ASK ABDI: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHICH PATH TO USE?
QUESTION: I have been given an incredible opportunity to study abroad in Italy. I had to defer it until now because I did not have the money, but more so because my Dad was very sick and had been dying for seven years from a slow degenerative dementia. We had a troubled relationship involving physical abuse and neglect, but yet I still was the dutiful daughter making sure everything was okay for the years up until his death last May. The assigned role I allow myself to play in my family is caretaker. But a few years before, I managed to have true forgiveness. I was with him when he died and made sure it was without pain and with dignity. I even made sure he died in my mother’s arms because I intuitively knew that needed to happen just hours before. I wrote his eulogy and found that healing as well.
I have been given an opportunity to study in Italy with a master teacher, and I feel it would be a good opportunity to grow, travel, and be with “my tribe” of fellow storytellers. I feel drawn to do this program, though my funds are low. I am tired of working below my potential, but yet I have no way of knowing that this will lead to anything good. I put my life on hold for years and now I wonder at the moment where I don’t have to anymore - I am feeling scared and ambivalent when I should be hopeful and joyful. How do you know when to stay or to go? I have emotional support in my life either way from friends, though I need to change. I just don’t know why I am so ambivalent at times. I am not a kid anymore either. I am 41 years old, but I do yoga everyday so I have a strong body, I am not afraid of adventure, I love the idea of studying with international students, and I am extremely imaginative and work well with like-minded people. I have never given myself an opportunity like this and it would work the unconscious in a deep way because it is all physical and archetypal work.
How do you know which path to choose? I usually have super high intuition, which brought me to the program initially, but somehow now I am filled with fear and doubt about all of my choices. Do I have all the skills in me I need already or would it be good to step outside of the box, take a risk, and see what happens?
ANSWER: When someone such as yourself has been trained from a young age to caretake all around them, it is difficult to make decisions that are not related to benefiting others. While it is beneficial to ask advice on such matters, it is important to remember that most will give their projections over such issues. If they feel stagnant in their life, they will say you should go. If they have fear in their heart, they will advise you against going.
What do YOU want? What will feed your heart? When death comes knocking on your door next week or in 50 years, how will you want to remember this time and your response to it? I would suggest that you read a book by the name of Anxious To Please: 7 Revolutionary Practices For The Chronically Nice. It will outline some practices that will help you hear your own inner voice better. Regardless of how much you have put your father to rest, the behaviors (“assigned role I allow myself to play in my family is caretaker”) that come as a result of the abuse take much time to heal. These patterns are insidious and make it difficult for us to know what we need when the sole focus is us and not the benefit of some other person (“I put my life on hold for years and now I wonder at the moment where I don’t have to anymore - I am feeling scared and ambivalent when I should be hopeful and joyful”). Keep asking yourself that honestly: what do you want? This is not a matter of life and death, just a matter of what you want to experience. It would make sense that since you have always been externally focused on other people’s needs it is difficult to know what you want. And hence the fear and confusion. You are closer than you think. Clear some space around you and sit with yourself daily. Keep asking for guidance from your innermost being.