temporary/towards

1. Everything is temporary, this is true for both pleasure and discomfort.
Winter, deadlines, childhood, travel. Notice and celebrate big and little change. Flowing between exertion and rest.

2. Unknown things are always moving towards us.
People, lessons, experiences, discoveries. Think of what might *right now* be coming our way. What are we calling towards us? What is being drawn? How will it change our lives?

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Deep end of winter

We are almost to the solstice. Thank goodness. Its so dark and so cold. Everything is more complicated: the driving, the dressing, the getting people anywhere. It seems like it came on fast too. We jumped right in the deep end of winter.

I’m ready for the days to start stretching. For the daylight to hold out longer in the evenings so we can lay in our snow fort and watch the sky turn from blue to pink to indigo past supper. I’m ready for the blank calendar of January. The wide openness of it.

And yet. Winter is so good for remembering how to sit with discomfort. How to go slower. How to roast things in your oven. Its good for practicing sitting in the dark and focusing on flickering, sparkling things. And squinting to make them sparkle more. It’s good for thinking about how weird it is to be human. How much we need each other to survive. How good it is to go from brittle, to soft, to fluid. To sit and notice how brittle things hold the light.

A couple of weekends ago I drove down to Mayo clinic to visit my dear friend. Her dad was there for surgery. The whole drive down it was below zero temperatures. The day was clear and bright. Every tree beside the highway was bare and completely cased in ice: perfectly, beautifully fragile.  Brilliant.

I played in the snow the other night for a few hours. Until my mittens got soaking wet, just like when I was a kid. We were building  this snow fort and I could just imagine how it would come together. I was explaining the temperature of the snow to my kids, how certain weather makes better building materials. You need warmth and moisture to get good pack. Cold and dry for good, firm ice. We worked until our fingers and toes were numb. We worked until it  had a good foundation and enough height to protect us from the wind.

Then we came inside and peeled layers off. Boiled water. Took turns sitting by the furnace vent, thawing, talking about what we will do next, depending on the weather.

This is what it is like to be human.

Things I have to do today

Buy lightbulbs, clean the toilet, type notes up from the meeting, make sure people know where to park, feed the fish, wash the dishes, wash the sheets, read a few chapters of the book, RSVP, figure out dinner, go for a super long walk, do some writing on that idea, sort those papers, get back to those people, make sure the kids get the shampoo out of their hair this time, talk to the teacher about nature badges, research the inherent tension in activism and self-preservation, look at the moon, make my mother-in-law tea, visit with my neighbor, kiss my family, sing really loud in the car, make giant plans, make shopping lists, get the down comforter ready, draw with ink on good paper, recycle, take the library books back, contemplate leadership pipelines and barriers to success, connect with strangers on behalf of friends, get things ready to burn, prioritize, put things on a calendar, negotiate peace, listen really well, encourage positivity and using nice voices, make sure people feel seen, get seen, see things that blow them away, see things that teach, get people to talk, to imagine it fully, to imagine what the light will be like when they’ve arrived, measure things accurately by goosebumps and chills, admire the way that people learn, notice how brave they are – doing things they might not want to do, clap really loud, yell some, wrap my arms around people, know love, give love, remind people of love, remind people to keep going. Keep going. Remind people to rest. Rest.

What if your only assignment is pleasure?

Last year at this time I moved to Italy with my family. It was amazing and horrifying. I brought a few freelance clients who agreed to work remotely. About one month into our time away one of my projects got quiet and the other project had a staff change where we decided not to transfer my contract.

So I was suddenly free from work for a few months. More horror.

What would I do? I had been counting on the income. I had been counting on the stuff to keep my mind busy. I had been counting on the continuity with  home  to ease my transition back after our year away. I had been counting on feeling ‘normal’ so that I wouldn’t notice I was changing everything. Who would I be without my work? 

That night I met a wonderful new friend at dinner. She asked me how things were going and how we were settling in. I told her I was worried about not having any work to do.
For a few months. In Rome. 
When my family was busy with their school/projects. 

She looked at me like I was insane. Then she asked me this question that I have been wondering about for the twelve months since:

“What if your only assignment is pleasure?”

It seemed totally radical and felt just wrong. I was so habituated towards feeling worthy and good and important and helpful. I didn’t think I had worked hard enough to rest yet. I didn’t think I had earned it, it wasn’t MY work that got us to go on this trip. I believe deeply that I have been lucky in my life, so I should immediately and always be working on behalf of others. Who did I think I was to enjoy myself?

Underneath all that I realized: I didn’t think I deserved pleasure. 

Now when I say pleasure – I’m not talking about hedonism or greed. I’m talking about ease, joy, time and freedom to listen to your heart. To trust the universe as innately good and trust yourself as an intricate part of that universe. What happens when you have permission to relax into that? What happens when you do things just because they bring you joy? What happens when you notice how simple and beautiful things are around you? What happens when you drop the struggle and the urgency?

What if YOUR only assignment is pleasure?

decide

You think they don’t like you. You think they’ll never hire you/invite you/pay you/respect you/listen to you/love you. You think they are too rich/too poor/too old/too young/too out of touch/too in the know/too trendy. You think it won’t happen. You think you haven’t put in enough work or haven’t got the right training or don’t speak the right language or possess the right charms. You think there isn’t enough money or enough time, its too early and its too late. You think you don’t have the right experience or friends or background or network or personality. You think it won’t happen. You think things can’t be good, surely the other shoe will drop soon? You think its dangerous out there. You think even though you did this or that, you still need to do this or that to be seen or known or successful or accomplished or safe or powerful. You think that if you have come this far everyone is going to try and take it away. You think they haven’t worked as hard as you have, suffered as much as you have. You think the world is broken beyond repair. You think it won’t happen. It can’t.

You think its possible. You think that everything is trying to help you grow. You think that even if they don’t get it, they are trying to understand or doing their best. You know they want you to be healthy and happy. You feel seen. You stand and stretch. You feel heard. You know there is room for you and you begin to share your gifts. You think of time as something to fill rather than something that is running away from you. You think of challenge as opportunity. You think its starting, you think it actually began long before now and you are lucky enough to carry it forward. You think there is plenty and more. You feel it pushing you forward and lifting you up. You expand into it. You listen to your gut and speak from your heart. You gaze at the wonder around you: so much wisdom, so much courage, so much mystery, so much to learn, so many stories. You start connecting the dots and holding everyone around you up. You want to give back. You think the world is imperfectly beautiful and you are so lucky to be right here, right now.

How to sit

You are in a constant state of change. Your body is regulating breathing automatically, you don’t have to think about it. You sweat, blink, get hungry. You don’t have to think about it. The human body is super smart. It is absorbing and processing and regulating so much. So much more than what is controlled by your thinking mind.

Yet – your thoughts become real. Your imagined fear signals a physical reaction into fight or flight. Your stress response gets coded into your cells. Those habits of thought become real impairments that affect the beautiful machine that is your body.

You need to learn to turn it off. Turn off the thinking or turn it down. Notice who is thinking. Are you thinking or are you observing the thinker? If you are able to observe the thinker, then who – may I ask – are YOU?

Notice time and how it is affected by both thoughts and breath. Slow your breathing. Breathe deeper. Notice that thoughts are just thoughts. Watch them float away.

Sink into the space between this and that. How long can you rest here?