It's our default mode--hoping that each day will be different while assuming (i.e. BELIEVING) that each will be the same (i.e. dull, bad, difficult, pointless, etc.). In this way of learned beliefs, growing up is a travesty. It robs us of that ability to wonder, FOR wonder. It teaches us that everything is hard--not only that, it teaches us that everything is of panic-level importance.
But guess what--everything is NOT hard and everything is NOT important. Some stuff just IS--it's neither good nor bad, difficult or easy. It just IS. And other things? They're marvelous--more often than not (Yes! MORE often than not), as long as we leave ourselves alone long enough to realize it.
Our strident inner taskmaster is learned behavior. And you know, we don't even need to un-learn it. We just need to forget it. To shrug it off. To invoke teenage rebellion against ourselves and invite in the little things--singing too loudly, dancing a little too wildly (or dancing at all, come to think of it),...
Eventually, we've done enough work. Eventually, self-reflection mutates from worthwhile growth activity to guilt-induced habit, mourning everything we're not--and, perversely, everything we are.
Part of it, I think, is our fix-it, self-help society, and part of it stems from really, truly wanting to be the best version of ourselves possible.
But, you know, we've done the work. And despite the work, we'll slip, we'll do rotten things, and we'll regret them. We'll apologize and we'll keep trying. But those moments aren't the norm. Apologizing isn't the norm, nor is it necessary.
We're good people. We're hard workers, but we don't need to keep demonstrating that at every turn. We've done enough. Take us as we are--lovely and flawed and very much deserving of a rest.
We are so lovely, and what's heartbreaking is how rarely we realize it. Loveliness has nothing to do with age or genetics, products or clothing, size or stature. We are nature and essence, mineral and bone, color and light. We change with time, moment to minute to decade, and that transition is poetry, artistry. And if we can live the transitions? Actually reside in our impermanence, celebrating its ephemerality, well, we are unstoppable blazes of pure energy, and there is nothing more beautiful or more inspiring, than the awareness of abundance, and the possibility of constant creation and re-creation.
And yet, here you are. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) your plans, you're standing where you never thought you would. Whether that moment is now or past, we've all had it--the 'how on earth did I get here?' moment, the 'this isn't where I'm supposed to be' moment. We think there's something wrong with us, but what that's only our perception? What if the only thing 'wrong' is that we're so all-fired attached to some goal, some assumption we've created.
I always think of that moment in Reality Bites when Winona Ryder's character says, "I was really going to be something by the age of 23." And Ethan Hawke, in all his Gen X wisdom, replies, "Honey, the only thing you have to be by the age of 23 is yourself." That first bit? It always stuck with me--and I think it has to this day. I was really going to be something by now. Really. And somehow, over the years, I've conveniently forgotten the reply, the counter, the wisdom--amazing really, since I had such an all-out crush on Troy Dyer...
I already know how little I need to be happy, to be peaceful (in fact, less equals more room for peace). But it's so easy to focus on material stuff, because it's there. You can hold it, donate it, reform it, recycle it.
But what about the other stuff? The preconceptions, the judgments, the expectations, the anxieties, the uncertainties? We don't have to expect the worst, but we so often do (I so often do), because that's the default, just like it's the default to buy a bigger/better house/car/wardrobe with a step up in income.
But there's no rule telling us we *have* to define our lifestyle by a generous paycheck. Nor do we have to let our fears and cynicism ruin the simple structure of our days.
I don't know how many times I've told myself that I was just going to start asking for what I want/need, and not say yes (or no) when I didn't want to, not make promises I couldn't keep, or redefine the truth to make myself fit in.
Well, now I'm not only telling myself, I'm telling those...
You don't need to wait to be whole, to be here now, to manifest time or space or patience. You don't even need your own permission to tell this body that it's already home, that it's always been home, but it helps.
We're addicted to waiting--as much as we, as a culture, hate it, we can't get enough of it. It's inevitable that, if we look for it, there will always be something we're waiting for--an appointment, a birthday, a season, a weekend, a baby to be born, a haircut to grow out, a holiday, a deadline, a presidential election.
And for some reason we have this idea that we can't do *anything* else in the meantime but wait. No wonder we hate it--what kind of purgatory have we sentenced ourselves to? And it's all on us--no one has locked us here. Yet here we sit on our cold, hard bench in our cold, hard cell, desperate for some idea of freedom.
So here's the thing--you're already home. You're already here. You already have what you need to do your joyful work in the meantime. Yo...
It's hard enough to know yourself, much less to live comfortably, unapologetically in your own skin. I certainly haven't gotten either mastered, not even remotely. I feel as if I'm always apologizing for myself, for my arrival, my departure, my inherently rebellious nature that, apparently, is never going to change.
But what else is there? This is the arrangement of our cells, of our psychology and how else are we to live? How exhausting it is to edit ourselves, day in and day out, conforming and shaping and keeping quiet.
Well. Let's try. Let's try to live on and live up to the standards our higher selves set when we came into this world, to dance through our days to our own tune, never mind the melody that might already be playing.
What have you long left dormant that might be calling for a return? What gifts have you forgotten about, stashed in a corner of your very different life, that might be unearthed, dusted off, and reopened?
I think, as we get older, we forget that we don't exist in one dimension, that we have more than one expression, one passion, one life-long interest, one calling. When we are young, we experiment with everything--fashion, music, personality, hobbies, hairstyles. That's the gift (and the work) of youth.
But we don't have to remain the shape we've grown into. We can expand our boundaries to take on any shape we like, changing daily if it pleases us. We've forgotten that we were born with the permission to evolve, to improvise, to experiment, to return. We were born with the freedom to dictate not only who we will become, but who we will be at any given moment.
It's not about the perfection of the act or the skill, but the process of doing it, the delight in the physical experience. It's feeling the guitar strings under your fingers, even if you only know two chords. It's the singing, full throttle, in the shower with only the dog to hear you. It's not caring a whit what the guy stuck in traffic next to you thinks of your mad steering-wheel-drumming skills.
It's when we lose ourselves in the movement that we find our tune and the inspiration to play it.
I am allowed to change my mind. You are allowed to change your mind. We are allowed to change our minds. They are allowed to change their minds.
It's the most powerful permission we've been granted--to change our minds, to change our definition of ourselves, to change our passions, to change what it is we find important. And we can change as often as we wish--every day if that's what it takes. Because the most important thing is for you to be content with yourself.
But here's the trick and the hardest thing--love yourself as you are, even in the midst of change. Otherwise desperation, panic, and hatred will find you drawing hasty conclusions and taking paths that may look clear and easy, but bog you down in their sameness or, worse, leave you exposed and without shelter. There is no shame in stopping, turning around, and heading back the way you came, then choosing a new direction.