Root Menu

Gary Wilson

A Self-Portrait

When I was a kid, I loved to get lost in the woods. I would hike out, intentionally disorient myself, wander about, and then begin the discovery of finding my way back home again. What I didn’t understand then, and have since come to realize, is that through my play as a child I was preparing myself for the exploration I would undertake as an adult. I was acquiring the necessary skills for an adventurous journey, and fostering a relationship that would serve as the primary nourishment for my soul. I guess you could say that I have taken the old adage, “Not all who wander are lost” as a bit of a personal motto. Maybe so...at least it is particularly fitting for me in my life right now.

Nature is where I go to reconnect, to settle in, to feel the rhythm of life and my place in it. I think I realized it consciously for the first time two years ago on a thirtieth birthday trip that I took to Hawaii. I was hiking with a group as part of an adventure trip on the island of Kauai when it hit me most succinctly. There was a moment during the hike in which I stopped and realized that there was absolutely nowhere else that I would rather be. I was completely content. Now granted, the island is a gorgeous and awe-inspiring place, but it wasn’t so much the scenery that provoked this response as it was merely the essence of the experience. It occurred to me in that very moment that nature had always been my anchor. It is where I feel most whole and authentically myself.

Whenever life becomes too hectic, my mind is cluttered, or big decisions need to be made, I have always turned to the solace of nature. When the events of 9/11 shook our country and the global community to its core, I left the office and went directly to my local state park. Recovering from alcohol and drug addiction in my early twenties, I bought a mountain bike and took to the trails so that I could be alone with nature. My adventure trip to Hawaii was my way of announcing to the creative powers of the universe that I was ready for a major change in my life. And change followed six months later, when I left a well-paying job and the security it provided behind in order to follow the callings of my heart. This rite of passage was dedicated by my spending a couple of weeks communing with nature in the desert southwest regions of Colorado and Utah.

There is definitely a wild and adventurous side to my personality. What I have learned over the years is to direct that energy toward more positive ends. As a kid, I was just plain rascally and always into something. I would do just about anything. Dare me to jump from the window of a two-story building; I’d do it. Play football with the big kids; absolutely. That was just the kind of kid I was: lots of energy and a willingness to stick my nose into anything. I was fearless, I guess you could say. As I got older, rascally turned more into mischievous. Sneaking out of the house, “borrowing” cars without a driver’s license, and mildly terrorizing the neighborhood were all done in good fun. It was when the parties began in high school that mischief morphed into a full-fledged teenage unruliness.

Being a teenager is hard. Things are rapidly changing: psychologically, biologically, relationally. There are existential questions, explorations with the opposite sex, religious skepticism: all psychic forces cascading down upon the fragile ego. The biggest factor in my revolt against authority came from a growing disconnect with the religious affiliation of my youth. I felt disillusioned by the fundamentalism of the faith that had been handed down to me. As a child, I had loved the Church and taken it more seriously, probably, than most kids. As I entered my mid-teen years, I began to realize that some things just didn’t add up for me. I took this very personally and decided that if I could not commit 100% to a relationship with the Divine, then I would not have one at all.

My partying started innocently enough, but the shadow side of my adventurous/extremist personality raised its head as time went on. It started as fun and recreational, but spiraled into habit with consequences. I was one of the lucky ones though. I had family and friends that cared for me and reached out to me. Addiction was rather apparent when I would come home and hear my mother crying and praying for me, and all that I could muster in the way of emotion was apathy and numbness. I never wanted to hurt the people around me, but selfishness always wins out with addiction. My thirty-second birthday is just around the corner and I will have been sober for ten years. I look back now and it seems hard to believe that was even me. I understand myself much better and can accept all of the converging forces that contributed to that time in my life, but it is still hard to believe. I have come a long way, and I am grateful for the journey. It has been a wild ride, for sure.

I feel rather boring these days. I guess it is mostly because I am not in a relationship and haven’t been for the past year. The uprooting my life took when I left my job, and vocalized my intent for being with the world in a new way, has brought me to this place of wandering. And I’ve been wandering alone. I feel it has been necessary, but I have also lately begun to wonder if I am hiding from commitment as well. Intimate relationships have always been a challenge for me. On the one hand, I yearn for the connection and joys that a loving relationship brings; and yet, on the other hand, I feel like I cannot muster the energy for it unless I really feel drawn in.

In recent years, I have given up. I don’t mean this in the way that I never plan to be with another woman, but in the manner of turning it over to something greater than myself. I feel like when it is time, it will happen. Things have always worked out this way in my life. I have learned that when I let go of trying to force the issue, then things unfold in their own natural way, and I am usually better off for it. For those who are not as “feeling” oriented as I am, they are probably dumbfounded by my way of entering into things. It is impossible for me to explain, but it is the navigational tool that I trust.

