Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”
―On Destiny by J.R.R. Tolkien
Last September I wrote a post, Dating Myself and Others, about a week I spent trying to tackle the problem of free time when my husband went on an out-of-town trip. Two weeks ago, when my husband was leaving for another such trip, I decided to revisit my post that week for further inspiration.
When I re-read the record of that week four months ago, I was really pleased to see how many of the changes I started that week have stuck with me. It seems like that week of self-exploration was really a spring board that helped propel me in a positive direction. Here’s a brief recap:
Since that week, I’ve consistently attended an hour-and-a-half yoga class once a week. I’ve hired a weekly house cleaning service to help with the chores. I’ve been getting massages twice a month. Through practice, I’ve been increasingly willing to let a variety of other tasks fall to the wayside to focus more on writing, which gives me joy. I’ve been trying new things, like painting and drawing, which I never would have had the confidence to try before. I’m not only listening to music, but I’ve also gotten an auto-harp, so now I’m actually making music. I may not have gone dancing, but when I do have chores to do at home, I am more often cranking some music and dancing my way through them. On that week I had tried out archery for the first time, and now I actually own an awesome bow and have been shooting every warm day.
I have to say, I’m really proud of the progress that single dose of intentionality has made in my day to day life. I think I’ve been feeling happier, less stressed, and more present than I was before. Of course, sometimes success breeds complacency. When I read my old post, I was so impressed with my success that when I tried to make any kind of a plan for the upcoming week, I was stumped.
I had read the post to try to inspire myself to make a new set of goals before the week actually started, a list of new things to try or do. I realized, however, that I have really tackled all the new ideas I have for myself. That week was easy to map out because I had a series of things on my wish-list that I had been saving up to do. Lately, I’ve just been doing things, not saving them up. Overall I think that is a good thing, but it still left me fresh out of ideas to fill my ten days. I haven’t noticed myself passing any “new roads” or “secret gates” lately to try out.
Finally I decided that instead of planning a list of things to do, I would instead plan a series of things to think about. I would devote a significant portion of the week toward thinking through some very deep issues that I have been struggling with and not making headway on. I decided to make the week less about doing things I have intentionally planned and more about bending my heart and mind towards planning future changes I will need intentionality to do.
I didn’t make a day-by-day blog of the week’s activities, mostly because, “Thought about a bunch of deep and sometimes depressing but very necessary thoughts while doing chores,” seems a boring thing to write each day, but that is mostly what I did. However, I did this heavy thinking against the framework of activities that I have had in place for months now. I still kept my yoga class, and massage appointment, and the cleaning people still came. I shot some arrows, learned two new songs on my instrument, and worked on four different writing projects. But thankfully these sorts of enjoyable, fulfilling, self-care things are now becoming routine to me.
I did however do a couple of new things that were noteworthy. I spent an entire afternoon at school with my son, which is a luxury beyond any other that I know. Seeing him interact with his world is an endless source of joy and fascination to me. I envy him every day marching off to his wonderful school and have wished so many times that I could be a fly on the wall to watch him each moment as he learns about himself. This week he came home one day and said, “Mom, I had an explosion in my head today! Like BOOM!! I figured out that it is fun to learn! It doesn’t matter what it is, science or reading or even math. I can learn it, and I love learning it, because learning is so fun!” I love hearing his reports and seeing the aftershocks of moments like this, but oh what a joy it would be to be present the moment the explosion takes place! His head and heart are always exploding with new experiences from his fabulous school, so to get to spend any time with him there is a gift to my heart. I also got to spend another afternoon reconnecting with an old friend from childhood. I am a shy person who finds it very difficult to make connections, but a blog post about my introverted self led her to reach out to me. It was a real joy. To get to see again someone who was so important to my childhood really opened my heart up to many memories of my childish self that I need to tend and not let wither.
The best thing I did all week, though, was to cry. At the end of the week, I went on about a 36 hour self-indulgent crying jag, and no matter how weird it might seem, I appreciated it. For about a day and a half, every minute that I was alone was spent crying. Trips to the bathroom, alone in the elevator, driving my car, and when my son fell asleep… the tears just flowed, and this was fundamentally something I needed to do.
I need to cry over the past. I have much in my life that I have lost, and rarely do I ever grant myself time to mourn. I have an inbox full of unfinished grieving-work that I tend to put off in favor of more pleasant and pressing daily concerns. My mind gets weighed down by the weight of it. To chip away at a bit of it is a worthy task.
This losing is not all in the past, though, life is by nature a series of loss. I need to cry over the present as well. I cannot be all the things I want to be, especially to all the people that I love, and that fact, more than anything in the world, is worth tears. As a loving, giving person, the need to divide my attention and affection is painful. As a young girl, I would have thought it impossible for my heart to love as much as it does on this very day, and yet at my fourth decade I am amazed to find my heart still growing impossible amounts. My capacity to love seems to expand with every passing day, but my energy, my time, my eyes, my ears, my presence are all so rigidly fixed by the annoying rules of time and space, and my sense of propriety is still so tethered to a sense of my responsibility to society. I would wish to unabashedly give my whole heart and self to each dear one I love, and I cannot. Tear-worthy choices must be made.
Everything I do requires a choice. To hold onto some good things, I must let others go. Letting go is painful. Choosing to lose some moments, opportunities, or possibilities in favor of others creates a series of tiny stings that add up. Doing the right thing, for myself and for others, sometimes wears at my heart until it is raw. I am a dreamer, and every little fork in my way leaves me with nagging visions about the road not taken, no matter how right and good the path I chose is.
I have a tendency to act very strong, particularly for the sake of those around me, to hold in the tears and hide the hurts. I frequently reach the point where the level of tears in my life well up to a place just below my cheekbones where my nose is barely above water enough to breathe. That is an uncomfortable way to live… feeling that the next hurt might drown me in my own tears. There are too many times when I simply cannot cry, and those dry-eyed days lead to wakeful nights and long tired stretches of time. To indulge in the time to truly contemplate and cry over some of these losses is a gift to myself. To knock down the level of tears, so that for awhile my whole head is above water, is truly a good thing.
At the end of my post last fall, I wrote, “If I could choose my own destiny, I would want to choose a future where I was consistently a pleasant and present force in my family. If I can put aside my delusions, I could perhaps make room for that as a reality. When they say ‘make a date with destiny’ perhaps what they really mean is that if I ever want to get there, I should put destiny first on my to-do list.”
I think one of the delusions that I still need to tackle is the idea of a concrete to-do list. Some things that I truly need may be things I am simply not able to reflect in a schedule. Sometimes a good ten minute cry is better than an hour long massage. I think I have to continue to adjust my idea of what a to-do list is. Sometimes the thing I need most to do, like sit-and-think or cry-all-afternoon, just won’t get written on a list, but I still need to find a way to put it into my plans. If I want to be “pleasant and present” I need to create times of tolerance for my introverted self. I need to step apart and quietly slog through some unpleasantness on my own time and space. That new road might be easier to see without a well of tears inside blinding me to possibilities. That secret gate might actually open, not out into the world, but rather inwards into my own heart.
Maybe what I need most on my list is time set aside to meet with one of the many forgotten and ignored girls inside myself. Time to sit down with each one and have a cup of tea, a long talk, and a good cry together. Maybe if I were to open up myself to them more often, I might find that one of those hidden girls might actually be named Destiny. Perhaps if I took the time to introduce myself, I might not feel so shy around her.
Hello Destiny…. Fancy meeting you here inside myself.