6Soule.2Tonight Denise and I will spend the last night in our home of nearly a quarter century.

We will undoubtedly raise a toast with firelight dancing from our woodstove one last time. A few tears may come. I expect we will sleep soundly with the solace of having put all of ourselves into this expanded Cape, into raising and holding our children through thick and thin.

Preparing to take a new leap, I am reminded of the quandary—and opportunities—many of us face when standing at life’s crossroads.

We may not want to be here. We may long for more certain times, old routines, and loved ones and friends who are gone.

Yet it is precisely at this juncture, in this vulnerability, when so much is open to us.

Infusions of new energy and stepping out of our ruts. Finding new meaning—even when struggling to overcome unspeakable pain.

Rededicating ourselves to people and causes we believe in. And recommitting to our partners or community—and perhaps to our highest ideals, our higher selves.

“It’s better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness” – Confucious; also attributed to Adlai Stevenson paying tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1962.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find that when facing such a juncture, you notice more people doing parallel things around you?

Others about to take big steps, even leaps of faith. Daring to reach more people through service. Striving to improve themselves. Or activating for a better world, however they define it.

Part of what intrigues me as a writer is the juxtaposition of what may seem like opposites when we’re at these crossroads. Fire and ice. Whiskey and wine.

Two parents who lost a baby daughter to SIDS commited to funding research and grassroots education for the next 25 years. A recent widower who is a reflexology practitioner dedicates herself to easing others’ pain as she applies pressure to specific points corresponding to certain organs and systems.

David Paine, co-founder of 9/11 Day, a day of national service and remembrance, is among the people I admire in this light.

Paine, whose story is featured in my forthcoming book later this year, embraces silver linings in a toxic haze. He feeds off the apparent paradox that in the grand scheme of things, events that are perceived to be punishing crises become transformational opportunities.

“Great beauty and compassion live side by side with some of the worst things imaginable,” Paine chuckles. “It’s odd that good and evil are so closely intertwined, and sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the two.”

In a related context, thought leaders like Dr. Brené Brown have helped dispel the myth that our vulnerability is a weakness. Brown, author of Daring Greatly—which a friend recently introduced me to—explains how vulnerability “is both the core of difficult emotions like fear, grief, and disappointment, and the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, empathy, innovation, and creativity.”

Vulnerability is a crossroads of sorts. One we should not distance ourselves from—if we’re searching for a higher purpose or fulfillment.

Embracing silver linings in a toxic haze.

I find myself marveling at the bookends I recognize at such intersections.

In our case, the obvious one is how a new start arises from the sale of our house. Another is that as we prepare for a new chapter, we just learned that our son is negotiating to buy his first home, expanding the foundation for his life in a far away city. In addition, other family members who have long deserved their own place just received word that their future, too, looks bright.

Tonight I’ve still got more boxes to pack.

Our daughter, a professional illustrator, has long since gathered up countless drawings in her bedroom. Gear and toys from our two sons’ childhood, cleats, skates, and K’nex and Legos, have been sorted through.

I can cry when coming across some of my older son Michael’s things—a soccer trophy, a dusty team bag that still carries a remnant of his sweat. I will pause before we leave, looking back towards the woods that once enclosed us with the crust of life’s toughest winters.

Open, wounded, and anticipating, I can then go on.