I’ve been reading and following the teachings of Pema Chodron for roughly 12 years now. While I’m not a Buddhist, I do feel a subtle connection to Buddhist philosophy, and when it comes to Pema, well, her teaching nails me every time.
This morning, I awoke to this in my email inbox, as part of her weekly Heart Advice:
“The key instruction is to stay in the present. Don’t get caught up in hopes of what you’ll achieve and how good your situation will be some day in the future. What you do right now is what matters.”
It felt (and feels) like a good place to start, and to start over.
For the last week, I’ve been snowed in at home, unable to do my routine and my schedule in any normal pattern. I really rubbed up against being “stuck” at home, with nowhere to go, in the cold, surrounded by snow (cold + wet = huh?). I love my kids and love time with them, but being stuck indoors with them day in and day out felt like an imposition. I missed quiet and space to do my work, to show up here and just to be alone.
Also, I’ve been having a setback in my hip recovery, and I have been having ALL of the roller coaster feelings about it. Maybe it’s because the setback coincided with the holidays or with cold winter or with the new year or with the impending inauguration or with a snowstorm, but somewhere in there, I began to give the setback more control over me than I had over it. The setback started to MEAN something, and whatever it meant was BAD. I felt like I needed to ACT and CHANGE and DO SOMETHING, and then 7 inches of snow in southeastern Virginia and the world ground to a screeching halt, and say what?
Gang, I got SO swept up in this experience of wanting everything to be other than it was, in wanting to DEAL WITH THE SETBACK and HAVE MY PERSONAL SPACE and ADJUST WEATHER CONDITIONS and MOVE FORWARD AT ALL COSTS. I worked myself into such a tizzy, spinning a maze of a web around myself and almost, ALMOST missed the point, and the point is:
Allow me to elaborate. All of my stories about what was or will be or ought to be are just actually, really and truly STORIES. Guys, I’m crying while I write this, because I mean this, and I know it’s true. Stories don’t matter. What was, was. What will be, will be. I can’t control a zillion things, and when I try to, I kill myself. What matters is RIGHT NOW. It’s a cliche you’d read on a bumper sticker and barely notice, but it is the way: What I do right now (in the present) is of most and highest importance. Always.
I just spent 2 weeks having an out of body because I’m afraid I’m never going to walk again. But, I missed something, and that something is WHAT IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING: I’m just having a setback. It is so simple and tender and normal. It’s just the progression of healing. Go forward, go forward fast, go forward faster-bump. Step back, get back up again. KEEP GOING.
I just spent 5 days worrying that I’ll never have a normal week again or get anything done again or breathe without locking myself in my bathroom again, but I missed something: It’s time for quiet and down time with my family. It’s time for reconnecting with them without a schedule. Even with my angst and anxiety, somehow, we managed to do that. Today, on day 5, I could feel that the kids and I had a renewed closeness. Usually, we are together every day before and after preschool (which is only half a day), but we’re always hustling to the playground or to appointments or to playdates or even just home. Without anywhere to go or anything to do, we could count on each other to just sort of be around. And, I think I needed that as much as my kids did.
Today, while doing my PT exercises, I noticed that I feel okay. I don’t feel bad. I’m not in alarming pain, and my discomfort is not through the roof. I am okay. I’m not moving quite as quickly and as well as I was a few weeks ago, but I’m moving okay. It is not the end. I do not have to throw in the towel.
All of this just reminds me to ask myself ever so gently to please slow down, and take a breath and be easy. I am not running a race or hosting a bake off. I am doing magical life experiences that are as basic as stringing bead necklaces with my children after lunch. I am doing an incredibly dynamic healing process that has been in the works for a particularly long time. I am a woman relearning her capacity, a mother first learning her ability. I am not up to the fast checkout lane. I am up to what I am doing right now. I am up to what matters.
It’s so easy to slide away from what is in favor of what could or would or should be, and I succumb to this tendency every time life shakes my personal snow globe, a little bit. Instead, reality. Right now: It is my work to bring my hands back together at my heart and refocus the lens on my eyes so that I can take in exactly what is around me while staying close to what is inside me.
Feels good to be back,