A few months ago a friend was visiting. For some reason we walked into the garage. I navigated the steps like a pro. He stepped on them and the wooden steps moved from the wall. I had learned how to walk on the steps without making them move. He didn’t know the secret way of stepping. I had adapted over the years to walking on shaky steps instead of fixing them.
I think all of us, to some extent, adapt to things, to people, to situations – learning how to sidestep a difficult relative, friend or co-worker. We learn how to tolerate toxic situations. We teach ourselves how to ignore unfinished projects around the house.
Adapting versus changing drains our energy. Whether we are aware of it or not, this constant suppressing creates stress.
Maybe then you avoid the shaky steps, pass on the family outing if the difficult relative will also be attending, look to see if the bothersome neighbor is around before you step into your yard that should be a sanctuary, do a happy dance when the difficult co-worker is out of the office. Avoid versus change.
Change takes determination and courage. Avoiding also takes determination but it lacks courage. In fact, avoidance actually contributes to the continuation of the stressful situations.
This month I’ve asked my husband to fix the steps. No more sidestepping.
Let me tell you what I’m good at. I’m good at making lists and completing projects. I’m good at keeping things in order. I’m good at organizing and planning. Very much Capricorn traits if you’re into astrology or 4 Path traits if numerology is your thing. What I am not is spontaneous.
I recently took a few days off from work. I had things planned out that I needed to do. Also on the list were things that other family members wanted to do. Nowhere on the list was anything that I really, really wanted to do to relax, to disconnect – and most importantly, to reconnect with myself.
One day I was sitting on the couch planning out another “vacation” day when my daughter asked me if I had forgotten how to have fun.
Fun – what a concept. You mean, do something without lists, something that might not have any end game (any accomplishments or list check-off)? Something that I could totally lose myself in doing, where I experienced pure joy, where time passes so quickly without my noticing? Yes, at some point fun had taken a backseat to obligations. How very sad.
She asked me what I like to do. I gave her a list – and she noticed that they all involved something on my “to do” vacation list; they were all somehow related to work versus play. So even though I like writing and it was on my list to do the final edits on my book – truth be told it wasn’t fun.
Doing something fun doesn’t need to take a lot of time. It can be a short period of reading something you really desire to read, uninterrupted. Or going for a swim. Or going to the dollar store and buying bubbles, or jacks, or sidewalk chalk – and playing for a bit. It might be going to a morning or afternoon movie. Visiting an art museum. Going to tea. Think of the things that seem frivolous to you. Think of the things that make you feel like you’re playing hooky from life. You might be getting close to fun.
I took my daughter’s advice and had fun for the remainder of the week. I tossed the list aside. My husband and I went on a spontaneous trip to Annapolis. We took at few boat rides on the Chesapeake Bay, ate at great restaurants. I sat at the water’s edge for hours watching the sailboats (my idea of fun) while he toured the Naval Academy (his idea of fun). I went to see Paul McCartney in concert!
At the end of the week I hadn’t “accomplished” anything but I was more relaxed and happy than I had been in a long time. My creativity blossomed, stress dissolved, and I created some space in my mind for clearer thinking.
July is a month that celebrates freedom namely with Independence Day. In the past year some of my greatest fears were manifest. And I’m still here. They did not do me in. My friend, Anne the Elder, and I were commenting on the “eventful” year that we’ve both experienced. I observed that the thing that really does us in, that which deadens our spirit, kills our joy, and makes us play small is fear. Have you ever experienced the thing you feared most only to notice that the time you spent living in fear of it was far worse than the actual experience? Those experiences come and go. But fear-based living is endless. What small steps can you take to liberate yourself from fear?
I am not looking to experience what happened this year again. But I do know from coming through it that I can handle more than I ever thought was possible. I know that I am stronger than I ever imagined. And I know that I need to really live instead of exist and go through the days, weeks, months and years as if I have forever to get my stuff together, to wait for someone else to recognize my needs and make me happy, to do what I really want to do instead of have to do. I am more aware than ever that the one precious commodity that once spent cannot be regained is time. I’m more mindful than ever as to how I spend my time now. And that’s liberating!
I invite you to join me on living with more self-imposed freedom. I invite you to join me in playing more. I invite you to join me in creating a joyful life – one that will carry you through the less-than-joyful times that are sure to come.
What I’m Reading
Those books on Ireland keep coming to me. Right now I’m reading two books. Pilgrimage with Leprechauns by Tanis Helliwell is a memoir of a trip to sacred sites of Ireland where Tanis is accompanied by “elementals.” In Rising Ground: A Search for the Spirit of Place, Philip Marsden is taking me on contemplative walks through the English countryside to show how connected we are to place.
I’d love to hear your comments on this post. I’d love to hear what you’re reading.
Wishing you fun-filled summer days, all the juicy fruit and ripe produce you desire, and evenings lit by fireflies.