I lose track of my soul in the midst of my daily to do’s.
I imagine that it tries at first to get my attention, but I’m too busy planning meals and transportation or prioritizing my task list to notice. It taps me on the shoulder, jumps up and down a few times, then makes some whimpering noises from where it’s thrown itself in the corner, but I fail to notice. Eventually it gets tired of trying and skulks off to try its luck elsewhere.
It takes me a while to notice that my spirit has left the building.
I continue to set goals, do my work, and track progress. I make my plans, see friends, and go to the grocery store. I do all the things I should, including the good things, the things that take care of me and my well-being. But eventually I begin to notice that the things that used to feed my soul don’t anymore. Because my soul isn’t there.
It takes me a while to respond. I may have noticed a lack of satisfaction or fulfillment already. I probably have either felt or pushed aside feelings of sadness or longing. It’s likely I’m feeling more than a little anxiety. It’s not that I don’t know that something’s missing per se; it’s just that I subconsciously want to believe that it doesn’t matter. I’m doing fine here in my head with all my plans and thoughts and lists. Who needs a soul anyway?
My heart is the first to protest. The feelings of vague dissatisfaction, emptiness, and malaise grow stronger. Soon I can no longer ignore the sadness and longing. Without a spirit to console it, my heart grows more and more melodramatic as it flails from one extreme emotion to another.
From my throne in my head, I’m forced to take notice, but I still don’t want to admit that I need my soul. I reason with my heart and try to convince it that we’re fine, just the two of us. Actually it’s three of us—there’s body too, after all. I point to all the good things we have together, the good food, friends, and satisfying work. But my heart doesn’t listen. It’s inconsolable. And soon my body starts to have doubts as well. It feels tired and listless and no longer hungers after the same challenges it normally does. It doesn’t appreciate the good things I do for it—the healthy food, the exercise. It too grows sad and despondent. Nothing has any meaning, it seems, without the spirit.
Finally, humbled, with a heavy heart and a lifeless body, I’m forced to wonder what happened to my soul. When did it leave? Where did it wander off to? Why did it go this time?
I step down from my mental throne and start looking for it in a renewed spirit of humility. Where would it go to find what it’s looking for? What form would it be in right now? I can’t think my way there, so I enroll my heart and body in the effort. We scan my emotions and sensations in my body for clues. We make some quiet space through meditation and curiosity. We listen hard, and like detectives we follow clues and hunches that lead us to the tracks of my soul.
In my current pursuit, I’ve finally gotten some clues about why my soul is running. I’m feeling anxious and frustrated, and my body is tense and ill at ease. I’m not motivated to do the work I usually love, and I’m much more fearful than usual that things aren’t going to turn out well. I’m pushing hard in one direction and finding it harder and harder to get excited about where I’m headed.
I think it has to do with the fact that I’m planning on moving to my hometown to be closer to family but am still working with clients and signing on new ones in my current abode. I have one foot out the door, but the other one seems to be putting down more and more roots by the day.
I’m following my spirit’s footprints as fast as I can when I finally see its shape on the horizon. It’s back is to me and it looks sad. It’s slowly advancing with hunched shoulders and a drooped head.
“Hey, wait up!” I yell and start to run towards it.
It stops walking and turns to look back at me, sadness and a glimmer of hope in its eyes. I can see that it’s glad to see me.
“I’ve been looking for you,” I say as I catch up to it. “But you’re hard to find. I’m sorry I ignored you again, and I’d like to make it up to you.” I see the faint shadow of a smile. “You’re upset that we haven’t moved yet, aren’t you?”
My soul’s eyes grow wide and it starts to nod emphatically. Before it can get too excited, I quickly intervene. “”I understand, you’re ready to start our new life and put down roots for our future. I get it. But we have commitments, you know, and we can’t just up and leave tomorrow. These things take time.”
My soul’s eyes cloud again and it starts to turn away. I feel the anxiety returning like a cloud over my heart and body. Suddenly I feel like I’m telling a very big lie.
“Wait,” I say. “Just wait. I know you know we can’t leave tomorrow, so what is it you’re really wanting?”
My soul looks at me, wordless. It opens its eyes wide and just stares. It’s trying to tell me, urging me to figure it out, hoping I can understand and answer its yearning. I stare at its big, dark eyes, and for a moment all I can see is a powerful longing. It’s so strong it almost knocks me over. Then I see something, behind the yearning, just the tiniest glimpse, but I recognize it clearly and without a doubt.
“You want me to start saying goodbye.” As the words come out of my mouth, I feel my heart stagger behind me as we realize what this means and a wave of sadness comes over us.
My soul offers me a sad smile. Its eyes are heartbroken but hopeful. It nods.
“I see,” I say. “Okay, I guess I can do that.” I swallow the lump in my throat and think about all the beautiful things I’m going to miss about the city where I’ve lived for the last 14 years. Then, with commitment, I wave my arm behind me to indicate my heart and body. “We can do that.”
A smile breaks out on my soul’s face and it comes in for a hug. It feels so good to embrace my soul, to welcome it home again.
The four of us—head, heart, body, and soul—head back out on the road, reunited again, a bit sad, reflective, and unsure of the future—but united in purpose and hopeful, rich in meaning and joyful in our unity.