Ebb & Flow

One of the things many of us forget quite often in our chase for happiness, is that life is in constant flux. I’m not sure why many of us believe that happiness and contentment are just a goal away. Once we achieve X, then life will be good. For a while it is. We revel in our new state and think this will be how life is until we die. That’s why it seems so shocking when sometime later stress piles up and things aren’t going so well. Then you think, “Wait a minute! I had this figured out!”

Nothing is ever static. Whatever you’re feeling today will probably change tomorrow. I’ve been doing better about remembering this. Experience has shown that any time there’s an improvement in life, the euphoria from the improvement lasts about six months. Then it’s back to the same old happiness set-point. Something too many people forget is that “this too shall pass” applies to joys as well as sorrows. So, I watched for this shift after my move. Still waiting…

There were small dips along the way, but in general, my joy and contentment of living here has not faded… until the holidays. There were a variety of stresses going on in life at the time, which led to some insomnia.  A part of me was shocked at how quickly my frustration levels rose again. I thought I was back to my old, happy, chill self. It felt slightly embarrassing that my stressed, less-than-my-best-self came back so quickly.

Then I was surprised again when life settled back down and the joy and contentment returned. I was cooking in the kitchen one night when I was suddenly overwhelmed with the joy of it. I find such pleasure watching foxes, geese, joggers, dog-walkers, drone-flyers, metal-detecting treasure hunters, and today – a flock of turkey vultures, doing their thing in the park across the street.  After having an LA-style 45-minute drive going home in an ice storm, my 10 minute commute suddenly seemed notably wonderful again. With the return of the sun, I feel excitement at the coming spring. There will be thunderstorms, afternoons and evenings spent on my sun porch, fire flies, long walks, and all manner of critters singing me to sleep in a thunderous chorus every night.

It’s the same with my novel. While it’s a constant project that never leaves my mind, it definitely has its ebb and flow too. As discussed in my last post, sometimes I’m slogging, sometimes I’m flying. I’m trying to understand the shift. Does slogging mean I’m off course? Just haven’t had time to daydream so I don’t know where the story is going? Or is it just the normal ebb and flow of life.

I am back to a bit of a slog at the moment. Thankfully I’ve learned to fill that time with editing. It frustrates me when the word count doesn’t rise as quickly as I think it should, but the editing has to get done too. Experience tells me eventually an idea will spark and I’ll be off to the races again.

The trick, I’m learning, is to simply relax into it. It’s like surfing. When the wave is coming in, paddle like crazy and catch the ride. And when the water goes back out, let it take you past the breakers so you can catch the next wave. Don’t worry about either phase. They each have their role. Just relax. Whichever state you’re in, this too shall pass. And so shall the next one. Ebb and flow – that’s just life.

 

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Relax and Exhale

The grief of losing a coworker is still creating ripples across our lives. Grief comes in waves, leaving you feeling fine one moment, and devastated the next. It also comes in layers. Just when you think you’re moving forward, a new reality of the loss wraps itself around you and squeezes the breath out of you. We are all still adjusting to this new reality. It’s going to take a while.

Recently a friend posted this to Facebook.

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It summed up recent expereinces so perfectly. At first, life in L.A. was amazing. Then it was awful (for a loooong time). Then when I left  and came to Missouri, it was suddenly amazing. Then losing a coworker was awful. However, between each of those amazing and awful cycles, there was a lot of ordinary and mundane. I don’t do ordinary and mundane so well. I start to feel a little depressed. I begin to question, is this all there is? Week after week, getting up, brushing my teeth, going to work, coming home, watching TV, brushing my teeth again, and going to bed. Day, after day, after day with some occassional fun thrown it. Is this really life?

The answer to that – yes it is. That restlessness, that desire to create distance from the miracle of the ordinary, tells me I’m no longer in the moment. Rather than become restless for something else, I need to enjoy those moments as much needed breaks from the upcoming awful and amazing. Because, as amazing as the last few months have been, they cannot be sustained. Eventually the shiny dulls. Thankfully the periods of awful are also usually brief. If you’re lucky, you spend most of your life in the ordinary. Wouldn’t it be a shame to miss out on most of your life?

For me, meditation is the answer to this dilemma. Making a committment to be still, focusing on nothing but the ordinary act of breathing in and out, makes it completely clear how rarely we are present. The mind is full of thoughts it seems to generate itself… thoughts that, upon examination, can be tied to either running away from awful, or chasing amazing – two states that simply can’t be sustained. With practice, those thoughts can be stilled, and the heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life reveals its beauty – The quiet moment of trust when a kitten curls up on your chest and purrs. When crickets sing you to sleep. When a stranger holds your gaze on the street and breaks that barrier between souls. When a cooking casserole fills your home with a salivating aroma. When a coworker tells a story that makes you laugh so hard you can’t breathe.

What breathatking beauty ordinary life can hold. Relax and exhale, and try not to miss a moment of it.

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