I’m flying back from Edmonton today, over the Canadian Rocky Mountains in a thin aluminum tube in early winter. Naturally, it’s a little turbulent. We bounce and rock, hurtling down in an air pocket. Then we level out while passing through a smooth area. My body relaxes, other passengers laugh and get a refill on their sodas now that they won’t spill everywhere. Only for us to shimmy over another pothole in the air shortly after and begin the cycle over again.
Little ups and downs, successes and challenges, smiles and furrowed brows.
I’ve written about ups and downs in the past.
I had an ah-ha moment regarding turbulence while at work a few weeks ago.
I received an email from someone challenging me on a topic; that gurgled fluttery feeling emerged in my stomach and my ears flushed. It couldn’t have been 10 seconds later, I received the thrilling news that I was accepted to the India volunteer program. A whoosh of excitement and a happy dance followed. And then my computer mouse quit working and smart screen got stuck upside down. And the cat peed on the couch. And I opened the mail and read a thoughtful letter. And on and on. This all happened in about a 3-minute span. And challenges continue in dealing with my spinal issues. Like when I went all the way to UCSF only to find out they referred me into the wrong neuro practice. The next appointment is in 2 months.
Ups and downs. A thousand cuts, a thousand stars.
I (we?) tend to focus on the big ups and downs in life—the job interviews or promotions, health test results, saving enough money to buy that new car (or not). But really, we live in an incredibly volatile world and are facing turbulence constantly. It’s a pretty rare occasion when something goes entirely the way we want, hope, or plan it to go. Yet we think we have so much control.
So what’s the punch line? Those ups and downs, when I get sucked into them and am constantly surfing the waves up and then crashing and getting tossed down, aren’t good for me. Or anyone for that matter. My adrenaline is always on the ready; surely, being in that state for a prolonged time can’t be healthy. I’m not saying that we need to be always on the up, as Bev so eloquently put in this blog: “You mentioned that you are in a ‘valley.’ While that feels deep, dark, lonely, and horrible, it is also a place that we all need to visit at times. The valley is where we get revitalized because the valley is fertile, fervent…a place where lush, green plants grow. We hate to be in the valley of life, but it isn’t the mountain top that gives us the “fertilizer” we need to grow. Be where you are.”
What I am saying is that, with both the turbulence and the calm, I’m working on just noticing them. Appreciating them for what they are. And trying not to get sucked up into them too much. And then if and when the world all coalesces to work the way I want, hope or plan it to, to really be grateful.
Being present in the present. Because if I’m present in the present, the present is infinite.
That’s probably at the core of all this mindfulness work I’ve been plunging into. I could read every book on the topic without effect until I internalized it in my own time.
Perhaps Rilke meant the same thing when he said this: “…You must not be frightened if a sadness rises up before you larger than any you have ever seen; if a restiveness, like light and cloudshadows, passes over your hands and over all you do. You must think that something is happening with you, that life has not forgotten you, that it holds you in its hand; it will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.”
And Thich Nhat Hanh similarly put it this way: “The tendency to run away from suffering is there in every one of us. We think that by seeking pleasure we’ll avoid suffering. But this doesn’t work. It stunts our growth and our happiness. Happiness isn’t possible without understanding, compassion, and love. And love is not possible if we don’t understand our suffering and the other person’s suffering.”
Ahhhh. Deep breath.
I think I’m behind on the continued baby boom in our life. Welcome to the world Patrick with Eric and Mary; Cian to Brian and Lillian; Declan to Susan and Joe; Anthony to Brooke and Chris; Sol to Paul and Corrie; and Genevieve to Brian and Liz. And, today is Mike’s birthday…everyone sing him happy birthday together! We’re going out for a nice steak dinner and banana cream pie, so his dream has come true.