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My former partner and close friend shared an interesting story with me the other night. Its poignancy is rivaled only by its relevancy and synchronicity to my life right now.

In the late 1850s, the Mormon church began its construction of its world-known temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. As the foundation for that temple was constructed, the territory became embroiled in the Utah War. The sandstone foundation used for the temple was buried and plowed over to prevent federal soldiers from becoming curious about the construction. In 1858, when the tensions relaxed, the foundation was unearthed only to find the sandstone had cracked, making the sandstone quarried from nearby Red Butte no longer useable.

This meant effort to remove the unusable sandstone had to happen before a new foundation could be laid. It seemed all that initial work was for nothing, and it would take additional work just to get back to square one. This situation feels spot on to my life in 2022, and I imagine the daunting and exhausting feelings I’ve experienced were shared by the Mormon temple builders.

Many of my foundations cracked in 2022. Relationship. Job. My housing situation. Finances. My relationship to my kids and my body. My ego. My conception of masculinity, nice guy behavior, and even friendships felt off and no longer suitable to build anything on. The realization was devastating. Many nights and weeks were spent looking at the cracked foundation with a feeling of hopelessness and grief. Tears sprung easily and often. The job of rebuilding seemed too daunting to even start.

I was reminded of the African Proverb: If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must begin by moving stones today. The truth is, I didn’t have the motivation many days to even move a pebble.

So I began sitting with myself. A lot. In truth, that’s sometimes all I had the energy for. It was also the thing that felt the most uncomfortable. Outsourcing my significance had become an old, familiar friend to me. Like that mole on my back that I can automatically touch without looking in the mirror. Little did I know that sitting alone and forging the temptation to numb or avoid with women, alcohol, drugs, pornography, or food became the first pebbles. Then I began lifting the proverbial stones. Why was it so hard to be alone? What was I seeking in others that I wasn’t giving to myself? Why did it seem so important to be loved, seen, and validated by others? Moreover, why was this more important than what I thought of in myself.

I carried stones away in meditation, running around Liberty Park, and hiking the surrounding mountains of Salt Lake City, particularly when I decided to spend my 42nd birthday alone. I carried stones on the rock walls of Momentum, in heartbreaking songs, drum circles, ecstatic dance, men’s circles, consoling with my brothers and friends, and honest discussions and mirroring reflections as I tried to unsuccessfully enter into new relationship. I carried stones through a successful journey into the 75 Hard, and as I reconnected with my former partner and spent time unpacking and clearing our former container in an attempt to build a friendship once again.

As I sit on the back porch of 2022 and look back, I’m reminded of the movie The Shawshank Redemption when it’s revealed that Andy Dufresne was taking handfuls of the prison wall out to the exercise yard in order to escape his prison. The container of my life has been cleared out in small handfuls and there was no other way to do it. It was through this deliberate and intentional process that I could ensure that I was throwing away things that no longer served me, while maintaining or refining essential parts of my integrity. This is a practice of patience. Commitment to leaning in and feeling it all is not an intense but brief hand into the fire. It’s a commitment to living in the fire until all that isn’t you is burned out and only the vital parts remain. I’m leaving 2022 with a mountain of things that no longer serve me. They certainly taught me, strengthened me, yet ultimately have become stones meant to be turned into dust and returned to the earth.

Having a hollow pit dug out can seem vacant and lonely. It doesn’t provide much refuge. Here’s what’s exciting about it. Similar to the experience of the Mormon pioneers, having a cracked foundation isn’t all for nothing. Experience in quarrying sandstone was gained. Skill in how to efficiently cart new stone was refined. Knowing the best pieces to include in a new foundation becomes second nature.

2022 stripped me to the bones. I am no longer in fear of what that feels like. Therefor, I do not act out of fear or desperation. So, the pieces I place in my life’s foundation become deliberate, intentional, and well crafted blocks in which to build my castle. There’s also this extremely sublime feeling that’s come over me. The structures we build in life are not the true masterpiece. The way in which we build and rebuild the structures are the true masterpieces. I infuse this excitement as much into every block I place as I do with every block that I reject with the inane knowledge that it’s not meant to be a part of my life’s palace. This empowerment becomes the mountain I’ve spent so much time moving. This new map and blueprint did not come cheaply; so, I move forward into 2023 with a precious new outlook on exactly what I want to build and the quality of the blocks I intend to build with.

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