I have been struggling with a quiet sadness for a while now. It’s not constant. It’s more nostalgia than sorrow. It pops up at surprising times – while walking into town, or sitting in the pew at church, or driving past mothers and children on bus stops. It is the vague ache of missing daily life with my now grown kids. Like leaves on a tree in autumn, we would be wise to hold each of life’s stages lightly. Even the sweetest times draw to an end. We are invited to gratefully let go of what was in order to step forward into the riches of what is next. This is not easy.
Being sick is a lesson in letting go of control. KABLAM! Your body has taken over. It - rather than your plans - is going to be in charge for a little while. I don’t know about you, but this can be really hard me to accept. I resist, I push, I chafe in mostly futile efforts to keep going, to stick to the plan, to stay on schedule. Which only makes me feel worse – physically and mentally. What makes me feel better – perhaps the only thing that makes me feel better – is letting go and surrendering to reality: I’m sick and I need to act like it. I need to let my body lead the way, even if where it is leading me is straight back to bed on a blue-sky day.
As a recovering perfectionist, yoga and meditation have been powerfully healing. Richard Rohr writes, “If there is such a thing as human perfection, it seems to emerge precisely from how we handle the imperfection that is everywhere, especially in ourselves.” I'll confess to being a little tweaked by the idea of one day being able to handle my imperfections perfectly. Lucky for me, my practices continue to give me a zillion chances to surrender to just how out of reach even that teeny-tiny chance of perfection is.
When an old friend smiled and said, "Life is being very lifey, isn't it?" he packed loads of wisdom and mindfulness into a five letter, made-up adjective. Lifey is a skill we can practice. When we accept that life is being lifey, we are able to maintain the same even keel when when our kid is injured, or our parent is sick, or we’ve lost our job, or our partner is leaving us as when we’ve gotten the promotion at last, or when we’re head over heels in new love, or when the kids are all getting along. A perspective of life being lifey, in good times and hard times, holds life lightly; trusts that life will change; and understands that life is a series of moments – all of which can be relished.
My husband went fishing over the weekend. He loves this annual trip, and his excitement makes me happy. I will confess that just the thought of having the house to myself for two whole days also makes me happy. Or at least it used to. This time was different. Or maybe it was me that was different. Rather than relishing my time alone I was a little astonished to find I was lonely. It turns out that as my life has changed, so have I. Going forward I will change the way I approach these weekends home alone so that they are a happy break that "who I am now" rather than "who I once was" will enjoy.
Fun is, in a shocking twist, FUN! As someone who loves to work, and who loves her work, discovering pickleball has been a lesson in fun that feels really important. It is good to take a time-out – to hop and bounce like a kid, to focus on something silly, to play with friends, to set aside goals, growth, and gains for some good, old-fashioned fun. Anyone want to play with me?
Having kids in their twenties feels like someone has installed a revolving door on my home. No sooner does one move out than another moves back in. Each time the door spins I feel a surge of resistance to all this change. With practice I am slowly learning to to trust the revolving door of my life - to release my natural resistance and choose instead to welcome each change.
What do you wish you c/would start but can’t/won’t because you are daunted by how long it c/would take you to do it? What if you took a good, hard look at whatever deadline you’ve created in your head for this thing you want to start and gave it a kiss goodbye? What if you decided to shift your focus from “done-ness” to doing? Rather than being focused on the finish line, could you choose to celebrate the fact that you’re doing what you wanted to do? When your inner narrator says (and s/he will), “This will take forever! A lifetime!”, what if you were to choose to reply, as you show up and do the thing, “Luckily a lifetime is exactly how long I have.”?
One of the hardest thing for us humans is not knowing. For me, the process of allowing new information to rearrange stories that have been mine for as long as I can remember can feel a lot like standing up after sitting cross legged for too long. Though it hurts to move when my legs are asleep, the only way forward is to press gently and slowly through the resistance of my body. Once I’m moving again, I always feel better. (Same goes for the mental process, by the way!)