My whole life, I thought that there was nothing if not for greatness. And in that statement alone, greatness has a particular meaning. It means stately and grand. It means magnanimous and ostentatious. It means more than what I am. It means I need to be more than me. Because of this, I felt particularly alone, misunderstood, and remote. I felt that I was alive to accomplish a significant measure, a measure perhaps unknown to even myself, but an accomplishment that would cause me to be a failure if I did not obtain. How can one accomplish an intangible goal? How could I ever feel enough when I was a part, yet at the same time, completely separate?
I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching along spiritual lines through my recovery program and therapy to help me understand the exact nature of my inability to feel adequate, ample even. And suddenly, after working through my shortcomings, I have learned that I have spent my life striving to be loved in spite of them, and not because of them. I might be an individual snowflake, uniquely beautiful and individually flawed, but snowflakes are not solitary; they are not necessarily unique on the whole. Individually, they exist, but together, they create beauty, scale, strength, and even tragedy. That is the great accomplishment of my life: That I have one to live, just as everyone else.
In the same way, greatness does not have to be imposing, complex, or extravagant. Greatness is getting up every day and being an individual person – a real, authentic, and tangible being. A person who lives, breathes, and experiences; moving through life, impacting not only an individual destiny, but the destiny of those surrounding them and others intangibly connected through the experience of human nature. Many may struggle to climb the mountain of meaning, but meaning does not have to derive from large, sweeping gestures and impressions. I have learned that meaning is inside each of us, no matter how outwardly famous, intelligent, interesting, or provocative we are. Impact is in every form of human expression, in the smallest gestures and nuances, and in fact, “to be simple is to be great.” I received a small poster with that quotation on it. I placed in it my office, though I was not quite clear on what that actually meant. I look at it every day. It took some time, but there was a reason that poster came into my life, and I now understand.
I was about 7 miles into an 11 mile run this week, along my normal running path on the shores of Lake Michigan. It's a beautiful juxtaposition of city and nature. I feel very grateful that depending on my mood, I can choose to focus on the individual power and glory of each, or both, as I utilize the time running to process my thoughts and emotions. Yesterday, it was a very windy day, causing the lake to be choppy and unpredictable; it's movements fluid and powerful. As I hit one of my familiar marking posts, signifying a certain distance in my run, I felt my mind wandering to the what-ifs, should haves, disappointments, and resentments in my life. Eleven miles is a long time to stay focused, so I inevitably find my mind drifting to dangerous places on occasion. But at this moment, I saw a Canadian goose, floating in the unpredictable current. He was not panicking, or struggling, but merely floating, as he had been designed to do. His success depending not on struggling, but rather, letting the current take him. To be simple means to accept the ebb, rather than to resist; to find and take residence in the calm; “to accept life on life’s terms.” Simplicity is greatness in it's truest form.
I am extraordinary, but I am not unique. I am an individual, but I am not alone. I awoke one day and simply knew I no longer have to be misunderstood. It’s perhaps the greatest spiritual awakening that I have had in recovery. Suddenly, I am seeing things more clearly, and I am not a victim to my grandiosity. The secret I have learned is that each one of us is a great part of the immense, vast, tremendous, interminable, boundless, and infinite universe. I am not individually magnificent, and previously I accepted that with sadness and depression because I was fighting it, longing to be more. But now, I am aware that in actuality, that is what connects me to the universe, to the very essence of life. The relief that brings is overwhelming. I don't have to be magnificent, I can simply be me. That is our grand plan; not be to the best, or the greatest, or perfect, but to be part. I am a participant, and that is enough. I am enough.