At the nursing home where my mother-in-law lived, there was a woman named Alice who had dementia. She wandered the halls with a puzzled, worried look on her face and would continually ask, “Where do I go, dear?”
We would always walk her to her room, or at least point her in that general direction. When she arrived at her room, the puzzled look never left her face. Arriving there did nothing to calm her confused, restless state.
One day, I walked by her as she was sitting down to dinner. She touched my arm and again pleaded with me. “Where do I go, dear?”
Instead of directing her to her room, this time I said,
Well, Alice, you are exactly where you’re supposed to be.
I’m not sure where those words came from other than she was exactly where she was supposed to be–at dinner. For the first time since I’d met her, the expression on her face changed from confusion to delight. She smiled and gave me a thumbs up.
These words have come back to me as I walk this journey of uncertainty about what the future holds for me. With my marriage ending and my kids grown, the roles I have held for over half of my life are in transition. As I try to determine my purpose in this new phase of my life, I, too, am asking, “Where do I go, dear?” I struggle to accept the answer is the same as the one I gave Alice. If right now, I am exactly where I am supposed to be, I wouldn’t call what I feel delight. This transition is difficult and I mourn these endings. If I must accept that this hard place is where I’m supposed to be, then what I feel is more like resignation. A sighing.
So how do I shift from resignation to delight? Deepak Chopra states that expressing gratitude shifts our attention away from what appears to be lacking. What first strikes me about his statement is the transformative power of expressing gratitude. The second thing that strikes me is the word appears–he says APPEARS to be lacking, not actually lacking. When I feel and express gratitude for the roles I did have, I do notice a bit of warmth stir inside me. I notice a softening and realize how abundant my life really is. And when I think about it, all things in life are transitory and so being grateful for each experience no matter how long it lasts creates a sense of fullness. This shift in attitude also helps me to see that the present moment is a transition, not a permanent place. The following quote from Hal Elrod sums it up:
Know that wherever you are in life right now is both temporary and exactly where you are supposed to be (otherwise you would be somewhere else). Be at peace with where you are while taking your next step toward where you want to be.
A shift happens when I am mindful and at peace with where I am at this moment, knowing that I am on journey to the next thing. A shift happens when I stop and smell the roses along the way. A shift happens when I am grateful for what this transition is teaching me. A shift happens when I make a conscious decision to enjoy each step on this journey. And maybe all these shifts in attitude and perception will bring about a feeling of delight that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.