How do we learn to be still? To allow people the grace to ebb and flow around us without reacting to their emotional whirlpools, their tempests, or their doldrums? Don’t look at me — I have no idea. I am a reactor. I become a tempest in response to another’s, a competing whirlpool. I choose not to tolerate the discomfort and silence of the doldrums; instead, I will spin out, kick up the wind, and become a squall. I hate this about myself. I want to be the calm center, the eye of the hurricane, and yet I become the eye wall.
Every. Damn. Time.
Blessèd sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit
of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit stillEliot. Ash Wednesday.
So how do we learn new ways of approaching the complexity of human behavior? The familiar patterns clearly do not work for me — the destruction and chaos in my wake should be evidence enough that something must change. For Eliot, the answer was prayer, something I am not very good at. A friend of mine “pivots” — she turns her mind from a destructive pattern to a constructive one, while I just sit in the cyclone and let it pull me apart. Not remotely healthy, and not constructive in any way. Feeling miserable is a choice, and I can’t seem to quit it.
I fight allowing life and people to happen around me, because I’ve had so many things happen that I had no control over. Things that hurt deeply. That nearly drowned me. Anxiety became a way of attempting to control the uncontrollable, but it’s a false sense of control. We cannot control a goddamn thing that life and people inflict upon us, but we can control how we react to it.
I think that’s a good start, knowing that. But the next step has to be allowing ourselves to get rolled, (to fully beat the water metaphor into the seabed). Relaxing into the wave, calmly orienting oneself, and pushing up toward the surface. Because this wave won’t kill me, but panicking will.
This wave won’t kill me.