Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fear Landscapes

"Becoming fearless isn't the point.  That's impossible.  It's learning how to control your fear, and how to be free from it."  --from Veronica Roth's Divergent.

I've made a decision.  It's an exciting one.  I want to simply feel excited about it.  However, this week, I watched anxiety and fear rear up as I tried to wrap my head around the logistics of my next move.  I watched myself lose the clarity that had led to the decision.  I realize that as much as I love new adventures, new possibilities, and new challenges...a big part of me is ready for a space and time to exist for a bit without "new" always being an adjective that I need to use.  It's coming.  It's just not now.  There is "new" waiting for me, yet again (and, yes, I know that there always will be, but I wouldn't mind a few things remaining more familiar).   I walked through my own fear landscape this past week (in which there is truly only one fear, but it's a big one):  a fear of choosing incorrectly.

I'm grown up enough to own each of my choices, but still childish enough to wish that I could have everything play out just as I'd like it too.  However, I'm also wise enough to know that the ride will offer up possibilities I never even knew existed.  Hell, the past few years have proven this to be true over and over again.

George Eliot says, "It is never too late to be what you might have been."  There is something about the phrasing of this statement that is not quite right for me, maybe because I would prefer it to say:  "It is never too late to be who you are," but I appreciate the underlying sentiment.

Here's to possibilities that we never knew existed; here's to recognizing that no decision is all right or all wrong, and acknowledging that if we listen carefully, we can move forward in ways that are more attuned to how we want to move in the world (literally and figuratively) than they might be otherwise.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sustenance and Awe

I heard silence this past weekend.  I saw expansive spaces inhabited by no humans.  I saw icy sculptures that nature had made glowing a luminescent blue.  I breathed deeply.  I was alternately terrified of the prospect that was in front of me and awed by it.  Now I am only awed (and deeply hopeful). Annie Dillard, in all of her brilliance, wrote:  "How we spend our days, of course, is how we spend our lives."  I've been thinking a lot, as I consider how I want to move forward in my life, about how I want to spend my days, and where I want to place my attention.  What I do know is that much of the man-made world is wasted on me.

If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name:  News From Small-Town Alaska was my airplane read as I returned to the bay area Sunday.  Heather Lende writes, "Wild places are reminders that the world doesn't revolve around us.  It doesn't care about our little successes or smashing failures.  The tides ebb and flow and the seasons change regardless of how we live or die" (p. 146).  It is with this in mind, that I reframe how I want to move through my "little successes" or "smashing failures."  I want to move through these in a landscape that alternately terrifies and awes me.  I have done a good job of grounding myself in a space that occasionally terrifies, but rarely awes me, and I'm ready to see if awe and comfort can exist simultaneously in my life.

Friday night, I sang along, as Ruth Moody sang, "Life is long, love, life is long...we have time, love, we have time."  And, Thomas Merton says, "Prayer may not be a conversation with God at all.  Maybe it is listening to that light inside you."  And maybe listening to that light inside each of us (whether we call it prayer or not) allows us to see all of the love and all of the time we have before us, while knowing that we are borrowing all of it, so we should probably go ahead and move toward what provides both sustenance and awe when we can.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Good Reminder

I spent last week in the plains of Manitoba in the midst of (I quote a life-long Manitoban) "the longest, coldest winter I can remember."  And, it's a land that I love, for no apparent reason (this love is especially confounded by the sub-zero temperatures that didn't let up, and wind chills whipping across the improbably flat landscape).  But, I think the validity of my perspective was confirmed when the woman I was working with said, "Well, you certainly can't forget you're alive when you step outside."  These moments when you're acutely aware that you are alive, and when there is no hiding from or obscuring this awareness, are particularly powerful.  And there is a singular kind of power in such a rugged landscape.

Tonight, after a yoga class that has my legs feeling like dead weights, I am reminded of this again, as I am in every moment when I am asked to hold a pose that shakes: accept the discomfort, and simply be with it.  And I continue to recognize that there are things I'd love to shy away from, that I'd like to move through without having to feel (and, yes, there are times that I choose to escape so that I don't have to).  These are the moments that are worth paying attention to.   Obviously, we can reframe our perspectives any time we want, but the best work might be in the attentiveness to what's is right in front of us.

I've been teasing out some notions of purpose.  I've been recognizing the spaces in time when I'm offering up all I have to a situation that needs what I have to offer; these are the ones that make me feel most alive.  It's not that the work isn't hard; the poses (whether on the mat or off) are painful at times.  But, they are so much less painful than simply going through the motions.  I'm a grown up enough to know that there are times when we have to go through the motions to get to the "next thing," but I am also aware enough of my own mortality and the presence of time to understand that too much going through the motions is a waste of a good passion (and a good life).

[Sadly, the BeeGees' "Staying Alive" has now lodged itself in my head, but I will move through this (a good example of what it might be okay NOT to pay attention to).]

What I do know to be true?  No one magically landed in a "perfect life."  No one magically had a trajectory that was devoid of challenge or distraction.  The people we see who seemingly have all they need and wanted?  Well, I'm pretty sure they worked their asses off to create that space.  They decided (and formatively assessed, adjusted accordingly, ad nauseum) what to attend to.  They decided what was serving them, how to exist in the spaces and places they chose, they owned their choices, and they moved forward as they continued to listen deeply to what they heard from themselves.  And, since they're human, I'm pretty sure that there are still some really challenging life-events to move through. I'm pretty sure not one of them said, "Oh, well, society said I had to do _______, and now I'm thoroughly satisfied with my existence."  There's a deeper listening going on.