide ranges of things that we are responsible for in our life. We take the word responsibility so f’ing seriously. And I have, at least lately, fallen victim to applying it to only serious areas of my life. However, in addition to providing for our families, being good parents, contributing to society, building meaningful and effective vocation, teaching, learning and growing, we are also responsible for our lightness, our joy, our freedom, who and how we love. Not the least of which is our responsibility for our own happiness. 
   As I’m living through these invariable things that life presents, I’m recognizing that there is an invitation to hold seemingly opposing forces in our attention simultaneously. Holding the depth of experience and our true being. Holding joy in my heart and commitment to my work. Living with the realities of our larger world and with love for ourselves, others and life. Integrating the transitions that take place through natural growth and a joy for the journey, regardless of the degree of difficulty. And, how we hold these juxtaposing things, is as important as the awareness that they are held.
   Again, we are responsible for our own happiness. We are the only ones responsible for this. (I write this because I witness plenty of people looking to others to make them happy.) To claim this birthright, or remind ourselves to claim it has a power beyond the measure of circumstance.
   How we stand in whatever space or situation we inhabit is our own choice. The true nature of our alive beings is filled with light. That light casts a shadow, but to give only the shadow or light attention reveals only half-truths; half realities. To remind ourselves how powerful our natural beings are to stand in the center of chaos, challenge and struggle and call on our higher selves to show up—front and centered—with a joyful stance. This is to live fully within our fullest nature.
What I ask myself and you:
  • What are we doing to (re)claim your true nature when times are tough?
  • How can we (re)mind and invite ourselves to remain light in challenging times?
  • How can we smile at the juxtaposition of lightness and shadow in our worlds?
  • Are we living, as much as we can, within our own true nature of light and love?

During darker and more challenging times, doubling down on the joyful things in life is a good antidote. Here’s a few I lean into: more artwork, more time in nature, more time with the physical activities that refuel me (running, surf, yoga), more meditation, more journaling and writing, more time surrounded by loved ones and friends, more diving into and giving back to the community, like our AIGA Creative Sphere.

   The dream ended with laughter that came with the remembering of a truth that what we owe ourselves is not a success, but the ongoing pursuit of our own happiness; a freeness to live in this world as an act of creation and revelation.
As the poet David Whyte writes in Sweet Darkness:
“We must learn one thing
The world is made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds except
The one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness,
And the sweet confinement of your aloneness
To learn that anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
Is too small for you.”
Thanks, my friend, for the dream reminder.

One Reply to “The Lightness of Responsibility”

  1. Rick Newlin says:

    Thank you Steve, for sharing this. It moved me; a confirmation.
    The poem you paraphrased is one of my favorite.


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