I wish things would just settle down. Be still for a bit so I could catch my breath.
I mean, I enjoy novelty and variety in my life. I don’t mind a little excitement, a little pizzazz. I’ve been known, on occasion, to stir the pot myself just to keep things interesting. But lately…
Lately, I find myself longing for calm patch. With nothing throwing me for a loop, nothing upending my big or small plans, and definitely nothing personal or global to make me question the nature and purpose of existence and shift the whole paradigm. Ease. Flow. Grace.
Of course, I know that it’s in life’s curveballs where we often experience our greatest opportunities for growth and transformation. Blessings in disguise. For right now, however, I want to say “thanks but no thanks” to all such growth-inducing blessings. If we could just hit pause on my transformation for a sec, that would be awesome.
Pause on medical conditions for myself and those I love. Pause on age-related anything. Pause on family drama. Pause on miscommunications that result in cascading upset. Pause on financial surprises. Pause on loss and grief.
Alas, it seems more and more to speed up rather than slow down. Life won’t keep still.
And I’ve got to admit that I take it personally, sometimes, and feel undermined by this whirling change, the constant motion, the ups and downs of it all. When the rug gets pulled out from under how I think things ought to be, it tends to erode my confidence, the strength of my convictions, even my sense of self. It’s hard not to feel like non-stop, unpredictable, shifting circumstances are subversions of my best intentions, relentlessly thwarting the life I’m supposed to be living.
Joseph Campbell reminded us, “The life you ought to be living is the life you are living.”
It’s really hard to to feel this when expectations go sideways. When the things we wanted to stay the same, don’t. And when the things we hoped to change, go in ways we didn’t anticipate. It’s so hard to remember that these seemingly unstable conditions are not the opposite of our lives or of the lives we ought to be living; they are indeed the very stuff of our lives.
Including the rough parts, the disappointments, the sadness, the pain.
Though we might wish for a moment of stillness — a still life — this is still life.
An essay by Tara Parker-Pope in the Well+Being section of the Washington Post last week offered that people are happier, more content, and more fulfilled when they practice approaching their weekends like a mini-vacation.
When I first saw the headline, I thought, “What weekends?” Then I sneered, “Like a vacation, that’s a laugh!”
I figured it was an irritating puff piece about falsely inflating something meager into something luxurious — like, “If you can’t spare the time or money to travel to a National Park, then have a fun family campout in your own back yard instead!” Pretend that these less-than-ideal circumstances are just as good. Fake it. I couldn’t have been less interested.
But the article kept popping up in my feed, so finally I caved in and read it. And it turned out to be surprisingly relevant. Because it wasn’t about what people did with their weekends. It wasn’t a matter of whether they ran errands or did chores or went out of town or planned a fun activity. It was, rather, about the attitude and attention they brought to any and all of these things.
The difference — according to a study by UCLA Anderson School of Management — was mindfulness. Being present. Appreciating the moment.
The people in the study who committed to treat their weekend like a vacation reported feeling more rested and refreshed, more happy and engaged, when they returned to work on Monday morning. This was true whether they worked in the yard, binge-watched a show, or went to an amusement park. The activities didn’t matter. What mattered was that they paid attention to what they were doing, and related to it like a choice, something valuable and worthwhile. Like a vacation, it was all “me time” and “free time.”
I suspect that we could exercise a similar approach to almost anything, to any aspect of our lives — not just to time “off.” Bringing attention, intention, and choice to our work as well as our play, to our obligations and duties as well as our freedom.
We could even bring it — our fullness of mind and heart — to our hardships and heartaches, to challenges and loss. Worth, value, self, choice…
Life isn’t going to keep still, but perhaps we can practice being still in it. Still in the sense of bringing poise and calm to it — giving ourselves the break of not having to fix, change, correct, heal, or evolve anything. And also still as in continuance, staying with it. Giving ourselves wholly to this moment, to these circumstances, to this life in all the bouncy, variable, boggling ways it shows up for us.
I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, March 5. Katie Gill will be our special musical guest! XO, Drew
©2023 Drew Groves