“She’s so nice” “almost too nice.” What the hell does that mean? From childhood we are nice girls when we help mommy and are not too rambunctious or loud. Nice when we are using our imagination on domestic endeavors. I’ve grown up being called nice and the good girl. The dependable child. Always available, helping with minimal complaints or drama. How did this disposition become so ingrained into my identity that I don’t remember where it originated from? And when did I choose to embody the spirit of nice? I was in a long-term relationship in my early adult life. I played by all the rules and was proud of my accomplishments and all that I did and strive for despite my challenging upbringing. But I gave away my power so easily. Particularly to my partner. And I still have this tendency in my marriage. The weight I give him takes precedence over my own beliefs and interests. If I speak up, I feel selfish and like I’m being self-centered and there’s something wrong with me for voicing my opinion and concerns. I’m making waves. It’s always easier to just play along, go with the flow. But soon the scenery changes And the calm river is now rapidly moving towards downfall and I lost my footing, my way, my own heart’s calling and loving what I love because it fits me. I am cast off. So I need to make waves if anything for survival and self-preservation. I am not going to lie there without taking an active role. But these feelings of I should just go along, it’s easier than using effort when life can feel so exhausting. And “we have to choose our battles“ but then I’m left with a shell of what could’ve been.
They say I must fit a certain mold to be acceptable in society to be fit for love to be lovely and desired. They say I must be at least 2 inches taller if I want to fit into regular size jeans instead of my petite ones. They say I must cover up my tattoos in order to fit into a corporate business world. They say I must color my grays if I want to stay looking younger than I actually am. Who understands me but me when I look in the mirror and apply eye repair cream to keep a youthful appearance and crows feet away for another day. They say I must shave my legs and balk at the sight of a stray hair. Who notices but me. Am I my worst critic or is society hounding me to contort to fit into a mold that was not shaped for me or for any individual for that matter. Yet we must if we want friends if we want to stay employed if we want that paycheck. Put on a little lipstick and wear some heels. Who understands me but me when I wear flats and thank my toes and feet at the end of the day for holding me up and taking me where I want to go. Who understands me but me when I see the start of white grayish roots and comb my hair to cover it over until my next hair appointment. Who understands me but me.
When I am still and quiet my mind, I take a look up at the grand sky. If there are clouds they often take shape in my mind’s eye. There is a dragon with its pointed tail and craned long neck. There is a bird with wings that seem to engulf and span across the whole sky above me. I feel so little like I’m a worm in the earth about to be gobbled up as prey. Then I see sea creatures. Mermaids dancing with their magical tails as fish clamber around to find their own space. I breathe deep. I try to share what I see. My favorite times are when my mind is busy and away with thoughts and then I catch just a glimpse of the sky and the cloud is shaped like a heart. Finding hearts randomly around nature is my symbol. I’m always grateful of the reminder that I am love and loved whether it’s the cloud up above like a large heartbeat in the sky or the dried up and grayed gum on the sidewalk that shares a similar shape or the lotion just pumped onto my palm. And the heart makes me smile and pause for just a brief moment. That’s all it takes really. Though the clouds and heart shapes may disappear, the image is contained in my mind and my heart. I am grateful. Alive. I am not so small. When I am present with the sky or the sidewalk, I am in awe and connected to the universal magic that is always surrounding us.
My pink bike with the banana seat was my most treasured Christmas present. I couldn’t wait to take it for a spin with the training wheels. We had a long driveway perfectly safe for learning balance and feet coordination. Never veering too close to the busy street. My mom‘s attention to help me learn was unwavering.
Soon the training wheels were a deterrent. I couldn’t go as fast as my strong capable legs wanted to go. My older brother’s mongoose bike mocked my wicker basket with the burgundy flower while I took my doll for a slow ride.
The training wheels were removed. Fear: Can I do it? It was no longer up to my mom to teach me. I was on my own for the first time. And it seemed to come to me so easily, so natural like riding a two wheeler was a birthright. So I rode grooves into the driveway.
Oh, the places I’d go if only in my imagination. Especially during those long summers when we had nowhere to go. I went on adventures to places in my dreams like Rocky Point or Disney. Places I longed to go. My imagination held no bounds or borders. I could come and go as I pleased.
