October 2017 is almost over. Wow. With two months left in which, as the previous ten have demonstrated, anything can happen, give yourself a pat on the back for making it this far, for taking a minute to sit and read a blog post, and for continuously doing the best you can.
I recently spoke with a few friends and loved ones who each seem to be asking the same questions, their own versions of the ones I’ve spent the past two months pondering at 2:14 in the morning, instead of sleeping. What am I doing? Does there need to be an end goal or is this enough? Will the dots ever connect?
Because of my nervous system and brain’s penchant for insomnia and pondering instead of REMs, I have been writing and blogging less than I’d like. As anyone who doesn’t sleep well knows, the dull, dream like state left behind after a night of tossing about, does not lend itself to creativity. I have had no choice but to turn it into another lesson in acceptance. Acceptance of what is. I can do what I can to try to sleep, but in the end it is out of my control and no matter that I- 1.turn lights off at dusk, 2. take melatonin, 3. meditate, 4. exercise, 5. don’t look at any blue lights (phone, computer, TV) before bed- sometimes I sleep like a baby and other nights I literally never fall asleep. It is what it is. But, letting go of the idea that there is more I can do or that I am doing something wrong, that somehow I can control it, is not easy.
But, as with all lessons we don’t choose but which choose us, they come bearing hidden blessings. My life has become shockingly present. I can almost not see past the end of the month, which is only next week! I am planning a trip to India for this January and you would think it was for the year 2090 by the way I have been unable to wrap my head around the idea of just three months from now. My work schedule changes week by week, I have an improv class starting on Saturdays and a writing class on Wednesdays. And that is it. As scheduled and planned as I can be right now. I’ve tried buying concert tickets or plane tickets to visit friends, only to give them away or end up with a credit for future travel, because in the course of two weeks everything changes.
At least for now, I’ve given up on planning more than a week in advance and concentrate on steering my thoughts and actions in small, beneficial directions. What should I cook today? Today I will call my friends and check in, go for a walk, write something or finish reading that book, be kind to my grumpy and tired coworkers who are just as sleep deprived as I am, let that person merge into my lane, try that recipe, do my morning stretches, meditate, turn off the news and turn on music, and do what I can to keep my side of the street clean, thereby being of service to the world and to myself. Even as I write this, I laugh at how unambitious and yet totally ambitious that list is. What a paradox that the most basic things we do for ourselves can also be the most difficult to do regularly, for simple does not mean easy. If anything, it’s often easier to make elaborate, future based plans in an effort to avoid the present, with it’s frequent discomfort.
In a recent email from a friend, she mentioned that amidst huge upheaval in her life and lots of unanswered questions, she is happy that she lives near an open air market with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. Another friend told me that her afternoon plans involved going home to lie in the grass in an effort to calm down and enjoy the fall afternoon. Yet another was excited because she had absolutely no plans for the weekend. It seems that if 2017 has been good for something, it has helped us get back to the basics. What do we value? What kind of lives do we want to live? What makes us laugh or what calms us down in the midst of chaos? How can we benefit our communities on a small, human scale? What would we take if a wildfire or flood gave us less than one minute to grab our most important item and run? How do we listen to news of possible nuclear war, global warming, sexual predators, and political ineptitude and keep on smiling? How do we stay present?
These are the questions that run through my head when it is dark and the palm frond shadows dance against the window and I can hear my downstairs neighbor’s snores through the floorboards. It is only by becoming totally present, listening to those snores and to my own breath, that life seems manageable once again. What CAN I control tomorrow? Eating toast and drinking tea in the morning, while listening to my favorite radio show, and then taking a walk? Ok, cool, I’ll do that.
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