I suppose we all create pictures of our lives in our heads in an effort to understand what we're doing. One of my favorite images has always been me on a boat traveling down a river. Sometimes the landscape along the shore is rich and lush; other times it’s uncomfortable, unsightly, and even frightening. When I am feeling confident, I can relax and let myself float, trusting I’m headed where I need to be going. In times when my self-assurance is lacking, I want to grab the rudder, pull to the side and throw in an anchor. If I were more familiar with nautical terms I could no doubt pursue this metaphor ad nauseam, but I’ve made my point. My highest goal is always to enjoy the ride, appreciate whatever scenery there is, and remain optimistic about what lies beyond the next turn. This is not always easy.
My friend Mary and I both had bad running weeks recently. She took a few days off because of a cold, and moving to a new house occupied every free moment I had. When we got back to running on the weekend, we laughed about how much we wish things would just stay as we want them to. If my running is going well, I want it to be like that forever. Intellectually I understand that things change—and that I rarely have control over those adaptations—but some scared, childlike part of me just wants to get into a routine that lasts. I admit it would probably only take a month of this before I would be longing to change it myself, but that knowledge doesn’t keep me from wishing.
I know that the more I engage with the world, the happier and richer I am.
I’m happy to say that the longer I live, the more resilient I become. Still, sometimes having to muster my flexibility is like getting good at going to the dentist. It’s necessary, but rarely pleasant. This is one of the reasons that, even when my bedroom is strewn with half-filled boxes and I spend part of every day fighting with AT&T representatives about trying to get the Internet at my new house, I still believe that change is good. Clawing at branches along the river in an effort to stop the boat is probably not.
An experience like moving also reinforces my belief that humans are very primitive. Even as we’re giggling at our dogs because they can’t remember which room they sleep in now, my heart aches for them because I know exactly how they feel. In many ways, I’m just as basic as they are. In my tiny, safe world, I like to eat at the same time every day, sleep in the same bed, follow a basic routine, and receive love and treats from the people in my life.
But in my grander, more spirited view of things, I also know that the more I engage with the world, the happier and richer I am. I don’t want the simple fact that it makes me nervous or brings out the most introverted side of me to keep me from moving and changing and growing. When we’re young, we’re frequently asked questions about what we want to be when we grow up, as if there is a final point to reach and it’s all icing on the cake after that. If that were truly the case, we would all just stop on the shore of mediocrity and leave it at that.
My point is a simple one. Even in the midst of anxiety or chaos, it’s important to me to enjoy the ride whenever I can shut off my monkey mind long enough to do it. I have been blessed with a life filled with a wonderful conglomeration of humans and dogs and experiences and lovely scenes along the shore. Sit back and appreciate the beauty and the calamity, I say to myself. This is life, in every iteration, every bitter-sweet moment, every bend in the river.