Here there was no map only the compass of my mind and heart. We were free. A first taste of independence and proof that I was more than capable to learn, grow and expand across the wild imagination of my mind.
The moon greeted me this morning. The upper half was overhanging and slant in the blue sky. What does she balance on above that empty space? Pure magic Pure belief that she is held and so am I. There is no doubt Only trust. I too want to feel that blind leap of faith that an invisible net will catch me before the fall. The lure of the illusion of groundlessness is strong And I try as I might to truly believe like the magic of sea water in a glass. The salt settles only if it is absolutely still. Then it can embody its true nature. There is only one way and that is to act. It is a mean trick that fear plays; that I’ll appear a fool, hurt myself or others. I want to let the magic kiss me on the cheek and be that darling I know I am. There is only a door that is blocking out the light and the night. There is no view or glimpse of what beholds on the other side. I can grab ahold of the doorknob pry it open as the hinges squeak and creak adding to the mystery. Now all I have to do is step over the threshold of my mind and take that leap. To be moon’s darling in day and night. We dance as one in our exuberant embrace. There is no separation no fear to interfere with this serene space
If I only had five years to live:
I would let the small things go: That argument with my husband; that misunderstanding that eats at me when I get quiet; that car that almost rear-ended me as they sped through the yield sign. It doesn’t matter. The annoying sound that usually puts me in a tailspin when I’m trying to focus. I will let it go. It won’t become an ingrained memory that I look back on. It’s not a part of my legacy.
My mind and energy deserve more than this. If this is all I got, then I’m making the most of it. I would cherish and savor all the moments. I would linger a little longer outdoors no matter the season to slow down and touch the ever-changing ground as it goes through its seasonal cycle. I wouldn’t hurry and live in my mind of to-dos and being driven by tasks and lists, which leads to a hurried, stressed out, overwhelmed, rushed, fatigued day that beads into weeks and a lifetime.
I will seek out to experience life to the fullest for each day is truly a gift. I will be grateful for my loves and my life lessons. My time will not be squandered. Do I want to travel while I still can? Do I want to get caught up on what matters most? Conversations with my friends. Walks with Jeff. Coffee dates. An easy morning to set me up for an easy life.
In the end I know it will feel brief. I will wish I had more time. But ultimately I will feel fulfilled and that I had a life worth living. That I sought out my own happiness and didn’t get caught up in dread, fear, worry, or future tripping.
The future is uncertain. We do not have a timeline or our lifeline set in stone or guarantees of when and how it will end. We just have today and our breath and our hearts to beat. I will be here taking stock, creating memories for my loved ones, feeling that my time and energy is focused on what truly matters to me. At least with this choice, I will feel whole and complete.
I want to thank my husband for challenging me to think and blog about this topic. His blog is here: https://amorereasonablemind.wordpress.com/ If you were told you only had five years to live, how would you choose to spend your days?
Future tripping is not really a gamble but the stakes are our very lives.
The future lives in the unknown and sometimes we get that dopamine hit like the lever of a slot machine. Will today be my lucky day? Will I go pro or go home? So we go outward, discarding the mundane and instead wishing the day away to a future point.
We end up not appreciating how good we have today: Our lungs to breathe. Our hearts to beat and pump. Life force coursing through our veins. Our loved ones here today to share a meal or a hug. To think it will be better or I will feel complete or more organized/fit/healthy/alive in the future makes us miss the target. The point is that today is all we have.
Dreams and goals are important and we shouldn’t dismiss them and not have them. Just don’t let them crowd our vision of today. What small steps can I take today? What future do I envision? Why does it hold power and energy or attention over right now? What can I do this very moment to bring that vision closer to my reality? Ask questions. Take stock. Be still and listen to the guidance.
Is wishing away the potty training stage and loads of laundry that goes with it worth not being present to see her smile? Her full sentences form, her blooming creative play, her, “Momma, play with me?” This is where I am and the future is uncertain. Someday it will go by all too fast and be a distant memory. Today I’m in her life. We share the same roof and space.
