Saturday, May 19, 2012
Shoe Shopping in the Eye of the Storm
The last couple of weeks have felt very quiet. No major insights gained, no sense of progress, just life going on as usual. My over-achiever self is getting impatient: "Shouldn't you be signing up for more things, writing more pages in your journal, going on longer walks -- something? anything? You shouldn't wait until December to start making plans for after your sabbatical!"
Some time ago, my yoga teacher spoke about the uneventful times as being like the eye of a hurricane. All the craziness subsides for a while, but you know that it will start up again soon. The eye of the hurricane is a short respite where you can check on things and make sure that everything is well secured. You can check in on the people you love, and then sit back and enjoy the unearthly calm. When the winds start to blow again, you will be ready. That pretty much describes my current state. I'm doing what I can do, and I know that the pace will pick up again, but right now, I don't feel any particular need to stir things up unnecessarily (except for the over-achiever part of me, of course).
Looking at my calendar, I see that my life hasn't been entirely devoid of events. My twice-monthly discussion group had a very deep, insightful session. I went with a friend to see a fascinating documentary film and panel discussion on how our night skies are becoming progressively brighter and less starry. Afterward, our discussion of what we learned about eco-friendly outdoor lighting prompted me to write to my condo manager and post a summary on my various forms of social media. I had a review session with my investment adviser. My sister and I are working on a major update to my website. I got all new windows installed in my condo, which required me to take down all my blinds and valances -- and put them back up again afterward. I'm signed up for a half-day science policy workshop this coming Monday. That's all in addition to my twice-weekly yoga classes, daily domestic chores, journaling, walking, and reading. Oh yes, I also went to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel".
One of the things I'm reading is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. She and I are very different people, but I am learning a lot from her account of her renewal year. She wrote at length about letting go of anger at things past, rejecting the prepackaged lifestyle that was eroding her personal integrity, and finding quiet at her own center. Her journey of discovery was far more adventurous than mine -- I still have my home, and I'm not getting off the plane in a country where I don't speak the language with no idea of where I am going to sleep that night. On the other hand, I don't have a book advance and a lifetime of foreign travel experience, so she did have some advantages. Still and all, I share the desire to escape the life that I'm "supposed" to be leading and find my own voice.
I never saw the movie, but I've been reading some of the reviews. The harshest criticism comes from people who think that this was an exercise in self-indulgence, an abandonment of a richly blessed lifestyle, and a sudden betrayal of a loving husband. Some people seem to think that taking more than a day or two away from your work for quiet reflection and self discovery is morally suspect. When life has handed you everything that you're supposed to want, how dare you say that you want something else -- especially when you can't quite put your finger on what that something else is?
Maybe there really are people in the world who are truly satisfied with all the default settings. All the beliefs that were handed down to them, all the expectations that go along with their predetermined place in society, all the people in their immediate neighborhood -- all these things fit them so well that they have no need to stop and question who they really are and what they are really meant to be doing. For most of the people I know, at least some parts of their prepackaged life chafe them like badly fitting shoes. Some people steadfastly endure the blisters and corns. Some people cushion the parts that fit the worst. Some people go out and look for "life shoes" that actually fit.