I awoke this past Tuesday morning from a very strange dream, most likely rooted in seeing too many previews for the new movie the Hobbit. In the dream I was traveling with a group of dwarves and an elf - picture the ones from the movie and you'll get the idea - when suddenly there was some sort of attack and everyone was knocked out. The earth began slowly growing over each inert form, seeming intent on pulling them down completely, but before the process was complete another elf appeared and woke his sleeping/enspelled kinsman. In the dream I heard a voice saying "They are never forgotten who have family to search for them, and so this one will be reborn again." Then I woke up, but with a strong feeling, not only of the importance of the ancestors to us, but of our importance to those who have passed. This was something of an epiphany for me, because I had previously tended to see my relationship with the ancestors as one where I looked to them not one where they depended on me.
My first clear thought on waking was "If I died today how would my children remember me?". I have spent much of the day thinking about that, and about something my husband said to me in a conversation the night before; when I expressed concern about the way I decorate our house being too overtly pagan (being worried that his family and friends feel uncomfortable) he told me not to be a "closet witch". I had never thought before that I was or would be any sort of closet anything; in fact I had prided myself on how open I was with my spiritual choices. It was a wake up call to have him point out, in a supportive way, that I needed to be proud of who I am.
So I have been thinking about all of these interconnected things, about the way our ancestors need us, about how my children think of me, and about how I change myself for other people. I truly believe these are all related thoughts, because each comes back to the idea of leaving a legacy worth being remembered for. I can even divide them up by past, present, and future - what my ancestors did to earn a place in my memory and devotions, what I am doing with my children and how they will remember it, and what I am doing and will do to shape my life according to what other people expect my life to be. What my ancestors have done cannot be undone or changed, and it does affect how I feel about them now and who I focus more on. What I do now with my own children becomes that same set-in-stone past tense, and I am suddenly aware of how precious each moment with them as they grow is. And I realized that it truly is my choice to live for my own happiness or to live to meet other's expectations. I am weaving my own legacy, strand by strand, from my choices and actions.
When I look at the past several years I see a life out of balance. I went to college and am within 6 degrees of earning a bachelor's in psychology. I wrote six books. I started blogging and have tried to post 2 to 3 blogs per week, and now I also blog once a month for a local faith and values website, as their only neo-pagan blogger. Two years ago I was teaching at local and regional events, and this past year have been teaching locally. I've been a guest on 2 blog radio shows. I am raising two children, one with special health needs, and am married, as well as participating in or running several spiritual groups. I am clearly a very driven person and I have absolutely no idea how I find enough hours in the day to get this all done.
But what legacy does it leave? I have no interest in being well known, only in sharing what I know with those who might gain from it, so am I achieving what I want to achieve? Am I giving my children childhood memories of me that are worth cherishing, or am I just getting through each day? Am I doing what I want to do, being who I want to be, or trying to please others? The reality is that I am pushing myself way too hard to meet the perceived needs of other people, rather than simply enjoying my life. In the past several weeks I have been struggling with some health issues that require me to rest; I am failing miserably. I no longer remember how to rest or relax, or simply not do anything. I fill every moment with something, and not always something that is good for myself or my family. And this is not the legacy I want to leave my children at all.
I am starting, right now, to change how I do things, what I do, and to get my personal priorities in line with my actual desires. I am seeking balance, trying to remake my life - now - into what I want it to be, something that will be personally fulfilling and worthy of remembrance and honoring when I am gone. In short I am trying to live in the moment, knowing that this moment is only a breathe away from being the unchangeable past and deserves to be spent in the best possible way.
What will your legacy be? Will your life end with satisfaction with how you lived it, or regret for focusing on the wrong things?