I don't think I'd rather live in a different time. Well. To be honest, I don't think I have the stamina or the energy to wish for another time, to add that kind of dissatisfaction to my days. I'll admit I do miss the days of landlines and answering machines, old-school cable television, the fashion of the mid '90s, and the landscape before social media.
But maybe that's just my age talking.
We forget, in this be-dissatisfied-now, culture how many came before us. I sit at a desk once owned by my mother in college. Next to me is a rocking chair far older than either of us. How rarely I take comfort in the parallel presence of once-owner and object. How rarely I realize my space is inhabited with the warmth, the wisdom, and the blessing of those who have been through far more than I.
Sometimes the night seems made for catastrophic thinking, but if we can get some sleep--even a little--things are brighter, they shift, in the morning. Sometimes, true, only marginally so, but there's a pocket of paranoia and of panic that only exists in the deep night. Blessedly, most times it turns us out in the morning as if to say, 'See? You've seen the worst--now go and be grateful.'
Maybe that's all it wants--a little gratitude for its boot camp-style preparedness tactics. Either way, after these nights, it's with more heart that we welcome the light.
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
I can't tell you how many of the most painful moments in my life were buoyed by the poetry of Mary Oliver. I can't tell you how many of the happiest moments, most revealing moments of my life were spent reading her poetry. She inspired me to write in the first place, and she inspires me to get up and write every morning.
It is so easy to let setbacks pull us back under the bell jar we'd finally managed to kick over. It's so tempting to wallow in the comforts of self-pity and catastrophic thinking. That they're absolutely the opposite of constructive action has no bearing in the argument--they call to us as does a gallon of ice cream's cold comfort after a really terrible day.
And though it may physically pain us to say the words 'thank you,' in such situations, let me put it this way: that you realized a) there was a bell jar, b) that you were in it, and c) that, honey, you ain't never going back there willingly, is enough cause--more than enough cause--for great, luscious, high-decibel thanks.
At some point, the mantra 'I wish,' becomes exhausting--like throwing pebble after pebble into a well with the hopes that, one day, you'll fill it. It's a waste of energy and a dispiriting practice, to say the least.
Instead of 'I wish,' say, 'I am,' and fill in the blank--with something good, something worthwhile, something deserving of praise, even if you haven't bothered to praise yourself for quite some time.
It's easy to see the gloss on other people's lives, and it's so easy to wish for a little polish of our own. But I'll tell you this--I have no doubt they're singing the same tune as the rest of us--a human habit, and one we are powerful enough, clever enough, and rich enough to change.
Grace is our nature and oh, petals, is it ever hard to remember that. But when we do? The heart eases its attempts at escape and breathes, recalling the ease with which it came into the world, the ease with which it was meant to continue.
Whenever fear, doubt, immobility creep in, realize they're the trigger urging us to recall that, once again, we've forgotten grace; we've forgotten the truth of our nature. So we remember and we breathe until, once again, we forget.
The forgetting isn't important. It doesn't matter--it's what brains do. It's the recalling--the sweet relief of recalling--that makes the forgetting so valuable.
We arrived with everything we needed to be whole. Does that blow your mind? It does mine. Does it stagger you how easily we've forgotten that? Here's what I think: whoever and whatever came together to bring us into this world packed our little cosmic suitcases thoroughly and with great care. Is it their (her, his) fault that we shoved those cases under the bed, forgetting to unpack, forgetting, even, that they existed in the first place?
Well, the good news is that they're still there. The better news is that they've survived this journey intact. They aren't locked--they never were. We have had access to our own divinity, our own strength, our own resources all along. We can cut back on all this endless striving--we have already arrived.
Maybe everything is unfolding as it should for the resources we possess right now. Maybe we too often overreach or underestimate ourselves. Maybe we've been tired one too many days in a row. Maybe discomfort is not a nuisance, but a nudge urging us toward the chair, the bed, the teapot for just five more minutes. Maybe ten.
Maybe we need to be better stewards of these bodies.
And at the same time, maybe we don't have to read so much into every ache and pain, every shifting mood.
This is my weekly pep talk, the 'how can you doubt' talk. Because, while I do not doubt the capacity of your love, your hope, your tattooed-biceps strength, I do doubt mine. Most of us do, individually, maybe. It's that collective business that saves us. The women and men I know? Dang, are they ever impressive, are they ever inspiring, and when one of us drops back, drops out, there are enough arms to catch us, to hold us, to keep us moving forward even when our feet leave the ground.
So, no. There can be no breath for doubt, but when the inhale carries with it that hint of decaying hope, fall back and let the rest of us carry you. For now.