I can’t believe how good I feel and how bad I felt. It leaves me wondering;
How do emotions bend?
What changes the composition of feelings?
Why do things change so quickly?
Do they change quickly? Or do I change quickly?
Tucked into our home a week or more now, hiding from a virus none of us understand, air-hugging everyone I can, I try to record the questions that are emerging. I try to be gentle with myself. I work hard to create room for the range of feelings present— the ones I own and the ones I borrowed when I got lost in the news— or other people’s fear—or social media —or from anywhere other than the holy places.
The things I wonder can consume me.
How do I want to feel when we all emerge?
Do I get to decide?
Can I put action and intention into my behavior so that on the other side of all this suffering, I can look back and feel like my time was of value?
What closets do I need to clean / exit?
What amends are waiting?
What do we do now?
For many, this is the most sacred time of our lives. The world has slowed down, so we aren’t left behind when we take some deep time. Pausing. Mulling. Reflecting. Digging. Screaming. Laughing. Crying. Confusion. Clarity. Fear. Confidence. Profound creativity that will alter the planet.
Sometimes all in the same five minutes, right?
I’m positive; a good question is often the gateway of great inquiry, understanding, and revelation. At the right time, posed in a safe space, given enough room to mull, a question is a doorway that can change everything. My friend @Lolawright recently spent some time asking herself a great question— and her answer, I am confident, will dent the planet.
“What is mine to do? What is no longer mine to do?”
I’ve been sitting still in this quarantine pause time consumed with or desperately avoiding this question.
In my work with people, they ask for my thoughts, opinions, and advice. I occasionally get caught up in the belief that they’ve hired me for those things. But it’s not true. My role is to help them have their coming of awareness—their journey of rooting to the inner depths of sustainable truth. My only real job is to keep asking great questions.
When have I learned enough?
When is leaping necessary?
When is staying in the thick of things crucial?
How do we resolve this?
What makes me feel most like myself?
Where do we draw lines for ourselves?
Who teaches us when to hold, when to fold?
What is my purpose?
This last year a more profound knowing has entered my body. I can feel right and wrong below my neck, somewhere lodged in my organs and bones and muscles. Somewhere in the thick of my breath, I can feel what is mine to do and what is no longer mine to do. I notice some activities leave me feeling more energy at the end of a day. Some events leave me feeling drained. That should be clear cut and simple.
Do what brings you joy, they say. Do what brings you energy and lights you up, they say.
But what about the other absolute truth I’ve learned the hard way?: those who follow this exactly are often broke. Unhappy. Afraid.
I have never found that “easy” or “hard” is a proper measurement for what I should be doing. I have never seen that “what brings me joy” is always the highest and best use of my time. I hate cleaning up cat pee or bathing my dog in tomato juice after a good skunking—- but somewhere in everyone’s life, there comes a moment when cleaning up is necessary, critical, and enormously rewarding.
See how confusing this is?
All this confusion doesn’t hide the fact that I am starting to know. The things that wake me up in the night are useful guideposts. The stuff that makes my heart feel electrified. The stuff I can’t let go of— that’s a great place to lean in and explore. Sometimes I start writing and can’t stop. My day falls apart. My schedule and to-do list evaporate into irrelevance as the words on the page compound, and what I believe becomes more and more visible to me. That’s when I know it’s mine to do. Sometimes I do something so hard and painful but can notice my breath is steady. I trust that more now— listening, checking in on my breath to see where it wants me to go. How I feel is interesting information, but this year especially, I’ve deemed it unreliable. Mostly helpful, sometimes irrelevant.
Sometimes I start something and can’t stop— I become obsessed. The things that never even make it to my to-do list but get done no matter what— those are mine to do. The things I do without knowing I did them consciously—those are mine to do. What is mine to do, and what is no longer mine to do is a daily pondering, a stone I will carry around in my pocket and rub until it’s edges aren’t so rough.
When I wrote my second book, my mentor, @JeannineOuellete, invited me to hold a single question with me during the entire five years the first draft took to write.
“Why are you writing this, with the emphasis on y-o-u?”
I called her yesterday, each quarantined in our homes 400 miles apart, and we connected on our common parts and rattled around each other’s fears and intentions. We spoke of our ambitions and mutual projects, described what we were each working on and how we might collaborate. We walked each other through our collective sadness. Near the end, we got down to the business of asking each other what we hope to get out of this paused time.
How do we stay open to what the second half of our lives should stand for?
What are we learning?
What are my values?
Is this paused time an opportunity for us to re-connect? To what?
Are we doing enough of what we love?
Are we serving enough?
Will the world finally wake up and remember?
What are we going to change?
How do we feel about the pace of our life? Is it too fast, too slow?
We ended our call, agreeing that we don’t yet know the answers. We decided that maybe what would be most beneficial is to find a great question to hold close and ponder and then let go of finding the solutions and make space for the answers to find us.
My question has become apparent.
“What is mine to do? What is no longer mine to do?”
“The taste for glory can make ordinary people behave in extraordinary ways.” ~ Joe Exotic | The Tiger King