Somewhere in my mid-30′s I remember being continually exhausted , balancing a very busy life and not being particularly mindful of my choices. I don’t think there was any particular life crisis, but I was always running with family matters. I also went back to school while attempting to define myself with new personal career goals, and at the same time was involved in more committee work and civic engagement than I would now deem reasonable. My daughter, my first of two children, was born when I was 21, and I could foresee that as my children were gaining on high school it was now my time to figure out what I wanted.
One of my most memorable moments of that time, believe it or not, was reading M. Scott Pecks’s The Road Less Traveled. I opened the book and read the first line, “Life is difficult.” I honestly don’t remember what I was thinking to elicit the following behavior, but I promptly threw the book across the room and said, at least to myself, “Why didn’t anybody tell me that before now!”
I’ve never forgotten that moment. Up until that time, I had felt that I was in control somehow and that if I did everything “just right” I could mitigate most of life’s difficulties. My rational mind couldn’t have thought that, but my obviously not all that mature psycho-social self somehow believed that every challenging event was something to be hurdled. Not just get through it, but tamed, mastered, and then let’s move on. This should give you clues that up until then I had obviously not encountered any crises that were the knee buckling sort. No untimely deaths, illnesses or severe losses, just the typical every day challenges.
I had not previously really acknowledged that much of life is entirely beyond our control. Things happen. There is no doing everything right. Studying human development I began to understand that I was in a cycle of expanding and growing and achieving. I was actually changing and learning at a very accelerated pace, more or less making up for lost time. Not that raising my family was ever “lost” in any way, but I had skipped some of the stages of post-adolescent independence, marrying at nineteen and immediately starting a family. I was making up for lost time. And it WAS difficult!
I’ve been thinking about the complexities of the total life cycle as I have watched my dad and mom navigate my dad’s hospitalization. Observing him in recovery,working to regain strength in what could be a lengthy recuperation period, I have definitely taken note that I have been blessed with wonderful examples of grace and acceptance, faith and perseverance in both of my parents. They have given me an excellent template for how one successfully navigates the changes and challenges of growing older. Since I’m not getting any younger myself, I really feel grateful that I can look to them for clues as to how to mark my own future with mindfulness.
I’ve had two or three weeks of slowing my pace to acknowledge my desire to be closer to them during this period of transition, and in that time I’ve had reason to think about how much our ability to accept challenge and sometimes disappointment affects life satisfaction. Then I read a little article in the paper and shared an ironic chuckle.
There is a lot of talk here in Los Angeles about our viewing a rare “annular” solar eclipse as it moves across Western states on Sunday. From Oregon to Texas the eclipse will darken the center of the sun leaving a visible “ring of fire.” In L.A. the full ring will not be visible, but it should still be impressive. 86% of the sun’s diameter will be obscured by the moon.
The article that captured my attention stuck like glue to the theme “Prepare to be disappointed.” I had to laugh. It could have been a throw the book across the room moment, except I was reading on my computer. Really? Start preparing to be disappointed? Sure, we may have clouds, and since I’m not going to stare directly at it in the first place, my personal experience without benefit of an observatory might automatically be a little “less than”–but I’d rather not begin preparing for disappointment NOW, thank you.
Just reading that article captured my thoughts and I’ve been aware all day of how often the messages that come at me are negative. Being hopeful isn’t often celebrated! Yes, things happen. Life changes. We age. We change some more. But I expect good things to come, even from uninvited change.I’m not going to white knuckle life. And no matter what is to come, I refuse to anticipate disappointment. I hope I can retain hopefulness across the lifespan. Minimizing negative talk and distancing from people who revel in that negativity, and my odds improve!
If you’re as awed as I am observing an eclipse, you might like the following video. I like to pretend I thoroughly comprehend…where I don’t, I just appreciate!
Still breathing lighter…Debra