This spring has been interesting in Chicago. Winter doesn’t seem quite ready to move on yet. It’s lingering a bit. We’ve had snow, sunny days, cold days and rainy days all this month.
There’s a silver lining to everything. The weather has given me some extra time to be quiet.
Do y’all give yourself some space to do this? To just be — b e — and let whatever comes up come up? Oh, I hope so. I give myself so much more of this now than I used to. It has become a priority to me. It is the peace bearer.
Time reserved for quiet is a valuable practice. I used to get stressed over the silliest things. The smallest things. I was more reactive and the stress would feel big. So big. Ever feel like you’re overwhelmed with everything!? I have. It wasn’t always super peaceful. Often times I felt trapped by it. If you’re going through this, I feel you. And hopefully it is comforting to know another way is possible.
I know it is easy to get wrapped up in the busy-ness of life and entirely skip over quieting down. We are conditioned to go, go go. More, more, more! Dangling carrots. Corporate ladders where sometimes we even get confused and believe a title defines our worth. Or that someone else does. To-do lists. Unread emails. Texting while driving. Texting while we are with people we love. Interrupting each other when talking. Stress in our workplaces, relationships, lives.
It’s no surprise so many are feeling the tension from this lifestyle. All of this can make relaxing terrifying. We might even say we’re too busy to relax.
Why do we rush our lives away though? I want to savor it. Why have we become a culture that doesn’t create time to relax more? To breathe? We’re not alive without it after all. To experience joy? And other emotions too — the ones many don’t want to talk about yet we all experience. Interesting, isn’t it? Are we missing the entire point of life as humans?
Reflecting on these questions propelled me to do some cleaning out this spring. I’ve been on a fast from Facebook for most of the month (hello addiction to technology awareness!) and I spent this extended winter cleaning out life, literally and figuratively. Along with many of you, I started off 2019 with Marie Kondo’s Netflix show asking myself, ‘does this spark joy?’ then I donated and sold 90 percent of everything I owned.
I let it go.
I have not a lot stuff now. I feel richer than ever.
Letting go was more challenging to do just two years ago. My beloved dog, Dolly Lama, was quite sick and it was difficult for me to let go of her. I was doing everything imaginable to prolong her life. She was my child, friend, sister, roommate and of course, my pet. Some didn’t understand this love and loss for me and told me, “it’s just a dog, get over it!” So I tried to “get over it.” Some were extra loving during this time. Loss impacts everyone differently and this impacted me intensely. The grief was sharp. Whew. My entire life changed without her. So I dug into it.
“The only way out is through.”
I befriended my grief. I sat with it. This was not an entirely fun experience! I discovered a lot about love and loss — throughout my life and with her. I felt grateful to experience a love so strong that it made the loss feel so huge. When profound loss is experienced early in our lives, especially of a parent, whether biological or not, that grief can sneak in later -- no matter how much time has passed -- with subsequent losses and gains throughout our lives. Maybe loss is extra sensitive for me. Everyone in the world can experience residual grief like this. Perhaps you have. I hope it’s been honored. By yourself, most importantly.
During this time, I was skipping around life, ignoring my intuition, living out The American Dream. I was working the 9-5, enjoying many aspects of it especially when connecting people and positivity was involved. I was also improving my workaholism and perfectionism every day, crushed by the fear and discontent I saw and heard from so many (including myself) no matter where I was working. I saw patterns. This is not a judgement. This is a real and honest observation of an epidemic and peculiar cultural norm I saw time and time again. This is why I was drawn to working in roles that spread some positivity in the workplace. I wanted to do my part in making where we spend eight to ten hours a day a pleasant place. I don’t believe we are here to be miserable all day so we can pay our bills and call it a life. I don’t expect perfection either (perfectionism is in retirement now), however I am here on Earth for a fulfilled life with meaningful impact, meaningful relationships and meaningful work. I believe you are too.
Letting go of little miss Dolly changed the entire game for me. I looked at my life and intuitively felt (yet again) I wasn’t living my life aligned with my purpose. The life I was living had much positive yet overall had this underlying discontent that often made me feel frazzled and frustrated. I realized if I didn’t make some big changes, I’d find myself at the end of my own life full of regret. I lost Dolly and it was a difficult time but I’ve gained so much. Where there is loss, there is gain too. And I miss her.
So on the sunnier days we’ve had this spring (there’s been at least five!), I’ve savored them. Walking, kayaking, sitting quietly listening to nature and myself. Nature is such a good example of loss and gain. Seeds were planted in the dirt and now the flowers bloom. They burst with color. They do not stop growing even if the broken tree branch next to it doesn’t like its brightness. They continue to be bright and grow through the rain. I feel the same way.
May we focus on the flowers instead of the rain.