A Web Portal For Lesbians Of Color

Walking The Labyrinth Of Life

A.D. Odom

Back in the late 80’s when this Type A personality run amok crashed and burned in the dessert of despair; I, then the agnostic/atheist, turned to God and asked a simple question: Why?  Why were my legs taken from me?  What happened to my Midas touch?  Why?  Asking God questions such as these brings to bear an almost certain scourging of the soul.  What I did not realize prior to asking was the depths of despair I would eventually reach before rising again, more aware and more conscious than I’d ever been.  The phrase “be careful what you ask” is poignant and lies very close to my heart.  It hastens me to contemplate carefully the questions I ask and to equally accept the consequences that may be brought to bear. 

Labyrinths have been around for many years and are found in just about every major religious tradition in the world.  They have been an integral part of many cultures such as Native American, Greek, Celtic and Mayan. The Hopi called the labyrinth the symbol for "mother earth" and equated it with the Kiva. A labyrinth is not a maze as mazes have dead ends and trick turns. A labyrinth has only one path leading to the center and back out again. There are no dead ends. 

The most common design is the seven circuit. When you walk a labyrinth, you meander back and forth, turning 180 degrees each time you enter a different circuit. As you shift your direction you also shift your awareness from right brain to left brain. This is one of the reasons the labyrinth can induce receptive states of consciousness. It can also help to balance the chakras.

My walk through the labyrinth of life, my life, has been filled with wisdom, hard knocks, and beautiful, clarifying vision.  For many years since my initial question of why, I’ve walked many times through my personal labyrinth exiting each time with wisdom and yes, more questions.  The last three years of my life have been spent in the center of my labyrinth.  Each time I moved to exit, spirit begged me stay and stay I did.  Now, spirit has released me and as I begin my walk through the circuits out of the labyrinth for this stage in my life, I have found my vision has become ascetically clear – I just am, life just is, and the king truly is naked.

Last month’s commentary was an assignment of sorts, delivered to me from my friend Theresa who passed last month.  Theresa wanted me to be honest with myself and with my words.  She felt I could do nothing for anyone unless and until I was first honest with myself.  This lesson in honesty started with another commentary in which I discussed butch/femme.  In the final hours of her life, she felt compelled to correct me and have me look at myself, my life, the who of me and rediscover who I really am and who I’ve become.  She urged me to not forget a single lesson learned over my lifetime and to remember each one intensely and then, sum for her the lessons I learned this past year since Christine’s death.  Theresa and I never had a relationship like the one we developed during the closing hours of her life.  Honesty was always first and foremost in our prior relations, but this time honesty was unveiled.  It was her unveiled honesty that had a profound impact on me.  Her honesty was the period for the end of an elusive sentence I needed to begin my journey out of the labyrinth. 

Through our many conversations, I came to the conclusion that I am neither butch nor femme, I’m probably more androgynous than previously thought, and I could actually dress either way and I have done so.  Theresa aptly noted through my commentary that I had begun to erect stoic and hard walls of ideologies that were inconsistent with my personality.  She always saw me as a free spirit who rejected anything resembling bondage.  She was right and I was very uncomfortable in the place I found myself.  I realized it was through my words, the words I used to bring comfort to Christine that caused me to build the walls and develop prejudices.  The question, “why?” still hangs in the balance for me and I must always question my intent with everything I do.  Another lesson learned is words are powerful and can be used to enslave others and yourself. 

Theresa made me reflect on a number of things past and present and one thing in particular stands out, the lessons animals teach us.  We talked about the time when I lived with Paula and the menagerie of animals we had – two Doberman, two cats, two parakeets and a goldfish.  What she really wanted me to remember was the effect of death on the animals we had.  Airy, the bad budgie was what I used to call her, shared a cage with another parakeet, Gilly.  Gilly was a sweetheart, but Airy was quite the cantankerous little blue budgerigar.  She loved to fly up onto my shoulder, stick her little head forward to look into my eyes and sidestep as close as she could to my cheek, then she would lean back and clip a strand of my hair and watch it fall across my shirt.  If my hair was pulled back, she would repeat the same little procedure only this time she’d lean back and go to town with my earring – a most mischievous little budgie.  The day Gilly died, there was a terrible commotion going on in the cage and I could hear Airy chit, chit, chitting away.  I think I was busy doing something at the time and couldn’t immediately go look.  When I was able, I remember walking into the living room and not seeing a single bird in the cage.  As I stepped up to the cage, I found Gilly sprawled on the floor of the cage and Airy sitting – literally sitting – next to Gilly on the floor of the cage.  When I reached into the cage to remove Gilly, Airy didn’t rush to jump on my finger as she was wont to do when she knew she was getting out and she didn’t peck at me.  Instead, Airy gave me a look of shock and disbelief as I picked up Gilly to remove him from the cage.  I’ll never forget that look. 

