If you knew that your life’s story will be written based upon your choices and actions in 2015, how will you live?
This is the end, and the beginning. My mark of annual transition is the winter solstice. (No New Year’s Eve crap here). There is joy and reckoning in the shortest day of the year. Taking advantage of the last fog of daylight, trekking among the lanky tall winter-killed mullein; the brown and freeze-dried and bushy thistle tumbleweeds; a miniscule grand canyon through the tiny waterway, a clump of old pheasant tail feathers, torn apart. Slow and quiet deliberations as I head in to the longest night of the year.
It feels like there have been a lot of longest night of year in the last month. I intend to make this one count. I intend to make everything count. A notebook, spiced tea with a hint of bourbon, a dog with four paws pressed into the air.
Tonight I exhausted the ink in my power pen, as I have come to name it. The one utensil I’ve employed to record what is as of late. The journals, the letters, the notes to myself, the things not to forget, the memories to jot, the reckoning, the apologies, the last attempts at hugs and care drawn in cursive on the page, secret messages. Tonight the inky black line ran dry, exhausted, like me. Goodbye.
A life, in five parts.
Scene 1. Uncensored.
As if no one is watching. I’ll probably pick my nose. The boogers will be honest.
Scene 2. Compassionate Honesty.
Life is a moving target. The story didn’t start in 2015, just the recorded narrative that Mr. Henry uses to prod us forward. How is it possible to tell the story, live the story, and have it be fair to all that is and was and ever will be? How to live in the present in a way that incorporates all of the past: the icky parts of yourself that you don’t like; the regret; the dishonest dark spots; the squirming – but is still honest and moves you forward? How much are you supposed to hold on to? Continually acknowledge? Learn from? When is it fair to let go and not carry the burden of mistakes with you, ditch the twenty-million pound suitcase? Do you just have to know in your heart that you have accepted what is, learned your lesson, and then move forward? Or do you have to stand on the mountaintop with your entire community standing below and quakingly yell down, “this is me, this is what I did wrong, do you hear me?” and wait for forgiveness and then climb down the mountain and get permission to start again? To start fresh. I guess I am asking: what is holding me back from moving forward into 2015, full and true-hearted?
I want 2015 to be my best self. No, not Maybelline Cover Girl best self. I’m talking about my inner best self. Living up to my expectations for how I act, live, communicate, exist and walk in this world. The best version of me. The best I know how. Holding the is to the standards of the could be. Walking as far away as possible from Guilt Trap #1, and walking toward compassionate honesty all the time.
“There are feelings of guilt when my actions are not in accordance with my emotions. Of course, I am the only one who knows this. I am the only one who experiences both my guttural emotion and my response. So I am the only one who knows when I am selling myself short by acting in discordance this way. It’s an emotional and personal dishonesty. A lying to myself. I feel it as a disappointment, a heart-sag, letting myself down. Not standing up to myself, my heart, what I truly want. This happens more often than I would like to admit. It makes me feel like shit.”
That’s my premise. That’s my goal for 2015. My best self, compared to my standards. That’s the paper boat I fold and float in the waters of intention. The framework, the goal, the vision…but getting there is a whole ‘nuther story.
Scene 3. I Am Not Waiting.
I could wait until this is all resolved. Until I am back in the house. Until this divorce* is settled. Until my craft and writing space is just what I have always wanted. Until after the holidays. Until the big work event passes in January. Until I have a new routine. Until life feels back to normal. Until, until, until…
Until when? The time between here and until is still life’s time. It’s still part of my life story. I have a choice to craft it as real time, not wasted time or waiting time or transition time or any other kind of time. It’s life. My life. And as messy and unsettled and turmoil and conflict-filled as it feels – this is it. There is reckoning and coming to terms and birds on power lines and stillness and joy and peace. When I look back, this will not be a series of black boxes on the calendar. It will just be. Days lived. A bit helter-skelter, but lived nonetheless.
I choose the opposite of waiting. I don’t know what that is. Maybe it’s just living squarely planted here, soaking it all in. Two feet on the ground, regardless.
I don’t want to throw my energy into the looking forward, the future, the wind. Because that is energy lost for the now, not engaged with the present. Wasted. I don’t want to skip over the validation of what is. Even if the what is floats a vessel of sadness and loss and feels sinkingly unbearable at some moments. I want to be in the now, with all of its ick and pond scum and self-realization of the good places and the really rotten places in myself. I would like to cast my energy firmly in the now. I am in this, I am choosing to be here. I resolve to be in this. At my pace, my cadence. For being in this stormy sea comes the learning.
