Thursday, May 11, 2017

Lessons the hard way

Yesterday I shot myself in the foot.  Not literally, of course, but the self-sabotage was absolutely real.

You see, for years, I've driven the same route to work in the mornings. Then, last week, because of construction, I was forced to take a different way altogether.  And this new route turned out to be three minutes faster!  So, naturally, I decided the new way would be my new usual.

That brings us to yesterday.  I had first period prep (no students - preparation time), so I decided to sleep a little longer and go in a little later.  Well, as I finally got on the freeway, I looked out to see how full it was, and I panicked.  All the cars were moving, just slowly.  No reason to panic at all.  But my head said "Yikes!  You'll be stuck!  You'll be late!"  So I immediately got right off again.  

But, of course, getting off took me in a whole new direction.  I had to take a rather round-about way just to get back to my old route, and in doing so, I added a good ten minutes to my journey.  During those extra minutes I had a good think, and I realized that the slow down was likely cause by a major exit to another freeway (just a couple miles down the road) and that traffic almost certainly sped up once it passed that crucial point.  So my panic was for nothing!

And here's the really sad part.  If I had just had a little courage, just an eensie bit, I could have BEEN THERE in the same time it took me to get back on that safe, familiar road.

Life lessons?  Probably a million.  But here's the three I take away from the whole debacle.

1. Don't panic.  The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy knew what it was talking about. Panic gets you nowhere.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  I panic easily.  I'm like Scaredy Smurf, only less confident.  

2. Don't second guess yourself.  First instincts are often correct, and doubt usually just makes things fall apart.  If you put thought into making the original decision, trust your judgment.  


3. Sometimes your comfort zone is the worst place you can be.  Going back to what used to work can't always save you from new troubles.  In fact, sometimes it just makes things worse.  Holding still might save a rabbit from being discovered by a predator, but in the middle of the highway it just leads to roadkill.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Epihany or not

Almost a two month blogging dry spell.  Not the most auspicious start to my grand re-do... I think that's because I put too much pressure on the whole idea.  I wanted this blog to be an awaking or maybe an expression of some deep personal revelation. But of course that was an entirely unrealistic expectation.  A person can't plan intimate moments of clarity any more than they can plan a poker hand or a roll of the dice.

I think I've watched Sabrina and Julia and Julia too many times.  I've read Walden and watched all the PBS reality shows about immersing yourself in another time or culture.  I love to watch and  experience other people have defining moments and life-changing experiences, and I guess that, foolishly, I was just hoping for one of my own.  

But that isn't the way life works.  You can't mark on your calendar "today I will have an epiphany that will change my whole outlook on life, the universe, and everything".  

I tried that once before, and it was a disaster!  

Six and a half years ago I had the opportunity to go to New York and work as a nanny.  New York is almost synonymous with such dramatic realizations, and I was certain that I would find myself there.  I would spend time in the "Metropolitan Mecca", going to museums, theatres, central park, and all the famous restaurants I had seen on the Food Network.  I would meet interesting people and discover courage and humanity in myself that I never knew existed.  I wanted to transform from a fat ugly caterpillar into a magnificent butterfly.

Well, I went to the museums.  And I went to central park.  I went to F.A.O Schwarz and Dylan's Candy Bar, and China Town.  I went to the Bronx Zoo, and I rode the subway.  I even got asked for directions by a tourist!  But not only did I NOT have that wonderful "a-ha moment" I was hoping for, I had entirely different kind of metamorphosis!

I won't go into the details, because they aren't really necessary to my point, but when I had finally had enough and boarded a plane to come home, I was a shell of my former self.  I had lost all hope in humanity as a whole and had developed an almost PTSD reaction to any kind of conflict.  Seven years later I still have panic attacks any time I hear even the most mild disagreements.  I can't watch the news, because all the "talking heads" with their loud opinions and bad manners send me running for cover.  And all my years of watching Law and Order and CSI have filled me with nightmare scenarios that are burned into my brain and make me look over my shoulder when I'm out and pray for my family's safety any time they run to Walmart for milk.

So, long story short, I am very broken.  Working on it... but still broken.  And somehow I was blinded to the irony that I was once again seeking for grand transformation in a place outside myself.  

A blog can certainly have that effect.  It can be a place for self-reflection and meditation just as easily as it can be for entertainment and enjoyment.  What it can't be, however, is deliberate.  And by that I mean, it cannot be a forced cure.  

Modern media makes such epiphanies seem common and guaranteed.  We grow up waiting for our moment in the mental sunshine, when all of life's confusions come into glorious focus.  Even the most cheesy and humble of Hallmark's holiday films has that telling scene where the hero or heroine looks up at the stars and realizes how wrong they have been about everything and know that, if they will just open themselves up to love, the universe will make everything all right.  

But of course, fiction is fiction.  It's lovely, but it's not real.  Such moments of realization can happen, of course.  And seeking for them is a lofty goal.  That is why the self-help section at Barnes and Noble is so huge.  And that is why there are so many communes and retreats, gurus and life-coaches.  But achieving that goal is not a guarantee.  

There are any number of people who live their whole lives and never figure out why on earth they do what they do or even why they should keep on doing it.  

And no, what I've been mulling over in this post is NOT some sort of religious awakening.  A person can be deeply faithful, rock solid in their beliefs about God (or not God), and still be entirely lost when it comes to themselves.  Yes, some people do find that sense of self through spiritual awakening, but for others, that is not the road to personal enlightenment.

And so far, I am not one of those people.  

Does that mean it will never happen for me?  Of course not!  But this brings me right back to the point I started out with.  "A person can't plan intimate moments of clarity."

If and when I have an awakening of my own, it will be unexpected and wonderful.  That's the nature (and the definition) of an epiphany!  They are sudden and intuitive and triggered by simple, commonplace experiences.  There is no trumpet or fanfare, no soundtrack or fireworks, and certainly no rainbows or shooting stars.  They are quiet moments of reflection that tiptoe softly and whisper wonderful truths in your ear.


So I will keep searching and hoping to hear that quiet voice of understanding, but in the meantime... it's time to stop organizing the gala receptions for its arrival.