By: Stella Orange
I was walking to my office yesterday thinking about what I’ve been seeing and hearing from you all lately.
In no particular order, there have been floods and fires. Deaths and harvests.
As one woman put it, “All the anchors are being pulled up.”
Now, your mileage may vary. But I find the metaphors we use to articulate where we are in relationship to what’s been going on fascinating. And vital to how we approach our lives and our work.
I had the good fortune of finding myself in a small group of women yesterday, as we went around our large virtual wooden table to name what was alive to us about the year ahead. To boil it down to one word: Becoming. As in, who we are becoming. We are standing at the edge of the future, peering in, and What do we see?
Becoming is a strange time-traveller of a word. It smacks of the future, to be sure. But it also implies understanding what you are, and even who you used to be.
In this way, “becoming” tethers us to three places at once.
Past, present, and future.
I was in yoga this weekend, when the teacher said something about The Lion Who Looks Behind. There’s a Sanskrit word for this idea, too. I bet that some of you reading this know it.
Anyway, the image sparkled to me, so I asked about it at the end of class.
“Can you say more about the lion?”
In his telling, the lion — king of the jungle — has no natural predators. And yet, he periodically looks over his shoulder to check the path from whence he came.
It’s a moment of reflection and appreciation, apparently. “While moving ever onward,” the teacher added.
I can’t get this out of my head.
I suspect it’s because I have heard a lot of people lately saying, in effect, “I’m too old for that shit.”
Present and past, working to give shape to the future.
Many of the folks we’re in conversations and cahoots with are at the point in their work where they can no longer: “water it down” – “beat around the bush” – “push like I used to” – “do it like that anymore”… You get the idea.
The Lion Looks Behind and declares No More of That Malarkey.
I want to call it world-weariness, except that there’s a palpable energy to it, that suggests they are very much on the cusp.
Declarations like that have a way of charting how one moves into the future. They work like what my friend Kent calls a “machete of truth” – slicing what we’re taking with us from the rest of the brush of the jungle.
I recently came across the idea that there can be an excitement and potency to envisioning what one’s life and work can be, ten, twenty, thirty, even forty decades down the road.
And then, placing our Lion’s vision in that future place, turning to look back to where we are now.
That’s a hell of a thought experiment.
And it’s the sort of reverie that gets me into trouble. It has a way of melting obstacles and otherwise seemingly solid objects down into puddles. And leaving me with questions like: What am I working for? What am I moving towards? What am I leaving behind so that I can move where I am called to go?
The Lion Looks Behind. She also Looks Ahead.
Anyway, I’m grateful to know so many lions. And to get to be in cahoots with those who choose to share their stories, visions, and journey with me.
P.S. My kid likes to say, “I’m brave like a lion.” May you get in touch with this bravery within yourself in the weeks ahead. It’s in there, I am certain. May you bravely look back and then use what you find as s t r e t c h into what’s yet to come.
Stella is cofounder and copywriter at Las Peregrinas, a creative and consulting agency. As our resident word nerd, she writes copy and points out the stories everyone is living and telling through their work. She is also fun at parties.
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