A few weeks ago, I came across a saying online:
“When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.” (Lao Tzu)
I don’t know if this quote is attributable to Lao Tzu or not, but it sounds like him, doesn’t it?
A variation that might follow along that theme is this quotation:
“Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
I don’t know who said that, but it strikes close to home for me. Throughout many years, being out on my own from an early age, raising children during a long and unhappy first marriage, then patching together a life afterwards with a demanding career in mid-life, I’m habituated towards feeling like my glass was half empty even though my brain might tell me that it was probably more than half full, most of the time.
Yesterday, I don’t know how this happened, but I woke up from that errant dream of being vaguely unhappy. Here’s how it came about.
A ritual I’ve taken on every year after Christmas was to look for the perfect winter coat at the after-holiday discount sales: a puffy but fashionable shiny black down three-quarter length coat with a huge, luxurious coyote or fox fur hood (real) that I had glimpsed in the New York Times Style page years ago and carried the clipping around in my wallet. This hunt served as amusement (or served as withdrawal from holiday shopping,) with a succession of coats tried on, delivered and then, mostly returned to the seller. Sometimes, I would buy one, then give it away to one of my daughters when they needed one more than I did. And so, the elusive coat search continued, at least until now.
Over the weekend, I looked at Patagonia, North Face and Nordstroms before I somehow found myself looking at “vintage LL Bean” listings on Etsy yesterday. I’ve been a fan of LL Bean for their quality, classic stock, especially in decades past. On about the eighth page of listings, I came upon a 1970’s vintage duffle coat, size Medium, in a deep army green with a yoked back, hood and a blue/green woolen plaid lining. It hung gracefully on the model in the photo, not crumpled up and bedraggled like others that were also online. In any case, as soon as I saw it, I instantly felt that the grand hunt for my winter coat was over. It had no fur trim, no contemporary flourishes, just a plain woolen coat that reminded me of my youth, truth be known. I also happen to have a loden shearling hat that G. doesn’t use and a Barbour tan and forest green plaid scarf that matches the color of the coat. Turns out that I had the accessories before I found the coat.
I don’t know if I can convey the sense of home or grounding that I instinctively felt with this coat. Perhaps you know what I mean. It’s as though one goes out looking for something and it turns out to be hanging on the line in your backyard or in a wooden storage chest that you forgot about or something.The other thing that this coat has done is to bring me full circle “back to my beginning” (a la T.S. Eliot) from the extravagances of decorating, food, gifts and spending that the holidays entailed; including taking everything apart, repacking the stockings, the ornaments, replacing broken ones, saying farewell to the Frasier Fir tree that was still fragrant, its needles still fresh to the touch.
As a loner at heart, my interests have been pretty insular for the most part, which is to say that I do most things I enjoy by myself: read, play the piano, cook meals, clean the house, knit, and so on. I realized after finding that coat that I have everything that I have ever wanted (and struggled for) including the most important intangible ones that are not always just up to us. I also noticed that my former habitat of being not very happy for most of my life had shifted to being happy without my truly “getting it” until now. This is not as strange or peculiar as it may sound. In any event, I awakened from feeling unhappy, to understanding that there is nothing keeping me from being happy now, except for old habits I wasn’t that aware of.
“When you realize that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Thanks to the Helpers of the Universe who have shielded, guided and pushed me to this place. It feels as though it has been an enormous struggle but perhaps at least half of that burden might have been of my own making and wrestled within my own head. Attitude is everything and mine has been edified by finding an old duffle coat and a quotation that floated by my screen unbeknownst from wherever.
As noted, the Sage, Helpers and the Cosmos have helped me create a soft landing for my life. I just haven’t felt it to its fullest until now. And I am thankful more than ever.