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« When Darkness Descends | Main | On the Sweet Where You Live »
Wednesday
Dec142011

My Life as a Swinger

Dust flew as my feet hit the ground.  The dragging motion every time I reached the well worn middle slowed me down until it was safe to jump off. Mom had called me in for supper or my best friend wanted to play with me on the seesaw or it was getting dark-- for any of a number of reasons the swing always had to slow and stop so I could run on to other things.

I took such great joy in swinging when I was a child! My sturdy little legs pushing off, pumping and pumping, arms extended, head tilted back with the wind rushing through my hair, my toes tautly pointing to go higher, higher until I almost felt as though  I could set myself in orbit around the swing set. But the backward motion always followed the forward motion, the lows always followed the highs and the swing, eventually, always had to slow to a stop.

My legs are still sturdy-- thick ankles, big calves. I'm built more like a work horse than a race horse, much to the chagrin of my inner princess. Life has changed, though, since my playground days. The journey has become a bit more complicated than the one between the playground and the supper table, and the swing I ride these days is entirely inside my head.  Ups and downs, good days, bad days, highs and lows are all characterized as such by my own discernments, by a capricious inner judge, by an internal mental analytical service I must have signed up for sometime after I left the playground. 

For years the internal swinging was wild and crazy. Up one day, down the next, my mind would unfailingly and insistently tell me where I was-- in a good place, in a bad place, with the right person, with the wrong person, on the right path, on the wrong path. Not only that, there would always be this constant side commentary about what should be and what shouldn't be, about what was fair and what was unfair, how people should treat me and how they shouldn't treat me. It was exhausting, all this analysis, not to mention confusing because there were often conflicting thoughts. I bravely persisted for many years but eventually I became so tired, so overwhelmed by it all that my internal swing slowed down. It slowed way down. The clinical term for it was depression and I entered an entirely different phase of my life, one which my mind sought to characterize as hopeless. Yet I was getting sick, literally, of all the stuff my mind was telling me.  

There are gifts inherent in depression that we don't see when it first descends. Depression is a sane reaction to an insane world, a drawing down of the mind's awesome ability to call the shots. Oh, it still asserts itself. It tells you things like life is not worth living, things will never get better, and it uses the word failure a lot. For a while I bought into all of that and then I started noticing that some of the mind's last ditch attempts to maintain control didn't quite ring true. In fact, some of it was downright ridiculous. Sadly, it had never occurred to me to question my own thinking processes before. The minute it did, the tables began to turn. Hey, wait just a minute! How could there be nothing to live for when these three extraordinary children of mine, with their boundless enthusiasm, show me life in all its wonder day after day after day? All I had to do was pay attention. My children, with their beautiful beginner's minds, saved me.  They continue to save me. One questioned thought led to another and soon I was in the business of baloney detection and my mental operating system was undergoing a dramatic and life enhancing upgrade. 

These days the swing has slowed down to a gentle sway back and forth. This diminished movement reduces blur and enables me to see things more clearly and appreciate life as never before. The wild highs have been replaced by simple contentments which are far more fulfilling. The despairing lows matured into the grace of acceptance.

Life is not always easy. Life is not always kind. Eventually and inevitably life is taken from us entirely. Until that day I intend to make my best effort to choose happiness when a choice is offered (which is almost always) and practice my ability to accept adverse circumstance when it is not.  Author Karen Maezen Miller, in her book Momma Zen, says it best:

 "Happy matters most of all. And here's the surprise ending. You don't have to wait for happiness because there's no time but now to be happy.You don't have to go somewhere else because there's no place but here to find it. You don't have to do something else because there's nothing more to it. You don't have to get something else, because everything you already have is enough. You just have to be happy."

Simple, yet not always so easy in practice. But we have to do just that. Practice.

 


 

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Reader Comments (2)

WOW. So moving and powerful and beautifully written. I am in tears. Thank you thank you thank thank you. I needed this.

December 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Very beautiful article, thank you for posting. It's strange to realise that no matter how much we achieve, something will always be missing, unless we accept to live in the present moment...

April 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterE s e n z a

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