I can wish the clutter and loud chaos away or I can see the bigger picture. We have the means to acquire all these awesome toys that allow us stretch our imaginations and connect with each other. I can witness how she’s finally grappling with her own body cues to use the bathroom on her own. And as in all learning, there are missteps and accidents happen. And I don’t want to miss it for a moment.
Hedging our bets on an unknown future robs us of what is happening in the here and now. I will breathe and I will play, if only for today, because that’s where I live.
We all walk around with a little trauma in our back pocket. Sometimes we forget it’s there. Sometimes, unbeknownst to us, we pull it up and it’s in our face without any warning. How we experienced the trauma is individual and unique: what happened, how we dealt with it or didn’t deal with it, our own personal experience of the trauma. We were innocent one moment and then the event rocked us to the core and that is something we all share.
We’d like to pretend it never happened to us. Why talk about such negative things that don’t affect us now? The event shaped us whether we’d like to admit it. We can choose to acknowledge this trauma that we’ve been carrying around for far too long. Perhaps we’ve grown tired and exhausted from the heaviness of that burden. And it has metaphorically created a hole and fell out of our pocket. However it happens, the opportunity lies before us.
Do we quickly scoop it up and bury it once again? Do we distract ourselves and hide it, ignore it or stuff it? Or can we just for a moment accept our common humanity that trauma unfortunately happens. It’s a part of the journey of life. But it doesn’t have to control us any longer. It happened, for sure. It sucks. Who wants to rehash unpleasantries?
But once we acknowledge our common human experience, our trauma, something shifts. Our burden lightens. We see that we are not alone in our suffering. It is okay. We are not justifying what happened, but right now in this moment can we feel safe? Can we take a breath? Can we sit with this feeling for just a few moments?
Here’s what I would like you to do right now. Don’t engage in a dialogue with the trauma. Just be the listener. Write if it helps you to sort out your thoughts on paper. Treat yourself gingerly, with the softness and tenderness as you would a small infant. You were innocent when it happened through no fault. Can you see what “trauma” is showing you? Is there a message? A nugget of wisdom that you can explore?
When you’ve listened to what has to be said, put your hands on your heart and just breathe for a minute. Counting breaths helps. I like to count to 10. One, inhale; one, exhale. Two, inhale; two, exhale, etc. I promise you any fear, anger, or other strong emotion you feel will dissipate if for just a moment you can let it out. It’s been bottled up for too long.
The shadow is my constant companion. We are connected at the “sole.” We are together on this journey called life. My shadow warps and changes shape in response to the light. She may grow as long as a tree or seem to disappear beneath my feet. But nonetheless we are tethered whether I like it or not.
We all have a shadow side. So why do we collectively try to snuff out the darker parts of ourselves? My shadow is forever patient and steady. I may ignore her and go about my day or pretend she’s not there and distract myself from her message. She is ready even when I am not.
What is the light? It’s who I project myself to be. It’s my high points, my bright genius side. I can wrap the light around me like a blanket or hold it close like a soothing cup of tea. I am held in its warm embrace.
But sometimes the light is too much. Blinding even and I fear I will lose my footing on the path. My shadow will always guide me back, shield my eyes, and give me that necessary reprieve to regroup. The shadow is my retreat from the spotlight.
We need both the light and the shadow. We can’t have a shadow side without a lighter one. And we need not fear one and idealize the other. They can both peacefully coexist with equanimity. And we can collectively accept both sides of the same coin, us.
Life has a way of not going according to plan. Whose plan is it anyway? “Oh, those silly humans still think they can control their lives and circumstances.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean we should just lay back and let life happen to us and around us passively. We need to take action and be the director of our own life’s work. Choose what skills, experiences and relationships we want to pursue with our time, energy and money. And let go of what doesn’t fit or work any longer. Let go of our silly pride, clinging to unreal outcomes, lost dreams or wearing our failures like a badge of honor. Stuck and unwilling to see what else is around the corner. It is a symbiotic relationship with our nature and nature itself.
We suffer less when we’re not surprised when things go awry because that is what it means to be alive. It can be pleasant, heartbreaking, triumphant or a huge loss.
What do we do next? Pick up the fragments left behind, be our own excavator to learn from the experience, and continue down this journey that belongs to no one but ourselves.