Treasure Hunt

by Valerie Wilkinson

This is the year of my digging out.

Specifically, I intend to spade away:

Having witnessed too many failures of elaborate plans and lofty resolutions, I have set my goal this time simply to emerge.

Can I do this?

I stand here wide-stanced and sure-footed. The shovel trembles only slightly in my hand. I hold tight to the tenant that self-fulfillment is not selfish, that the only true gift I have to offer is my uniqueness to the world.

Can I give up titles, possessions, and viewpoints that I've worked so hard to obtain?

I hesitate, poking at the places where I had aimed to strike deep

What happens if I clear the debris and find nothing underneath?

I take a deep breath and breach the weathered surface. This is the year that I dig for worth not accumulation; the year that I pound the dirt until I find the glimmer of who I am. It is the time that I unearth my essence again and expose it to the light.

What if I find myself and don't like what I find?

I dig farther into the sweet, fertile loam. There is so much of value in my life, true value, abiding value. Watching my children form reasoned opinions and invest themselves in causes and relationships; the feeling of joy that overcomes me when my husband is on his way home; holding hands; spontaneous laughter; and the exhilaration when a thought or feeling finds perfect expression on the page.

I enjoy the movement and then—resistance, past perceptions, hard as stone and as difficult to penetrate.

Am I willing to accept that some of my best-laid plans failed? Or worse yet, that they worked—but left me cold?

Still I dig. I continue because I have experienced the power of authenticity, however briefly, like a moment of cool, refreshing respite in my life. There was a time, several years ago, when on a daily basis, my writing invigorated me, my involvement in charitable causes fulfilled me, and my gratitude for friends and family sustained me.

Life felt different then. Tasted different. Cashiers smiled. Drivers waved me in front of them on the road. My orders came out right at the drive-thru. I controlled none of these things and all of them. I connected to others simply by rekindling my connection to myself.

The recognition of this profound change came to a head one afternoon as I folded the endless piles of laundry generated by an active household of five. Instead of the usual frustration and dread, happiness overcame me. I stood there altered, full, whole, and thankful for the opportunity to perform this small act of kindness for family. Resentment gave way to appreciation. It struck me that we were blessed with clean clothes, a house with a dryer, and a life where laundry could be routine. I took extra care with the creases, smoothing out the wrinkles, inhaling the clean, warm scent.

How much of my life do I waste by taking it for granted?

Unfortunately, I didn't stay there long. I succumbed again to pressures and expectations, fell back into old patterns, slipped down into old ways. But I now had a beacon. I hold fast to that memory as I dig, longing for its grace, seeking the simplicity of its shelter.

I use that experience to quiet the voice of doubt. I use it for courage. I use it for hope.

What treasures can I discover simply by opening my eyes?

So I dig through layers, hard and settled as rock. There are no roadmaps here, no predetermined paths. Only the thrill of authenticity when I touch close to my heart. Which I guess, if I chose to follow it, would be the truest map of all.

I believe that a clearer image awaits me, that I can find a way to slow my life and retrain myself to take life as it comes. I'm not holding out too much hope about the laundry, but who knows?

I may again find joy in the warmth of clean smelling cloth.

BIO: VALERIE WILKINSON lives in Virginia Beach where she balances her time between family, work, and writing. She has written speeches for state and national politicians and has ghostwritten communications for business leaders, regional and international charities, and political figures. She is the co-author of Whispers from Our Soul: The Voice of Tahkamenon and is currently completing her second collaboration Mafia Madness: My Life under Siege. Contact Valerie at: v.wilkinson@cox.net

More Columns
Dhavan | Wolfe