Saturday, September 9, 2017

50 for 50, day three: This is water

This is the third of 50 blog posts leading up to my 50th birthday.

I've written about this before, but that doesn't mean it isn't still meaningful and worth thinking about. (I suspect I'm going to say this a lot as I blog my way to 50. So be it. Maybe that means I've learned a few things that are worth sharing.)

When I was a kid I thought it was kind of cool to think of myself as a control freak. I'm not sure why I thought that was a good label to own, but I certainly embraced it. I tried to control the world around me, the reactions of the people near me, the forces that pressed in upon me and I failed. Trying to do so is, at best, self-defeating and more likely self-destructive.

I learned at a young age that there is very little I can control. In fact, the only thing I really can effect is how I respond to the world, to people, to the circumstances in which I find myself. As a result of this understanding of my own power and powerlessness, I have tried to live my life as an act of being present. I fail all the time, but I keep trying.

I'm not talking about the things I have control over, like paying my bills or washing the dishes or deciding if I want to have a glass of water or a cup of tea. I'm talking about the external forces that press in on us all the time. I can't change those. I can choose which I attend to, but I cannot stop the world around me, whether it's politics or the climate or standing in a long line. I've learned a few things.

  • I've learned that there is a far more that I cannot control than what I can.
  • I've learned that the only thing I can truly control is my response to the moment. David Foster Wallace talks about just this in his wonderful speech, This Is Water, linked below.
  • I've learned that I need to learn this again. Over and over and over again. Almost every day.
  • I've learned that when I give myself permission to just be present in the moment, whatever it may be, the moment is often more bearable than I expected. If it remains unbearable I at least know it will change. 
  • I've learned that change is pretty much the only constant.
  • I've learned that sometimes presence can change lives. By accepting that I may not be able to control the broad outlines of the world, I can instead have significant impact on the small details. By listening, by choosing to be kind, by accepting that every moment is a part of my life with no less import than any other, I am, in fact, not powerless at all.

This is what 50 looks like. Choosing to breathe when breath is impossible. Choosing to listen because that may make all the difference or at least enough. Choosing again and again and again.

(c)2017 Laura S. Packer Creative Commons License

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True Stories, Honest Lies by Laura S. Packer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
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