My first reaction when life turns on a dime is to swing into action and do something, anything to fix the problem. Yesterday was one such day and I reacted as I always do, with rapid fire decision-making and jumping in to make things happen quickly. In the cold light of a foggy fall morning though, I realized that the adrenaline charged decisions I have made in my life were not always the best ones. And even if they were a good choice or perhaps the only choice, I wouldn’t know because I never took the time to weigh the options, to look forward to the consequences and make a calm, reasoned decision. That is my goal for today.
First I need to breathe, and find the inner calm I know exists when I turn off the fire alarm reaction and look directly at what I am facing. I suspect that the impulse to charge off in one direction or another is in part a way to avoid looking the dragon in the teeth. The next step then is to look at the dragon. What is the very worst that can happen? And if it is the very worst, what will I do to adjust to that reality? If I am to do something now, what does that look like?
I have received advice over the years when confronted with any choice to look at the short-term and then the long-term. How do the choices I make today to cope with what may very well be a short-term crisis affect my long-term goals? The cusp of this decision rests on the essential question of my priorities. In the end, how do I want this to look?
Instead of making lists of things to do, which was my plan of attack; I will instead look at the options and weigh them against the goals I have for myself and the shared goals of our family. Once I have a clear picture of our priorities for the coming months and years I can decide which option makes the most sense today and then down the road.
In many ways this crisis at a crossroad is a good thing and I suspect I would have been less likely to take the steps to really analyze the most critical choices if not confronted with the need to stare hard at the components. By taking the time to sit with my life picture I will take yet another step towards choosing my life path instead of it choosing me. Ah, I feel better already!
“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” Proverbs 19:11
Wisdom is not something one can seek as much as something that descends upon us when taking the time to sit with life and let its lessons reveal themselves. For me it was slowing my reactions and responses to offenses real and imagined. Quick to imagine less than kind intent in the smallest slight, I internalized these and my responses became even more rapid. When I was finally able to step back, and let the events rest on their own, I began to see the people behind the supposed offense. To see more clearly required time for observation and reflection. Mindfulness took away the urgency; not just being in the moment, but paying close attention to my responses.
With my new-found intimacy with the present I discovered that Patience also yields Wisdom. They are inseparable and one continued to benefit the other. I suspect that wisdom is closely associated with age not so much due to accumulating experience, but the natural slowing of the pace of life that gives one time to put that experience in perspective. The added awareness that life is short, when it becomes rather obvious with age, results in a softening of the edges. The lack of benefits to taking offense push it to the “why bother ” ledger as I search for those things with the greatest payoff in the least time.
Have I gained wisdom and patience? I like to think I have grown in that regard as much as in any other. Losing the habit of taking offense and then feeling compelled to act, leaves more time for joy and acts of kindness.
This marks my one hundredth post since beginning my challenge to write every day. While for many it is important to take a day off to refresh and rejuvenate, for some reason I tend to just drift away. This has been the case for so many things that I enjoyed and looked forward to; morning walks, going to the gym, eating healthfully, watching the nightly news; the list is endless.
I suspect this results from a lack of self-discipline and a somewhat drifty personality. I lose interest easily, or rather I gain interest in something else easily and leave all of my best laid plans behind. As part if my personal Happiness Project and overall growth, I realized this was one thing that lead to much unhappiness in my life. Not only was I not doing something I deeply love, writing, but I had a long list of unfinished projects, unmet goals, unestablished habits. This blog became my first step in the process of finding a way to make something I value stick. Taking a day off from it has seemed like falling back into my pattern of drifting away, never to return. As my regular followers know, I lost a day to a technology glitch, but I am happy to say I picked up the very next day.
Writing daily has other hazards as well. Repetition being the first and a huge one at that. I am not offering timely diet tips, a log of my struggles with weight or parenting or learning to dance. This has become daily philosophical musings, and the topics are often interrelated and have been examined for centuries by great minds and even in my case discussed more than once. In considering this I began to worry that this blog and its direction have grown stale. I reminded myself that sometimes I must hear the same thing several times and from several angles before it really takes. I also reminded myself that every day new readers find me and may only read a couple of entries, which then are new to them. With that consolation I will continue looking at life, truth, the senses, reading, writing, happiness and the rest. I look forward to the next one hundred posts and hope that you will as well.
I plan to use this space to create a journal of my life in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana, but more importantly to put out some essays that have been languishing in notebooks or making brief but not thoroughly fleshed out appearances in my daily thoughts and conversations. Stand by for a little of this and a little of that!