Thor did likewise one summer afternoon.  Paula and I used to keep the garage door open for the dogs when they were outside so they would have a cool hideaway.  One day Thor started barking in the back yard.  He ran back and forth from the garage, to the side door where he rang the doorbell (yes, the dog discovered he could hit the button on the side door and knew it made a noise inside the house), and returned to the back where he would resume his high-pitched bark.  I got up when I realized this had to be something serious and when I looked out of the back window I saw Thor pulling Brownie from the garage.  I ran out and found the telltale signs of a stroke – Brownie had a stroke and Thor was trying to help her.  I picked up Brownie and brought her in the house where I soon discovered she was not going to recover from this one, she was paralyzed on one side.  The whole time, Thor stayed very close to Brownie panting horribly and refusing to drink.  Brownie kept sliding across the floor and would stop to look at me as if to say I can’t move – I can’t live like this.  Every time she stopped and looked at me, Thor would let out a yelp, spin around and almost sit on top of me as if to say “do something.”  There was nothing I could do.  Paula and I ended up putting Brownie down and I think they both realized it had to happen.

After I left Chicago, Paula called me to tell me about Thor.  Unfortunately, my big, bad 100 pound plus Doberman developed Cardiomyopathy and had to be put down.  Jeremiah, or Miah as we called him, was a Siamese cat who was a little scary around people and the sweetest little thing.  Typically, he would flee under the bed when company arrived and would only reemerge after company left.  On this day, Paula called the vet to the house because Thor’s heart was failing and there was nothing more the vet could do for him.  Miah actually sat next to Thor the entire time they waited for the vet to arrive, through the euthanasia, and right up to Thor’s final moments.  Miah stayed with Thor, with the doctor present, until they removed him from the house.  I guess he wanted to say his goodbyes. 

Animals develop bonds with us as they do with each other, across species, and their losses are simply stated – I love you, I’ll miss you, goodbye.  Missy, our fat Calico, loved herself some Thor.  They were partners in crime.  She would follow poor Thor around the house and when he finally sat down to let her give him a little loving; she would bump against him while throwing her tail up toward his face.  He would just sit there with this “I feel cheap” look on his face and let her continue until she had gotten enough of him.  They were a funny duo.  I fear we complicate life with our words and give very little credence to our hearts, our emotions, or the soul.  We play games with our own minds when animals simply love. 

Just as the animals were close to one another, I too was so close to both Christine and Theresa that sometimes I displayed the same crazy and irate behaviors and, in the end just as Miah, all I could do was sit by quietly and wait.  In the past few weeks since Theresa’s passing, I’ve thought about so many things like why did she and I go back over so much history?   And, Why was Jamilah at her house?  Jamilah and I go back 20 plus years, why was she there?  Why did I have to hear her voice again after all these years? 

The answer, I suppose, was to remember.  We needed to clear the air and confront her anger and I needed to hear her words.  I needed to remember a love so beautiful it was poetic.  I needed to remember her voice stirred and moved me in ways I never felt before or since.  I needed to know our relationship was the closest thing to perfection.  I needed to remember the passion and essence of her; the passion and essence which I’ve been chasing since and I needed to hear her laugh once more.  Unfortunately, I was much too young to realize it then and I let too many superfluous things get in the way of our relationship.  The answer, I suppose, is to remember and to never let anyone or anything get in the way again.  I needed to learn to listen and pay attention.

Our walk through the labyrinth of life is a personal experience. How one walks and what one receives differs with each walk.  Some will walk to clear the mind and center. Others may enter with a question or concern. The time in the center can be used for receiving, reflecting, meditating, or praying, as well as discovering our own sacred inner space. What each receives can be integrated on the walk out. Our walk can be healing and a very profound experience or it can be just a pleasant walk.  Each time is different.

My walk through the labyrinth these past seven years have been a quest for wisdom.  My pause in the center the past three years have focused on the profundity of life and death, the relationship between time and space, and our own frailties.  Life, as you know it today – or more appropriately, this minute – can change on you in the blink of an eye.  We should neither take a single minute of our lives for granted, nor should we take a single person, animal, entity in our lives for granted.  We will never know what lessons they hold for us if we fail to pay attention to them – particularly for me since I still have a question hanging in the balance with even more answers to come – Why? 

The final lesson has been my failure to seize some opportunities that have come my way, sadly, because I wasn't paying attention.  For the next someone who comes into my life, wherever you are, whoever you are; know I will not make the same mistakes of my past – I will pay attention and will not allow superfluous little things to get in the way.

C'est la vie.