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🏞 Coming Full Circle
Circumambulation, second chances, and third times as charms
I’ve been unable to send out a newsletter for the last few weeks because of some urgent family-related travel and commitments. I wasn’t able to write even though there was much to inspire: unexpected kindnesses, peacock calls against pencil-thin outlines of distant blue hills, butterflies the size of tiny birds weaving doggedly in and out of heavy traffic, and dragonflies flying close to the ground to let us know rain was on the way. To make sure future newsletters go out on time, I have now learned (!) to write ahead of schedule. Thank you for your patience!
I’ve been thinking about circles and how, occasionally, we find ourselves back where we started, experiencing a kind of full-circle moment. It’s as though life is offering another turn at an opportunity. Will we react the same way this time? Will we take action, and if yes, will we make the same choice?
One of my all-time favorite novels about a kind of second chance is Jane Austen’s Persuasion. Hero and heroine meet, fall in love, and get engaged to be married. However, the heroine's family and friends disapprove, and one of them, with considerable influence over her, persuades her to break off the relationship. The story is about what happens when the two meet again years later.
It makes you wonder if some life opportunities invite us to be a different version of ourselves. That what we weren't ready or able to choose the first time, we have now developed the awareness and ability to reach for.
In my life, I see this most obviously in my relationship with writing. As a teenager, I wrote poetry, short stories, and essays. But, even as my life revolved almost entirely around writing and reading, I didn’t realize how important they were to me. At 17, I put writing away to get on with real life. The two things that stand out about the years that followed (where I did almost no writing at all) are a kind of rampant disconnection and un-belonging, and yet having no idea why that was so.
I stumbled upon writing again in my late thirties. It felt like a new discovery, and almost as soon as I started writing again, I experienced my first moments of quiet joy. But it took me another decade - and another long break from writing- to understand that writing was essential to my life, as important as breathing.
This repeated coming together, separating, and returning to this thing (writing, or whatever draws you towards it) feels like some elaborate Edwardian-era dance or a kind of circumambulation. The word means to circle on foot especially ritualistically (Merriam-Webster) or the act of moving around a sacred object or idol (Wikipedia). I’m familiar with the concept because of my cultural background (India) though I’ve also read about it in Jungian psychology- the circling there is around the self. It can act a breadcrumb trail towards realizing a more whole sense of self, what the Jungians call individuation, the task for the second half of life. In my case, you could say had I only realized I wanted to be a writer, my life would’ve turned out differently. I might’ve started early and accumulated a recognizable body of work. I might've been more successful. You could say I might've gotten my life right from the beginning. Because while we insist life is about the journey, as humans we also try to get it 'right' and as early as we can. But here’s the thing- what if this beautiful dance is what life is about, and not about getting it right or solving or reaching some illusory happily-ever-after?
“I began to understand that the goal of psychic development is the self. There is no linear evolution; there is only a circumambulation of the self.”
―C.G. Jung,Memories, Dreams, Reflections
I’d love to hear from you!
Which area of your life have you experienced full circles, second chances, or third times as charms?
What are your thoughts on circumambulation?