As I sit on my new front porch, the soft summer breeze cools my skin and makes me shiver a little bit. The rain is gently falling and I am safely sitting out of the elements. How nice it is to simply be free and let my mind wander and dream about life right now.
Lately, I’ve been trying to ground myself in my new reality: a new home that is way bigger than the one I left; a new literature class to teach in less than a month that has me scrambling for materials and research; a plethora of big and small tasks awaiting my attention, and a tight budget that has to stretch enough to pay off two mortgages, two sets of bills, groceries and weird odds and ends that keep popping up unexpectedly. I have to hold on to this rocking boat and wait it out and wait for everything to settle into a new normal.
Then, there are old feelings, old worries and old fears that keep creeping back into my brain. They’re mixed in with new feelings, new worries and new fears as well. It’s been hard discerning which ones are real, which ones are “obstacle illusions,” which ones need my attention and which ones I need to let go of. Throw in the fact that I have an overactive imagination and a very analytical mind and I sometimes am on the verge of having a slight anxiety attack at any given moment.
To combat this anxiety, I used to busy myself with “piddley-squat” ridiculous tasks and errands that had me running around like a crazed lunatic and feeling physically and mentally exhausted afterwards that I would take a nap and waste away a few hours and not have to confront my day (or my mind). I graduated from that bad habit to combining it with a burst of wild, creative energy where the end result was either interesting or a bust, and then I would take a nap and escape my day and my mind. Now, however, I feel a little more grounded (maybe it’s because I’m a bit older and a little bit wiser) and I find myself following “the flow” of my life a little bit more and letting go of any preconceived notions of what I should be doing at any given moment to escape my thoughts, worries, fears and anxieties.
I’m not a depressed person by any means, but I am hard on myself and I’m a perfectionist. My mind is like this devoted warrior to his quest: I want something, and I will work so hard to go get it, despite all of the obstacles. I think I can control every outcome in my life if I just think about it hard enough, work for it hard enough, or follow a specified set of rules and regulations well enough. But, life really isn’t like that. I had a crush on a guy a few months back and we had an amazing date and great chemistry leading up to and on the date. I opened myself up to all the possibilities that could come through this connection only to not have him on the same page as me. He dropped me. He walked away with no explanation and he left me confused and with hurt feelings. I mentally poured over everything I said or did that could have changed how he was feeling about me in less than one day’s time. I’ve been holding on to the idea of him and wondering when or if I will ever have a similar experience like that again with him or with any other man. I started worrying that maybe that was my one and only shot at finding love and I blew it for something I said or didn’t say, or that I wasn’t pretty or smart enough for him. I was using his rejection as a gauge for how every man is going to view me from here on out. I wasn’t willing to admit that it is his problem not mine and I can’t control his actions or feelings anymore than I can control anyone else’s on the face of the earth. And, I did start reverting into my bad habits again: running around setting up fruitless tasks, pouring myself into a creative frenzy and avoiding any form of acceptance of what is really happening in my life and instead let myself create damning thoughts about my life and my future. I was doing the same thing with money as well except that I was freaking out that I was broke yet still wasting money on fruitless tasks and expenditures and not reaching out or asking for help when the help was offered. In yoga terms, these negative playbacks are called “samskaras,” and act like the ruts and grooves in a stuck record that keeps repeating the same line over and over and over again. It’s only when we are willing to acknowledge and search for the truth about ourselves and look at our lives honestly that we can begin to break these samskaras and let the flow move us to our next destination in our lives.
I feel that awakening happened to me when I was in Ireland for 8 days this summer. I felt a sense of freedom in my mind. A complete letting go of the negative thoughts I told myself about myself and everything I perceived of as a failure in my life. I opened myself up to every moment and expected to be pleasantly surprised at any given time. And, by going with the flow and being in the moment, I experienced a widening of the mind and an opening of the heart that made me feel joyful and excited about all the possibilities that are awaiting me whenever I am ready to open myself up to them. I also chose not to fall into other people’s dramas as they were unfolding on the trip. I met someone on the trip who was on a quest to find her an Irish boyfriend and ease her loneliness and boredom in her life and was therefore acting absurd and desperate and was attracting men who preyed upon that type of desperation. I walked away from her and wound up meeting interesting Irish men for myself who enjoyed talking to me about literature, politics, culture, writing, music and life in general. I met another woman who was being bossed around by her friends while on the trip and told me her whole entire sad story while her friends were off on a small excursion apart from the tour. She tried to latch on to me and escape her experience instead of standing up to her friends. I listened, spent a lovely morning with her taking her on a walk and asking her questions about her life, and then spent the rest of the trip smiling at her and making pleasantries but avoided getting involved in her double talk about her friends behind their backs. Instead, I relished in the small amounts of my alone time on the trip and sat at cafes, in parks at pubs and people watched and soaked in the realization that I was in a country that I have dreamed about for a long time.
In those 8 days, I was open, happy and loving my life because I didn’t overanalyze or try to think of ways that past outcomes could have been different nor did I worry and fret about what was going to happen or not happen in the immediate or near future. Instead, I fully experienced each moment and held on to my belief and vision that this trip was going to be a fulfilling, meaningful experience for me. Then I let go of how I thought the trip should pan out in order to get that end result. All the other perks (and hiccups) of the trip revealed themselves to me when the time was right and for each experience, I was pleasantly surprised and realized I couldn’t have planned any of that out any better than what happened.
That’s when it hit me: why am I holding on to old habits and routines in my daily life that obviously do not function for me anymore? Why am I not living more like I did in Ireland? True, when we are on vacation we give ourselves permission to be more “free” because we consider it a break away from the societal expectation that life’s successes are supposed to be hard won and that we should be bogged down by the day-to-day grind and drama-laden moments of our daily lives. But, why does life have to be so hard or so melodramatic every single second of every single day we are not on vacation? Aren’t we inherently meant to be happy than we are to be miserable? Can’t I have love in my life without having to feel like I have to suffer from someone’s inattention? Isn’t it Ok to say “thank you” and accept money from your parents when they know you are financially responsible but are in a tight spot right at the moment? I’m not saying that anything worth having is going to always come easily into our lives or that we’re not supposed to do anything to get it, but we should work with a sense of freedom in our minds and an openness in our hearts. We should hold on to our visions that will create more happiness in our lives and let go of the minutiae, the melodrama and the “obstacle illusions” we believe need to be present (and to be controlled by us) in order to get what we want. That’s the dance. That’s the flow. And that’s the higher path I choose and I’m going to let my mind and heart lead me there.
For those of you who know about my 100 day creative writing challenge, this post is Day 18 topic: “Holding”.