I came upon the below quotation a few years ago, and the idea – the simple truth of it and the feeling of hope it gave me – affected me somewhat profoundly:
“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”
Of course, here I sit four+ years after first reading it, and I still feel pretty firmly entrenched in that “becoming” place.
It just feels sometimes that my “becoming” time has lasted for a pretty long while.
“There is a calm I haven’t come to yet. I’ve spent half my life figuring what comes next.”
~from “Disappear”, by R.E.M.*
In low moments, I worry about this – a lot. I worry that I’ll never get to the place I want to get to. I worry about what feels like an endlessly meandering path, and the obstacles on it, and (worst of all) the plateau periods.
I’ve spent the first part of 2016 on another worrying jag about all of this, in fact.
When this happens, I feel the weight of all the things I wish had happened differently or that I’d done differently…of the choices I wish I’d made in a different direction…of all the myriad ways I could have handled myself and my life and the people & challenges in it better.
And it’s very easy when you’re caught up in that to lose sight of how very far you have in fact progressed. And I’ve definitely been there these last months too. Not consistently so…but it keeps coming back to hammer at me.
Of course it does. How can you remember to notice the good things when you’re so busy lighting fires under your own feet in some vain attempt to MOVE? All the while berating yourself for not doing a better job.
“I’m headfirst, fighting everything – the crushing force of memory erasing all I’ve been.”
~from “Disappear,” by R.E.M.*
It’s not a very balanced way of looking at life. I do see that – even as I struggle with it. Judging yourself for things you did (or didn’t do) in the past is, to put bluntly, just stupid. The reason you’re judging, after all, is because you’re wiser now. And how did you attain this wisdom? By making the mistakes in the first place! By living your life – warts and all.
And who’s to say your “mistakes” were even mistakes? Maybe you did what you had to do to learn…to grow…to attain a certain perspective that you need for some future happening you can’t even imagine yet.
Just because something was/is painful doesn’t mean it isn’t right – or, at least, that it got you somewhere right.
And then, of course, there’s this to consider:
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”
~Pema Chodron (via Twitter/@ZenProverbs, 12 March 2016)
I need to tape that one up somewhere I can read it every day.
I think (when I can pull back and contemplate this, separated from nerves & anxiety, etc) that part of what I need to achieve – like, as a life goal – is the ability to hold steady against the pressures (self-imposed as much as imposed from the outside) to live in any other way than what’s best for me. That means making my own mindful choices – and progressing from there at my own pace.
I don’t have that skill down pat yet.
“There’s skill in how you fight to keep living towards the light…You can’t be free until you’re ready.”
~from “Folk Song Melody,” by Maria Taylor**
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the fact that, when I was younger, I confused dreams and goals. I think a lot of people do. I think it’s very easy to do in our results-driven society.
When I slip back into old patterns of thinking, I still confuse them, even knowing better these days. And that’s the root of a lot of my anxieties/worries/stress.
It’s like a thread that is very easily tangled – this “dream” thread and “goals” thread. And when I’m not vigilant about keeping them properly separated, I make trouble for myself.
This is the definition of them that I need to adhere to:
“A dream is something in your spirit that you need to produce, say, or do. A goal is what you think the manifestation of that dream is. People feel like they fail when they don’t reach their goals, but sometimes your goals are only a rung on the ladder of figuring out your dreams.”
~Jedidiah Jenkins, via The Great Discontent, March 2016
I like that.
But I’m slowly learning to be grateful for my moments of anxiety and doubt. I’m realizing that they’re the emotional equivalent of doing a yoga pose and hitting a really, really tight muscle – or running up against a pose you simply aren’t able to get into yet. When you reach that point of blockage, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed or that you’re “less” in some way. What it is is a big, bright signpost, pointing to an area you need to give some attention to.
And knowing that, you can give that attention. You can work the problem (stretch the muscle, practice the pose, etc.) And maybe you’ll never do the pose perfectly (or who knows…maybe you will!) But you’ll definitely grow beyond your current level – and that’s when you can make the real strides forward. That expansion beyond where you are or where you thought you could get to is everything.
Yoga is interesting in the way it parallels life in this way. But it’s really about mindfulness.
“[Y]ou are in the desert. So immerse yourself in it. The desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact, anything on the face of the earth will do that. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of the desert.”
~Paulo Coelho, in The Alchemist (pg. 127)
This sums it up:
“All of life is a meditation.”
So I guess what I’ve learned so far in 2016 is that 1) I appear to be in some kind of perpetual state of “becoming.” And that 2) That just might be a very good place to be!
“I know what I am chasing. I know that this is changing me. I am flying on a star into a meteor tonight. I am flying on a star.”
~from “Uberlin,” by R.E.M.***
This post is essentially a long-winded way of saying that I’ve turned some major corners in the last six months or so – some personal, some professional.
And it’s a means of acknowledging that all the dot-connecting and such I’ve been doing in regard to that has totally inhibited my blogging for the last month. (I just realized it’s been an entire month since I last posted here!)
And it’s not just blogging. I haven’t been doing any photography either. I in fact haven’t so much as picked up my camera in the last month, until this past weekend. That is a state of affairs unheard of for me!
But I seem to be coming out of my cave now though and into the sunshine a little bit. Here I am blogging today! And on Sunday I went to a local botanical garden looking for signs of spring – camera in hand. 🙂
It was a pretty overcast day – and despite the fact that they’re saying the cherry blossoms are nearing peak in downtown DC, here in Northern Virginia, things weren’t looking that advanced.
It was still worth going though. The hunt for buds was half the fun! (I love Spring!)
These are from Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, in Vienna, VA.
I’ll conclude with the songs I quoted from above.
I’ve been on a pretty heavy R.E.M. kick lately. Those tend to come upon me once in a while, but it’s been some time since my last one. Maybe that’s why this one has grabbed me so hard.
*R.E.M.’s “Disappear.” (I especially like the Unplugged version – but I can’t find that one on YouTube. This one’s good, too!)
**Maria Taylor’s “Folk Song Melody.”