We can learn about ourselves in many ways, by doing all kinds of things. We learn by interacting with people, by taking on new roles, by doing different kinds of work. But in my life, sitting down and being with me–not distracting myself with music, or books, or TV, or screens, or my thoughts–has been the hardest, bravest, and most rewarding.
Each time a big change comes in my life, I have a tendency to focus on loss instead of gain. The loss of time, the loss of comfort, the loss of mental space.
I’ve learned in recent years that I can try to do everything right, that I can think my way to what I believe is the “right” solution, and yet it doesn’t always get the intended results. So my goal for now is not to think my to the next stage, but to feel my way. Explore the way a baby, or a toddler, or a child does. See what I can do only by embracing the possibility that I will fall, and that falling won’t kill me.
But I’ve learned in the past few years that my desire to make my situation ideal hurts instead of helps. Underneath the desire for “perfect” is a lack of acceptance for who I am. It’s a refusal to recognize I’m human and there are going to be times where I don’t feel I’m measuring up. That the whole focus on measuring up to some illusory self leads to deeper dissatisfaction, and pulls me further away from joy.
At certain points, I can’t hold the postures. I pause, look around the room and inch closer to the door where there is the smallest sliver of air. The class continues with my mind darting in different places. I negotiate with my limbs.
I suspect the changes that result from our pivotal life experiences are like the rhythmic interplay of swimmer and aquatic environment. We arrive fearful or expectant. The effects of our first tentative efforts ripple outwards, altering the frequency of our surroundings. We get feedback. We adjust.
There’s an assumption I sometimes have that the internet will connect me to all that’s worthy and real, that somehow life—and all the answers to go along with it—exists on a brightly lit page I can scroll through. When I’m in a good routine, I know with great clarity that this isn’t the case.
Like most people, I am neither famous nor rich. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve looked for more concrete ways to step out of my own world and into someone else’s. Often, I’m not sure I’m making a difference, though I hope to – either through organized community efforts or by simple gestures, spontaneous and unexpected.
Yesterday, my kids finished up school for the year. I’m surprised how much this ending affects me, how much it feels like yet another year zoomed past our eyes, how quickly the moments of childhood pass. Soon enough, my seven and four year old will be graduating high school too, going off to college or other, more independent stages of their lives.
It can happen in a split second, or as a slow dawning. It happens when our histories collide with the present. When it arrives, it’s unmistakable, indelible.