In the Now

As John Lennon sang to his son, Sean, in his song Beautiful Boy, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” While the idea is not original to Lennon, it’s a useful reminder for me these days, as both my life and my plans continue to shift and slide underfoot.

It’s not that life has gone bad™. It’s just that it continues to be marked by great change, as Sally and I continue to further clarify who we are, what we want, what we need, what we are called to do, who we are called to do it with, and where we are called to be when we do it. Some of it’s exciting. Some of it is frightening. Some of it is daunting. Some of it is satisfying and fun. But all of it is change, and all of it can and does result in higher levels of stress.

And all of this change interrupts and distracts, leaving my plans to protest their frustration. Blogging slows to a crawl. Editing proceeds in fits and starts. The next book rattles impatiently in the hopper, teasing and scoffing. And all that book marketing stuff? Back burnered, baby, and waiting its turn.

Instead of writing I’m sorting and downsizing and recycling and repairing, lifting and hauling and hammering and cutting and stacking. Most of which I actually like doing, for one reason or another, save for the fact that it keeps me from my plan™, which is to focus on my writing career. So I can’t really enjoy it, and instead spend my time suffering about what I’m not doing.

Sally, of course, bless her heart, thinks that we can find our happy™ even in the midst of such change and stress and distraction and interruption. So I listen to her and do my best to see if she’s right. One of the things we do is stop and remind ourselves, or each other, whenever we think of it, that, actually, right now, right in this moment, everything is good.

And it is™, because in pretty much every moment of my life, there are all sorts of things I can point to that are right™ and good™. It’s the whole “roof overhead, food in my belly, clothes on my back” thing, and it’s true: I have much to feel grateful for.

But then I pause and think, because it also seems true, in those moments when we stop to acknowledge that everything is good, that the moment also contains anxiety or worry or a general background of distraction and alarm. And I protest a bit, because, really, we can’t say that everything is good in the moment, can we? I have both food in my belly and anxiety in my guts, don’t I? And I begin to wonder whether this is all just another instance where what the positive affirmation actually does is strengthen the negative thought it is meant to counter. (Which, according to many, is pretty much what all affirmations do.)

But then I stop again, and realize that I’m the one who’s labeling the anxiety and alarm as negative. And I ponder the possibility, as I have before, that, in fact, my fundamental neurological setting of alarm and anxiety is as much a blessing as a curse, given the great levels of awareness and attention it confers upon me, and the gifts and skills that result from that.

So, then, uh… maybe everything is good in the moment after all.

It’s all so fucking confusing sometimes.

Ah well. The monsters come. The monsters go. John Lennon sits on the edge of my bed and sings me to peaceful sleep. Change abides. Life intervenes.

My plans will just have to adapt.

4 Comments for “In the Now”

Sally Erickson

says:

You’ve addressed something I was chewing on yesterday with Gary Van Warmarden’s teaching on acceptance: that we can, with awareness, not add judgment to anxiety, or anything else. I ended up with a mantra: I relax into this moment, whatever it is. He has a physical exercise to illustrate this where you lean forward from your ankles and notice all of the unnecessary tension in your body from the fear of falling. It is possible with awareness to only use those muscles that are actually necessary to prevent the fall and relax everything else. Yeah, I feel anxious and disoriented. No, I don’t have to tense my shoulders or clench my teeth or make fists on top of the watery feeling in my gut. I can relax and breathe and relax and breathe some more. Then my body is not in a state of all-out flight response. It’s just a watery stomach and even that gets better when I relax and breath.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Useful insight when dealing with temperature changes and extremes as well, whether we’re in the frigid north or the sweltering south!

says:

Timely thoughts for me to lay eyes on. Thank you. I keep wondering when the swirls of change and anxiety will settle, but I’m starting to think they never will, and that maybe it would behoove me to learn to relax and accept no matter what. I’m not sure if I can get to a place of accepting where I’m at with writing, but paradoxically, I think I need to accept even that.

Timothy Scott Bennett

says:

Hey Jen. Thanks for checking in. Yeah. In the face of stress and overwhelm and change, in the face of things beyond our power to effect, it seems that “acceptance” is what’s called for. Seems like that’s what many of my blogs are about: learning to accept something that is just “what’s so.” I do wonder about that word “acceptance” though. Like, it seems to contain the seed of the negative right in it, since the thing we’re “having to accept” is probably something we don’t like, don’t want, don’t need, etc. In that way, acceptance begins to feel like coping or tolerance or compromise, and it doesn’t feel so good anymore. I don’t want a life full of things I just have to work to accept. I want a life full of things I cherish. So how do I begin to cherish change and stress and overwhelm and things over which I have little or no power? Working on it…. sigh…. Pax-T

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