In the last couple of months I’ve read two books that have changed me, deeply and profoundly, Raising Happiness by Christine Carter and Hand, Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life, by Karen Maezen Miller. The fact that I discovered both through blogging, which alone has become so important to me, is not without significance. There are countless reasons why they’ve had an impact, but ultimately I know it’s simply because I was ready. I’m discovering a new understanding and awareness of who I am and for that I’m so grateful.
I must preface this post with a few important caveats:
- It’s all existential. I’m naturally gravitating to that kind of writing. Its part of my journey, the project I started earlier this year to find myself.
- I apologize in advance if I over-quote Karen. Her book has resonated with me, more than I can easily express and I feel a need to share it with you however I can.
- I’m humbled every day by the time you share with me in reading what I write in this place so I’ll try very hard not to run on and on. There are many parts of hand wash cold that speak to me. I’ll continue to expand on them over the coming weeks.
Earlier this year when I started project finding me, I shared some personal revelations from the last decade and thoughts about goals I had for the coming years. At the time it was abundantly clear to me that I had spent the last 10 years building my life. I declared that the next 10 should be all about living my life.
Since then my personal journey has convinced me of just how important this is. But first, I must be clear. As much as it is about being more present in my life, I think I am present, if understandably distracted at the same time. This isn’t going to change; it’s a function of the importance of the roles I play. And yes, this importance is self-ascribed, but that doesn’t make it less. What matters is that these roles (mother, wife, employee, daughter, friend, blogger and many more) are important to me. But when reading hand wash cold, I discovered a very important irony. I thought the answer was to set new goals, to identify new pursuits that would energize me and keep me focused and moving forward, when in fact it really should be all about living life now.
Seems simple doesn’t it? Maybe even obvious. But I challenge you to think about it on a whole new level. This is exactly what Karen does in hand wash cold. On her own journey she found that she was devoted to a life that that she was not actually living. This I can relate to. A life propelled toward some elusive destination of better. A life designed always to getting somewhere else. Only after reading this book and beginning an intensive consideration of this did I realize how unfulfilling this really is. Because you can NEVER reach it, somewhere else is always somewhere else.
Given my own desire for self-understanding and peaceful acceptance, I was particularly struck by this passage.
“We think we are our thoughts; we think we are our feelings; we think we are nothing more than a bulging basket of past experiences.”
Well yes, I have always focused on these parts of me. Allowed these intangibles to shape and define me, sometimes even cripple me. They have far too often been the centre of my existence.
But, I won’t allow them their hold over me anymore. I refuse to be my harshest judge and critic. How ridiculously perverse and egotistical that I have let it get this far.
In hand wash cold it’s laid out in such a direct and simple way. In retrospect, I find it almost absurd how obvious it is. The reality that is our lives. The beauty that can be found in the perfection and simplicity that is ordinary. I’m not being glib. I really do get it. Momma Zen would probably laugh if she read this. Here I am on the verge of labeling it. Naming it. Making IT something. Old habits die hard. IT isn’t anything, it really is just living. And there it has been, staring me in the face, for 33 years.
“Meditation is the option of having no other option, no higher goal, and no more righteous intention that saving your sorry ass from a living hell.”
I’ve been sitting on this abyss for months; my cliff. I’ve physically felt I was toppling over, about to lose myself forever. The blanket that covered me was oppressive. I was facing a darkness that terrified me.
With few options left, I’m ready to accept the message that is carried in this book. There are no 10 tips to do to make your life better. There are no specific actions to take. There is simply a complete revelation of joy in the everyday. And that is the perfect realization. I trust that it will help me “to quiet the torment, and silence the roar.”
Stop, take a deep breath, and live the very life you have. It’s as simple as that. Stop looking at life as a “continual inconvenience,” or a “search for greater meaning.” Focus on the immediate, because if we focus “life never demands of us more than we can handle.” I can draw strength from this reminder. I can remind myself that of course I can cope. Why shouldn’t I?
The only barrier I have is my own critical thinking.
I am under no illusions. This isn’t going to be easy, learning to not worry about what might happen and never expecting more than I have to give. As much as it is obvious, it’s also a complete change of focus, a focus I’ve spent 33 years perfecting. So I’ll have to stop and smell the roses when I feel myself slipping. I’ll read her reminders over and over, and I’ll continue to come to this place to lay it all out. To get it off my mind and share with others. To keep it real.
In her words,
“I can find a different me who looks at things differently, taking more responsibility and assigning less blame, appreciating the whole instead of dividing the parts.”
Thank you Momma Zen for showing me the beauty in the life that I am already leading. All I had to do was slow down and notice.
This book is very real life. Don’t expect the answers wrapped up in a self-help guide that shows you the specific steps to happiness. Instead, expect an awakening to a new way of thinking, one so real it’s almost impossible to deny. You’ll get an honest, gentle, frank and refreshing call to your real life and all that you may have been missing.