My maxim is “Intend and let go”. I get into trouble when I start thinking and analyzing too much. I am learning more and more to trust my feelings and use them as an internal compass. If relationship/marriage means entering into an arrangement then I do not want anything to do with it. Maybe I am caught up in some romantic ideal, but I do believe that there is a soul-connection out there for me. I need deep connectedness in a relationship that goes beyond compatible personalities and mutual interests. Soul connection through the eyes and heart is what I am holding out for. I do need to be careful, though, of withdrawing libido altogether and assuming a holding pattern for the “love of my life”. I don’t subscribe to failed relationships. I think there is always something to be learned, or just plain fun to be had, for god’s sake. In that same breath, there is also something to be said for being comfortable with alone time. Wandering is usually characterized as being without company, and that just happens to be where I am today.

I had a consultation with a Vedic Astrologer about six months ago. He told me there would be someone in my life, in terms of marriage, but not until around thirty-eight years of age. He also told me that is when my “real” career will begin. I have seen two separate astrologers, one Vedic and the other who combines human genetics with the I Ching, and they have both floored me. With a date, as well as time and place of my birth, they both proceeded to describe aspects of my personality and periods of significance in my life with alarming accuracy. Truth has a remarkable quality to it. It penetrates and hits you where you can feel it. While I do not hang every decision on astrological signs and advice, it has informed and served as a wonderful tool in my life. And for that, I am thankful.

Growth and transformation excite me terribly. Where I live is experiencing an urban revitalization, and I am just compelled to drive around the city and watch the changes occurring. My own transformation would probably be more quickly realized if I were more disciplined. (By transformation, I mean in terms of personal growth and development.) I am doing some triathlon training now and my ineptitude at swimming has led to a realization. I have never been disciplined enough to excel at anything. I am good at many things, but not great at anything. This realization hurts me physically to express. I have gotten away with doing things “well enough” my whole life. I consider myself successful in the endeavors that I have undertaken, but it causes me to wonder what my potential would be if I ever really dedicated myself 100%.

I just finished my first semester of graduate school and am pursuing a degree in mythology and depth psychology. I was a business undergraduate student, and worked in mortgage lending and banking out of college. Starting over gives me the opportunity really to dedicate myself to my soul’s calling. That is why I left mortgage lending: it was just a job, and my heart was not in it. I regard it as a very important part of my life; a critical chapter in the book. Some people drag on a chapter well after the reading has informed or entertained. I am just fearless enough, innocent enough, and crazy enough to walk off the edge into the unknown. It is crazy really...mythology? How does one make a living with that background? That is always one of the first questions I get: “Well, what are you going to do with that?”

But that is what we are taught, after all. Get a job that pays whether you suffocate in it or not. Live the American dream. And I say this with tongue-in-cheek. I am not a basher of capitalism or people wanting to do well for themselves, and their families, by any means. But I can speak from my own experience. I had the car, the house, the vacations, the 401(k), and it was all very nice, but the end did not justify the means for me anymore. Underlying all of the successes and enjoyable experiences, there was another life that was still deeply yearning to be lived. The time had come to move on. I have always felt that my life’s work would in some way be aimed at helping and encouraging in others some manner of inner transformation. I have found in mythology a dialogue that speaks to that end.

I am excited about my adventurous journey. I know that I am in the right place at this time. I have been asked, “How do you know?” Gut feeling has a lot to do with it for me. But I also know that the more aware I am, the more available I am to inner confirmations and outward signs, the more help there is to direct me along my path. Friends, allies, and cosmic winks and nudges present themselves if I am attuned to it. Emotional reactions help as well: “good” and “bad” ones. Part of my process in this most recent life transition has been about feeling emotion again – really feeling and embracing emotion. I have cried more in the past twelve months than I had the previous thirty years. Not so much tears of depression, but rather tears of gratitude for a connection to a larger fabric of life, of which we all are a part. The tears have flowed from a place of openness and sincerity to something greater than my own ego-centered self.

I think it is important for us men to at least touch this side of our selves. I know that I was emotionally clogged up for a very long time. This doesn’t mean that I am crying at the drop of a hat now, but I am certainly relieved to have some level of access to the emotion. Many things have opened up for me in this wandering place that I find myself in. In many ways, I feel like a toddler learning to walk all over again. My world is the same, and yet it is quite foreign. Through my independence and varying accomplishments over the years, I have gained the necessary confidence to think that everything will be okay. I know that the right opportunities will present themselves. Just like when I was a kid, I always found my way back home again. It could get scary at times, but I always managed, and then couldn’t wait to go out and do it all over again.