This morning I stepped out into a snow-dusted wonderland. The air’s clean and cold. The sun is strong. The sky is true blue. The century-old grove of trees in our backyard tinkles proudly in its winter finery — bare branches enveloped in a thousand sparkling icicles. For the first time in a long time, the world around me feels calm, quiet, comfortable. It’s beautiful.
The other day I read that procrastination is just your mind and body joining forces to make you stop and listen, to change course or edit your priorities. Well. I’ve been procrastinating over this post. I’ve been nervous and unsure of how to touch on a new conversation with the universe, with you.
2016 was dotted with disjointed moments that often left me with a dark sense of fumbling and stumbling through life. Early on I lost two of my oldest friends, my grandparents. I alternated between a sense of not having enough free time and of not knowing what to do with the free time I had. After trying to “fix” a few difficult, draining friendships, I let go of people I thought I’d stay close to my entire life. I learned that sometimes my energy level ebbs and flows because of a little quirk in my genetic makeup. Mid-year I spent two days flinging off to the other side of the world with only Ira Glass to keep me company and in lieu of telling you how I nervously threw up before presenting at a board meeting in Brussels, I decided to talk about chocolate and tulips and architecture and sightseeing. I quit a consulting job I’d worked at for five years. I didn’t start an MBA. I didn’t join a yoga class. I didn’t start running again. I didn’t stick out those early morning routines. For the last couple months of the year, I bathed my mind in news and politics and forums that overwhelmingly discouraged, disappointed, upset me. I wrote fewer posts and read fewer books than the year before.
It took three seasons to truly begin to celebrate wins, big or small. I found that helping others galvanized some sense of my own strength, and I poured myself into external projects. I picked up Big Magic at an airport and got bored and didn’t finish it and felt a pang of failure followed by a pang of nihilism then a pang of relief as I re-remembered my conclusion about the whole Eat Pray Love phenomenon: However temptingly simple and bright and beautiful, a well-heeled writer is not a panacea for millennial malaise or life’s biggest questions. Last year I was persistently quite hard on myself. I struggled to feel like I was clarifying, creating, contributing. And I kept needling at myself, trying to pin down what exactly it was that seemed to keep sapping the creative energy straight from my bones.
Then it hit me.
For while it’s as if I’ve been in a routine of putting on someone else’s glasses, holding a mirror up to myself, then peering out at the world around me through a poor prescription. I’d wake up and pick out a perspective to wear for a spell. Things felt fuzzier than they needed to be, always a little out of focus, occasionally outright obscured.
What I wore, where I went, what I read, what I wrote about, what I worried about — today I realize that I’ve let big chunks of my reality become too contextualized (and controlled) by the consumption of information, ideas, and objects.
Consumption has been standing squarely in the way of my own sense of creation, my ability to make space for and spend time on this blog.
I also asked Andy what to do when you feel burnt out and unsure of yourself and of your meditation practice. I thought about that, today, months after letting my own practice quietly slip off the back-burner:
“So the one thing I think that makes a difference between a healthy meditation practice and an unhealthy one is, although it’s good to kind of focus on everyday and run streaks and stuff, and how to keep it going, I do think that it’s important that we have to bring a sort of beginner’s mind to each and every meditation, and to each and every day.
By that I mean as though we’re doing it for the very first time. Not comparing it to yesterday’s or last week’s and trying to kind of keep that going but instead, being kind of interested and curious in what’s happening today, right now. When you do that, it never gets old. It never gets boring, because it is always different.
The mind is always different because the day, the environment, the conditions are always different. So as much as you can, bring that quality of beginner’s mind to your practice.”
This year I’m planning posts around simple words that have made a big impact on me. Perspective is one of those words.
Life flows better and the mind is washed anew each time you consider that you, alone, are responsible for and in complete control of your own perspective — every day, every month, every year — and that you are free to edit that perspective at any time.
Happy New Year, y’all.