You see, everything on the until list is the future. If I wait for those calm waters, when will I ever get to launch my origami paper boat of adventure for 2015? The untils are not now, they are things to look forward to. But what is the guarantee that the untils manifest, unfold as life and truth? What if they don’t? I’ll be postponed at the dock, frozen through a winter of waiting, awakened by spring approaching. All that time lost.
Scene 4. Be Here Now.
The antidote to until and waiting is be here now. The problem with the fallacy of until is that it takes you out of the present. And sometimes you latch onto until because now is not so good. Until is the potential for redemption from the suffering of now. The pay off. You can’t be here now with one foot into that dreamland, the improbable could. If it’s not happening right now, it’s not real. It’s just a daydream, a hope, an expectation, a coping mechanism, a vision of my best self that has not yet manifested. The farther I am from here, the farther I am from making change.
That’s what we were doing. The days sucked, but we weren’t really living them. We were living the suffering. But we kept looking forward. We are so much better than this This fighting is who we are. But it was. We were looking at the mirage of our best selves, where we started, a taste of what the future could hold, but that somehow we inadvertently left behind when packing up our lives Boston or Madison. Tucked into a corner in the apartment with mushrooms growing from the bathroom ceiling, not packed with us for the journey. Left behind to live with the mice colonizing the kitchen stove.
We were lost in the looking at what we could be, we were waiting until. We ignored the realities of the day-to-day. What we had become. When does what is become the new truth and override the impeccable vision of what could be? It both prevented us from dealing with and fixing the day-to-day, but it prevented us from leaving because there was such a clear vision of what was possible. I had one foot in the present, and the other foot seeing the far away potential of what we thought we could be. Not both feet planted squarely in the present. The present hurt too much. Was so filled with conflict and suffering and shame and out-of-touchedness. We were angry ghosts floating through each day, arms raised in ethereal argument. Defensive spirits. Drifting through. Ghosts don’t have feet, do they? There are no feet to plant squarely on the ground.
No more floating ghost. Just two feet on the ground. Totally simple concept. Totally hard to do. Both feet firmly planted in each and every passing moment. The hour-long commute, the boring staff meeting, the shitty-ass fights, my pain, my grief, the pain of others, the quiet morning walks, the first waking moments mind foggy with dreams. Be in every moment. Let my emotions wash over me, experience them fully and use them as a real compass. Let that arrow inform my steps, and once I start walking, let the emotions drift away. No excuses, no planning, no covering up for the misalignment between the impermanence of what is and my expectations.
Scene 5. Deliberate.
adjective /dəˈlib(ə)rət/ Done consciously and intentionally. Done or said in a way that is planned or intended. Done or said on purpose. Done or decided after careful thought. Slow + careful. Characterized by the awareness of the consequences. Carefully weighed or considered. Studied. Intentional. Characterized by deliberation or cautious consideration. Careful or slow in deciding. Slow, unhurried and steady as though allowing time for decision on each individual action involved. Example: A deliberate pace. Synonym: Intentional, calculated, conscious, intended, planned, studied, knowing, willful, purposeful, purposive, premeditated, preplanned, voluntary, volitional.
verb /diˈlibəˌrāt/ Engage in long, careful consideration. To think about or discuss something very carefully in order to make a decision.
Origin: late Middle English (as an adjective): from Latin deliberatus, ‘considered carefully’, past participle of deliberare, from de- ‘down’ + librare ‘weigh’ (from libra ‘scales’). [Bam.]
Thank you for taking the time to read the dictionary with me. This word came to me by chance, fluttering out of a bustling envelope from Miss P in Portand. Her postal bundles are pure joy and inspiration and garden love. After opening a recent letter and filing through the contents, I noticed the small “deliberate” slip in my lap. A tiny, perplexing, linguistic gift. Do I want this? Do I not want this? In 2015 I want to walk the crest of Mt. Deliberate. I want deliberate to fall steeply to my left and my right. I am a Libra after all.
I am already deliberate, debilitatingly so. I will myself to be free of the paralysis of weighing every single possible option and outcome. Cast away the should I? Should I not? More doing, less thinking. More action, less fear. I want to harness the value of deliberation, thoughtfulness, but rid it of the painstakingly long process. Less verb, more adjective. I want to confidently and deliberately embrace the gut reaction, the knowing, the impulsiveness – and make a confident choice – without fearing regret or hurt or anger or cries of carelessness. I have deliberated, and that’s all I want to say on the matter.
Off I go. I have a ship to set to sail. Her name is the S.S. 2015, and I’m on a quest to wrestle her through stormy seas.