You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And You are the guy who’ll decide where to go. – Dr. Seuss
A graduate of my Rebuilding class recently gave me a copy of Oh, the Places you’ll Go by Dr. Seuss to add to a lending library I am setting up for the participants of that class. It had been a long time since I had read this book so I have to admit I’d forgotten the story and wasn’t sure why this book was meaningful to her and why she had chosen to share it with others. And then—I re-read it. And it was perfect.
As with all Dr. Seuss books, this one—written in that typical Seuss-iest style, provides a good message for adults and children alike. The story addresses the unpredictable nature of life which can send a person on a path full of hard things to face; full of the ups and downs that make life feel out of control, powerless and at the mercy of things that will reshape their life as they go forward. A journey full of self-doubt, loneliness, and fear but eventually maybe even triumphs. Unfortunately, the future isn’t easily seen when everything is up in the air and swirling in chaos. And that is the point of this book. Just stay on the path, keep putting one foot in front of the other and learn to let go because life doesn’t have a road map.
All Alone! Whether you like it or not, alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot. Seuss reminds us that change can set us on a lonely journey and being alone can be scary. People who are facing singleness after years coupled with someone else often speak of the fears they have. Fear of being alone, of starting over as a single person, and of managing finances—especially now that their income has been cut in half, of waking up alone in bed and so much more. Everyone who goes through the Rebuilding class admits to one or many of such fears.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go reminds us that when things are in chaos we can expect to feel confused. You’ll come to the place where the streets are not marked… should you turn left or right?… You can get so confused, that you’ll start to race…headed I fear toward a most useless place… The Waiting Place. It seems that when life is in flux there is a lot of waiting to do. Waiting for a spouse to send in the needed paperwork, waiting for a house to sell, waiting to hear about a job interview, waiting for maintenance payments or child custody schedules to be set up. Waiting. But, again as Seuss points out in this book, we aren’t alone. Everyone is or has been in this place –waiting for someone, waiting for change, waiting to feel better or waiting to make up your mind.I think this is why the Rebuilding at Bethel program is so helpful. It creates a space for individuals to meet up with others in this scary waiting place and to know that they are not alone.
The hard fact—even when in the midst of change, is that we alone are in charge of our lives. Each choice made will determine the direction that life will go and which directions will be closed off. Friends and family can help but in the end it is our own responsibility. Gershen Kaufman, Ph.D. pointed out in his book The Dynamics of Power that “we cannot quell the waves which life throws at us, any more than the flood waters which might surround our home, but we do have a choice over how we face whatever comes our way… Knowing that we are ultimately the final choosers over how we both experience ourselves and face life, makes us shapers of the landscape, not merely figures in the landscape.”
So, if your life is in flux, be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself to have that “waiting place.” Instead of diving into a new adventure or a new relationship allow yourself to just rest. Learn to take care of your health and take care of your soul instead of trying to do this for someone else as a way to distract yourself from the scary places in your life. Again as Dr. Seuss reminds us, When you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. So… face up to your problems… but never forget to be dexterous and deft.” To be skillful in problem solving requires a clear head; something usually unavailable to us when we are under stress.
Being in that resting place, that waiting place, can give a person time to solve problems by creating solutions that are well thought out. Those well thought out decisions will lead back to an easier path and on to new places—maybe even one that is better than the one that was left behind. Just keep putting one foot in front of another until you get to the other side of the problem. “It’s opener there, in the wide open air…and you will succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)” Thank you, Dr. Seuss. And thank you Alyssa, for bringing this book back into my awareness.
Seuss, Dr. Oh, the Places You’ll Go. Random House, Inc. N.Y. New York. 1990
All quotes in italics are direct quotes from this text.