The idea of an invitation is so alluring, so beguiling. On some level, most of us would like to receive one – written, verbal, or oh-so-enticingly non-verbal – to feel that sense of acceptance, welcome, and calling, and to be included in the things transpiring around us. As aloof as we may sometimes feel, as independent as we might aspire to be, as uninterested as we are in gaining the approval of others, an invitation still has the perceived power of bestowing on us a kind of validity, a validation that we really are here, that we belong, and that we are recognized as being of worth.
When I first thought of the word “Invitation” today, two things came to mind.
The first was the perennial question: “What are you waiting for, an invitation?” As commonly used, it often serves as a wake-up call to action, directed at those who are perhaps a little too slow to pitch in or get involved in what obviously needs doing right in front of them. As such, it can have the feeling of a rebuke.
But it also seems like a good question to ask ourselves whenever we might be holding back in life, whether out of fear or unfamiliarity or a sense of not being quite ready yet. Being ready for things is good, and so is a sense of preparedness. But they can be overrated, too. When taken too far – as all of us are capable of, if we’re honest with ourselves – this instinct to hold off, to “sit this one out,” or to refrain from fully living until we feel fully ready to live – can keep us from all kinds of wonderful experiences. At the extreme, it might keep us from our destiny, or from telling the ones we love most in the world how we really feel about them.
Even far from the extremes, holding back often means missing out on valuable experiences that have the power to thrill us, empower us, and help us to learn and grow. There’s nothing wrong with not doing things simply because you don’t want to do them; there’s nothing wrong with saying “no” when you know in your heart that saying “yes” would mean overextending yourself or committing to doing things you don’t really care about, don’t believe in, or that don’t actually feed your soul and make you a better person. But it isn’t always an easy balance to find, and sometimes we can end up convincing ourselves that we’re being practical by waiting – by holding back – when in reality we’re just trying to protect ourselves by maintaining what we mistakenly imagine to be a safe distance from life, the world, other people, and our own inner yearnings.
The truth is, of course, that no amount of distance or feigned disinterestedness can protect us, in the end, from suffering “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or from experiencing the myriad hills and valleys inherent in this existence. Choosing to remain on the periphery of things is still a choice and, like all choices, it has its own innate ramifications and consequences. I struggle with this myself, this often-too-fearful instinct towards holding back. And I know that my creativity, my sense of self, and my engagement with life can sometimes suffer as a result.
The other thing that came almost immediately to mind when considering the word “Invitation” was David Whyte’s wonderful poem “Everything Is Waiting for You,” which I’ll share here.
“Everything Is Waiting for You”
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
The doors in our lives – the ones we open and go through, the ones we willfully ignore, and the ones we run away from – have “always been there to frighten you and invite you.” And to join “all the birds and creatures of the world” in being unutterably ourselves sounds like a beautiful invitation, indeed. The call, in this sense, is coming from almost every angle, and we don’t have to look far to see and receive it. The world itself serves as an evergreen invitation to come more fully into our own lives and into the amazing world that surrounds us, with all its sorrows and all its joys.
From this angle, the question “What are you waiting for?” is already itself a kind of open, standing invitation, although we might have to get quiet to hear it.
We all have an invitation. We are all called. If you haven’t yet perceived the invitation for yourself, maybe you’re looking in the wrong places, or looking to the wrong people, or – as I’m often guilty of myself – expecting your invitation to come as a thunderclap when all along it has been hidden somewhere in the quiet breeze blowing by your window right at this moment. Or this one.
So: What are you waiting for?
Posted in response to the WordPress Daily Prompt: Invitation (https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/invitation)