Yesterday, as I sometimes do when I need amusement, I went online to read my horoscope for today. The words leaped off the page at me, “The long, exhausting battle is over, and you have lost the war.” I immediately burst into deep sobs of both sorrow and relief. Those words struck a chord of truth deep in me.
You see, I was born into a family that based its value on the war to save souls. My great grandfather was at one time the highest ranking general in The Salvation Army; their daughter (my grandmother) went to serve in France during World War I as one of the now famous “Doughnut Lassies,” Salvation Army women who served on the front lines feeding soldiers during battle. She was eighteen at the time. I was her chosen grandchild, the one she marked with her long finger of prophesy and said, “You will carry on this legacy.” Of course, at age 11, I balked.
It’s 50 years later, and I have just discovered that, all along, I’ve been enlisted in the army of lightworkers, believing that it was my mission to help people to awaken to a greater truth than the everyday. I did this as a therapist and an interfaith spiritual director, having nothing to do with The Salvation Army or any religion in particular. Yet serve I did, and serve faithfully.
I also served in my personal life. I loved well and supported my partners and my children to the very best of my ability at the time. On the whole, I did a good enough job. My kids turned out to be very fine people who married very fine people and who will—one day—parent very fine children. My partners benefited from my love and from my truth. None of us escaped a few scars, but mostly we loved, and ended, with gratitude.
Still, it’s been a long, exhausting battle. This is true. Primarily, that’s been played out in the financial arena, where I struggled to keep us all afloat for many years. There was a lovely respite in there for a time, thanks to a man with a golden soul who lifted me up and gave me the first glimpse of hope. In time, that left too, and I was once more on the same old battlefield, staring down the long barrel of financial fear.
And then the words jumped out at me, “The long, exhausting battle is over, and you have lost the war.”
I felt like a kid standing on the football field after the lights have gone out and his team has lost the big game. He still holds the football in his hand and believes he’s just one more touchdown away from a winning game. Then a voice booms out from the dark stands, “Hey, kid, the game is over. You lost. You did the best you could. I couldn’t be prouder of you if you were my own child (which, by the way,you are). It’s time to go home and get some rest.”
I felt humbled. I had lost the war. I lost the ability to provide financial security. I lost both a marriage and a relationship, each of which born—and still lives—in love and appreciation. It was over, and I was defeated. So much of who I am, what I have done, and how I have known myself…defeated. Those were my tears of sorrow.
In this, I found a paradox. I could suddenly relate to Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney, George Bush. I got myself into a war thing, and I lost. Now I was standing on the field, dumb-struck. How was I ever going to exit the field gracefully? I felt such profound compassion for world leaders who land themselves in this position.
Then I considered world leaders who have been defeated and not only survived the defeat but actually survived to triumph: His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hahn, Miriam Makeba and Harriet Tubman. I was suddenly in the company of people I admired. I could draw from their wisdom and example.
There were also tears of relief. A long, exhausting battle is over; I have lost the war. There is, quite simply, no more war in me. I’m done with that paradigm.
I turned to Inquiry: the process taught by Byron Katie of asking four simple questions and then turning the thought around. “I have lost the war. Is it true?” Yes.
“Can I absolutely know that it’s true?” Not until I can predict the future, which I’m currently not able to do, can I absolutely know that I have lost anything…but it sure looks that way right now.
“When you believe you have lost the war, what happens? How do you react?” I tell myself terrible things that I know for sure are not true. I judge myself over-harshly. I feel humbled, maybe even humiliated. My heart hurts and I cry. Hard. Very hard. I cry for me and for us all.
“Who would you be without the thought that you have lost the war?” I would be one of millions of men and women who did their best in difficult circumstances. Some won over their ordeals; some lost. I would be one of them, nothing more and nothing less. I would be a woman who held out my heart and gave life my best, winning or losing.
I turned the thought around three times:
“I have won the peace.” And there are examples in my life where this is as true or truer than the original thought. Whew.
“Perhaps there never was a war in the first place. I made it all up.” Given my spiritual genetics, this is a distinct possibility. Food for more thought. I thought I had a mission, a purpose. But if there’s no war in the first place? Maybe we make up all justification for being at war with one another or with life until our reasons finally seem justifiable.
“God has won the war.” Even more food for thought. If I am going down in defeat, if my ego can’t hold on any longer to the idea that I have to fulfill a soul-saving mission, then who better to lose to than God? She Who Loves Me More Than Life Itself.
She’s not going to imprison me, judge me, exile me, kill me. The Creator, the Mystery, is going to take the football gently out of my hand, lay it on the ground, and lead me all the way home! I’m not losing to an adversary: I’m losing to my best advocate!
(Of course, there is the little problem of humbly admitting how many times I have turned my life over to God only to take it back like an oppositional child, but…I digress.)
And finally there’s this: I have lost the war! Who wants it? I have been waving “No More War” signs since I was twelve, first at my parents and then at the whole world. Could I lose anything better than WAR? Could it be a more joyful loss?
As my friend Linda, reading my email about this, wrote back, “Get out and stay out! Good riddance. Who wants WAR?”
I’m still in the middle of everything this one-liner from an astrologer across the Atlantic had to tell me. This is a rich mine of lessons. I’ll be spelunking for a while. But, for now, I tell you this:
I HAVE LOST THE WAR! And that is reason to celebrate