Saturday, July 9, 2011

Big Life- The only cost is a little courage

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."
-Anais Nin

2011 has been an intense year for me. Never in my life have I had so many amazing, intriguing, perplexing and frightening things on my plate to sort through, dump and digest all at once. But I am and have always been an optimist, so when people ask me how I am doing, my answer is as always, "Great!". If the person knows me well, they look at me searchingly. They know there must be something missing. And if that person tilts their head, drops their gaze and voice and asks again "How are you?" I have another answer.

My answer: "Not to long ago my life appeared unique to many people, but for me it was normal. Now my life is unique to many people but it is not longer normal even for me!" The thing is that we all seem to have a default setting for our general dispositions. My default setting is happiness. When my happiness wavers, I immediately believe something is terribly wrong. And this last week I seriously started to question my sanity in the choices I am making based on what exists in my life.

I have been at the center of a whirling dervish of existence- relative to us pampered Westerners- since the year began.

I applied to study with Richard Freeman in Boulder which would happen for 30 days over the summer- without my family coming with me. I decided that certain people in my life belong in it minimally-- if at all and that I also wanted to branch out in my friendships. So you know- releasing people, loving new ones; it can be quite be exciting, jarring and emotionally taxing all at once. I decided to move my business to a new location and I have two children who are getting the minimum of required time with me.

This too shall pass

It's what I always tell myself. And in this I am able to move forward and complete the tasks at hand- but it also gives me an appreciation of what I am confronted with. I am more aware of the pleasures and lessons of each experience knowing that it will all end eventually.

And though awareness of the impermanence of everything is what keeps me in check- it is really courage that keeps me going. Courage as I have been taught is not a lack of fear, but the ability to experience what causes fear. I have also learned that what is most scary is anticipation- never the actual event. And if courage is the deciding factor of the size of one's life, then the only way we can actually do the measurment is through self evaluation.

It seems that this should be a daily practice-- checking in and asking whether we are living the lives we want to live. But the daily grind and the rat race have the vast majority of us asking whether we are living up to the expectations of others. Self included.

I myself have been running circles in effort to raise the the money I needed to move to Boulder for a month, tending to leaving my business in the hands of others and making arrangements for moving it. This means LOTS of extra work that I am not accustomed to. And getting back to that happiness default setting- I may not actually be entirely in touch with what is good for me and what is not at all times. So one day when I was missing my children- (who are a huge inspiration to me as well as one of the main reasons I am taking time to fulfill a dream and cultivate a satisfying life), feeling exuasted and loopy I forgot why I cared about doing what I was doing. I began to doubt whether I was making good choices. I became fearful. Within days, I sustained a back injury and suddenly lost the choice of the constant doing. I was forced into a state of surrender and slept for 12 hours straight during the day, then 10 more that night.

I don't really reccomend crazy-making as a means to inspire insight, but good insight often comes like a brute slap in the face in times of maniacal behavior. When the next day rolled around I awoke and felt miraculously better! Clarity came in the form of two truths that everyone knows- but as in my case often ignore.

#1. Is that the the world- my world, will not crumble if I stop doing what I believe to be "holding it together" The world holds itself together quite well- this is not to say that passivity is a good choice either. Just that my activity is not the glue of the universe. And as independence is an illusion- if anything important is truly meant to be, if the individual is ripe for it, the world around that individual will support that manifestation. And look, I'll be the first to admit mild inverted narcissism--believing that the solid structure of my entire world depends upon my actions alone.

#2. Is that yes, I do want to keep going and that what my confrontation with fear required was courage. That the fear I was experiencing happened when, like a big wall climber or big wave surfer I actually looked at what I was doing and paincked. Again, self- evaluation is imperative here. We have to look at what we are doing and decide whether we are feeling up to the challenge, fear or no fear. I decided that not only can I handle this wave- but I am already riding it. So panic is only allowed for a split second. Panic, if allowed to grow will destroy the work in progress, which is also allowed- but we tend to know instinctually at that moment if we want to forge on or let everything go.

My life has gotten big as far as what exhilerates me, what makes me feel alive and satisfied. My life is huge with the amount of love I feel for my children and what I want to do for them. But I suspect that I am only in some kind of boot camp for big lives right now. What a big life means to one person will not be the same for the next. I have no measurement of whose life is bigger than whose, nor does it matter. What I do know is that what I am drawn to and the people who are part of my life have some pretty big-life energy that is truly inspiring.

My life is not only big, but resplendant, lush and alive. I credit that to learning what courage really is and how to use it. I will always be set to happiness default and I might always be slightly reckless in the way I seek to learn- that too is a default setting. Courage has helped me embrace those aspects of who I am so that I can feel the bigness of this life.

Special thanks to Samantha Weber, Heather Vanderheide and Brenda Ostrom for concepts and ideas in this post- You have been especially insighful and supportive during this time.

1 comment:

  1. You are an amazing inspiration Jen. I am thrilled to see you living out loud and thriving. I'm reminded of the story about the disciple Peter. First, it took courage to get out of the boat--alone! Second, it took faith to take the first step. It was only when he lost his focus (insert higher power of choice) and listened to fear, that he began to sink. Here's to courage, faith, and moving past fear!