Navigating the Narrow Place

Narrow canyon and its curves

Recently, I had a rich conversation with a friend and colleague in which we discussed the structure of the religious calendar – in particular, the Jewish year. Rosh Hashanah the holiday that proclaims the new year, which ran from sundown on September 25th through nightfall September 27th is an extremely important holiday for Jewish people, a time to both reflect and rejoice.

My friend noted how the calendar year offers seasons, specific holidays full of strong traditions, poignant historical landmarks, and opportunities for one to orchestrate one’s life around these age-old customs with an invitation for both introspection and a celebration of life.

She offered me a bit of wisdom I’d never encountered before. She told me that the translation for Egypt which we’ve all grown up associating with the enslavement of the Jews in the geographic location we now know as modern-day Egypt, can just as accurately be the words, narrow place. I was fascinated because, while I am not Jewish and have no personal connection to a history of enslavement, we’ve ALL faced a narrow place!

The narrow place is what holds us back – it is our confinement, the “stuck-ness” we encounter in life, the bondage of poor choices, addictive processes, wishful thinking and bad habits that keeps us from living our best lives, freely and fully – our Egypt. Our conversation gave me lots to think about. . .

As I may have explained, in one way or another over the years of these Monday blogs, I live a pretty narrow life. I have made a set of a priori (first and foremost) choices that define some fairly narrow boundaries in which I try to thrive. Most notably, I am the primary caregiver for my husband who is now 91 years old and has Alzheimer’s disease. That, in itself, makes my world a fairly narrow place.

But beyond that decision, to structure my life around his most essential needs, there are other narrow places I encounter – and I suspect, so do you. . .

Narrow places (from which we know we need release) can include anything that holds us back. . .

  • Sometimes, we chafe against the things (people or circumstances) that confine us.
  • Sometimes we may complain, but not be ready to break free (we prefer to stay with the confining, but familiar way of being).
  • And sometimes, we create our own confinement – our own narrow place – because we’re just afraid, too anxious to live into our freedom, to stand in the unknown and make our way in a scary or foreign future.

We’ve all known a narrow place. 

Maybe you can tell a story of your own flight out of Egypt, that juncture where you got through the narrow place, that journey from confinement to freedom, and emerged into the light of new life. It might be that you survived a dreadful childhood and grew to be a well-actualized adult. Perhaps you endured an abusive relationship and found a way out, emerging as your own person, liberated and free. Or maybe you knew the throes of addiction, whether that was addiction to substances or addiction to lifestyle (compulsions like those of the sexaholic, workaholic or even shopaholic) and now you live a life rich in balance and choice.

My friend (with whom I shared the conversation at the start of this blog) is on her own journey. She’s using the beauty and structure of the Jewish calendar year, to give herself a season for personal growth – stretching from now until April, when she will celebrate Passover and her own personal liberation, having traveled through her own narrow place. Hers is a journey of self-care and awesome self-awareness.

Self-care is every conscious action you take that feeds your soul, nourishes your body, nurtures your spirit, or replenishes your relationship with yourself!

What’s your narrow place about? 

Making decisions about your narrow place will depend on what it is built upon. A narrow place may be built on core values (like mine is) – a willingness to sacrifice for a more important purpose than personal freedom. Or a narrow place may be constructed by fear – a reluctance to move beyond our “stuck-ness” and live in a richer, fuller, more self-actualized experience.

What does your journey need to include?

  • Do you need to be patient during a time of confinement that will, at its own pace, and in its own time, conclude?
  • Do you need to be bold, and make decisions that can liberate you from patterns that keep you “enslaved” and stuck in patterns that serve no beneficial purpose in your life?
  • Do you need to be guided through your narrow place, so you can find that place of light, expanse, and opportunity?

We’re all on a personal, spiritual journey that will take us through narrow places. We can make that journey a struggle or we can make it a life-altering climb. We can resist the benefits that change might offer or we can embrace the opportunities that liberation might hold. Sometimes, it is tough to make the journey alone. Always know I’m here for you. Sometimes a coach can help you see the light ahead.

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About Paula

I help other caregivers – both professionals and family caregivers – acknowledge their pain and learn to practice the many small skills of self-care that can sustain them through the challenges of wholeheartedly caring for others.

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