(“Free-Flow Sessions:” Session 1)
I sit here, drink to my left – Amaretto stone sour – a pile of fudge grahams next to it, and a bag of Lay’s potato chips to my right. I sit at Ed’s desk, plucking away at his laptop, a desperate attempt to push myself to “show up.” Another day of occupying myself as long as possible, only to find myself in the same situation as days past – lost and alone. This past decade has been a nonstop cycle of change – like a reckless round of body blows one can never quite recover from. Blow after blow coming faster and harder, never letting you pick yourself up off the ground or recover.
In my youth, I never imagined the influx of chaotic and often unbalancing transitions that middle-age can bring. To be honest, I think I imagined that my youth would be full of exploration and discovery, carefully navigating the details of life – scouring every moment for the rules of right and wrong. Teaching myself how to shape-shift through life, being who I needed to be in every situation. Quietly hiding the truth of myself from prying eyes – as long as I learned the rules and did my best to follow them, life would work out just as I imagined. If I was a “good girl,” everything would eventually balance out and reward me with my dreams.
“My dreams,” The idea makes me laugh cynically at this age. Forty-six years of quiet optimism crushed over and over again leaving me jaded at middle-age. Imagine if people knew the truth, always mocking me for being a pessimist, all the while I argued I was a realist. The truth is, I was a distrusting optimist – in my heart I always hoped for the best in life, but fear trapped me in the fringes. Quietly walking out life in hopes of learning enough to navigate myself to “happily ever after.” A young girls desperate attempt to overcome the pain and suffering she witnessed as a child.
Yet, here I sit 28 years into my marriage – my adult life – and I can honestly say it’s all bullshit. There is know hacking the system, no damn “happily ever after,” at one level or another we all suffer. (But do we have to struggle I ask myself) I’ve used the word struggle often and now as it slips through my conscious, it oozes with the energy of choice and consequence. Our sufferings may not be of our own doing, but often our struggles are exactly that. Like struggling against the current, we often find ourselves trapped in the waves of change because we refuse to go with the flow. The flow of life, the flow of growth and maturity, and most of all the flow of truth and purpose. Not worldly truth or purpose, but the deepest truth of who we are and why we exist.
We can spend a lifetime hoping and planning and enveloping ourselves in deep wishes of expectations, forever distracting ourselves from the frightening truth that, none of this matters. There is no secret playbook that leads to ultimate and universal truth or reward. The truth is, our only true purpose is to survive this life, like an epic-long reality show of survival being played out on the giant rock we call home. If these last few years have taught me anything, it’s this, to be human is to suffer, and the suffering is the same among us all – a reality of consistent and consequential loss.
Of course, we all suffer at different levels and at different times in our lives, but we all suffer the pain of loss. Loss of loved ones, loss of self, loss of occupation, financial security, and so much more. There is no end to the amount of loss we can suffer from. If you are attached to, dependent on, or expectant of it, the loss of it can turn your world upside down. I’m still amazed that this lesson is being played out on a global scale in my lifetime. Loss at an abundance, even the simple loss of individual freedoms and privileges throws even the most balanced of people into a world of chaos and struggle.
Knowing the truth, that there is no secret, no true “happily ever after,’ that life is only what we make it, and how we experience it. Life is simply a matter of perspective and perception. If we all suffer at any and all times, if there is no great secret or reward at the end, then we can choose to walk out this life the way we see fit. Choosing to set aside expectations; acknowledging that such things not only lead to disappointment and resentment, but keep us focused outside the present moment, never truly experiencing now. Instead, we build our scaffolding of expectations higher and higher, thinking “I’ll be happy when” – “things will work out when,” all the while missing the beauty that is now. If there is a secret to this life of ours, it’s this – there is only NOW – so stopping waiting for when. If this year has taught me anything, it’s that “when” comes and goes, rarely measures up, and always distracts from the gift of the present moment.
I often wonder how many beautiful moments I’ve missed in life, but especially in recent years. In a desperate attempt to hide from the pain of constant and recurring change in recent years, I lost myself, and now I ponder. How many things has my jaded heart been unable to feel and experience, my awe and wonder a distant memory – how much of my life have I missed in my need to move on from this moment?