After my second “vacation” home (to Los Angeles in April, and Connecticut last weekend), I’m surprised to find a palpable landing back home in Florida. My travels around the country to see loved ones, friends and family, and to frequent my old stomping grounds, came with all the usual emotional turbulence one would expect. Happy and those less-than-happy memories surfaced, and the intangibility of home (“Stop this Train!”) reminded me of the inevitably of aging, impermanence and my own growth.
I found myself in an odd predicament, as I prepared for my high school reunion. (Yes, I planned it. Yes, I was class president. But no, I am not any longer! I’ve retired.) The familiar stress of event planning and on-site logistics, paired with a few unfortunate hiccups in the long days that preceded the event reminded me of my high school self: Eager to please, relentlessly offering my energy to others yet so drained as a result that I miss much of the experience myself. This is my pattern. I miss quality conversations with old friends and I might be seen (I’ve been told) as self-centered for my “lack of caring about others” when the time for chatting came. Instead, I hover close to the bar overwhelmed, jittery and foggy-feeling. The show must go on.
We like to paint pictures of what something “should” or “would” be like. I had one for this milestone event and I know others did too. But ultimately, my proudest memory was right before I left the house. I had answered all the questions, called all the vendors, secured the decorations, arranged the guest list, collected, deposited, and disbursed funds, and on. The only thing left to do before I left the house was be still. I looked in the mirror, one last make-up check, and was surprised by a tsunami-like welling up of pride.
Though I might still fall into old patterns from time to time, I am aware of them. And awareness gives me choice. I found myself proud, not of who I am on paper – business owner, Masters degree holder, international traveler, author – in fact, speaking to these “titles” like accusations actually triggers some nerves. These are roles that I play, that I am honored to hold. They do not define me. I am not that.
As I looked in the mirror, I felt a startling ease and affection for the person staring back. I trust her. I’m inspired by her strength. Her ruthlessness. Her endurance. I admire that in the hardest, darkest times she continued to extend her arms, heart and mind to others. (Even though she should have been home prioritizing self-care.) When there was nothing left to give, she gave whatever she had left. She knows who she is unapologetically. And in recognizing there are many things she doesn’t know, she moves through life differently than before. Her ego, and eyes have softened.
I went forward to the reunion and enjoyed the following day with extended family, feeling immersed in a sense of (relative) calm and all-encompassing love.
Of all the changes I’ve made in the past ten years – the cross-country moves, the ass kicking’s and getting my ass kicked – there are a few lessons I feel have changed me the most:
I now know that the purpose of life is to love. That being still is not a sin. That finding stillness is not shameful. That being “productive” is not required to “succeed.” I’ve softened. The gaze in my reflection is no longer dominated by a sense of fear, confusion or disillusion, but is held with compassion, understanding, and tenderness.
My heart affirms my own personal mantra and place in the world (which coincidentally, is likely yours too):
I will accept you no matter what. I will love you no matter what. I will be the best I can be, and accept my imperfections. I will set boundaries to protect myself from those who might misuse or abuse my energy. I will be present when and as often as I can, and permit myself to retreat into solitude as needed to recharge and re-energize. I will surround myself with people who support me and my goals without judgment, and allow for them to change and evolve with time.
I will love as often and as much as I can bear. I will understand when love cannot be returned and hold space for forgiveness, healing and growth. Even after being hurt, I will continue to love. Fulfillment is love. Look no further than those closest to you. They and you are all you need.
I’ve come to see that finding stillness is both the means and the end. A still life in the present moment is a happy life. I intend to spend the rest of mine pursuing exactly that, with a healthy sprinkling of dreams.
Stop looking, you’ve already found it. The still life.
My heart whispers: Rest easy, you are perfect. And I think that one’s for you.
All bound up in love, devotedly yours,