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The Calm After the Storm

Moved to New Hampshire

Our lives ebb and flow. I have noticed this most clearly in thunderstorms. During the storm, the rain is pouring down; the branches crash to the earth. After the storm there is clarity, the clouds clear, the sun shines and the world seems to be born anew. The storms are necessary, lightning is necessary, and even forest fires are necessary. I read Lab Girl last year, and I was surprised to find that there are certain trees that need the hot temperature of a forest fire, to reproduce. Nature happens for a reason.

I am starting to see that my life flows in its own way. I have ebbs of creativity and moments of exhaustion. I am not unchanging and perfect, which I struggle with more than I wish to. I listened to a podcast on The Nuanced Life that discussed how our energy ebbs and flows throughout the day. I was surprised it is not just me that experiences an afternoon slump or a slump as the weeks go on. Part of life is being aware of all we do not know. I am constantly surprised by the amount I do not know and I struggle with recognizing all that I cannot know.

Often humans see ourselves as outside of nature, we consider ourselves to be exempt, when that is impossible. We exist; we are a result of nature. Humans love to take all the credit to flaunt our knowledge. I am one for this too. I think I know better, but after reading The Botany of Desire and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I am starting to realize that all the things we think we know are reductionist, our views about food, and gardening are simply the tip of the iceberg of things we do not understand or know. America focuses on greed and for me I focus on the greed of knowledge. I want to know it all, I believe if I just knew better I would be better, but more and more I realize I do not need to know more, I need to trust. To believe things will work out without intervention. I am not saying do not find information or research, but simply that research only takes you so far. Also research gives me the false sense of superiority. I think I know better, my research is better. Here is what I do know, most of the information I know to be true right now will turn out with better research and time to be wrong. I know this and yet I persist. In moments of clarity and rationality, I see the futility of what I am doing. I see that I am heading nowhere and that too much information is destructive for me. I can be paralyzed by information, I doubt what I know or question is what I know wrong. Those are not the right questions though. The right question is how can I deal with the ups and downs of life? How can I accept my limited viewpoint? How can I be present with what is rather than focusing on what it could be or what is “should” be? How can I trust that everything is as it should be? How can I look outside before, during and after a rainstorm and see the calm as only possible because of all that came before? A calm does not exist in absence of a storm, it is a result of the storm. My life is the same, the times of joy cannot exist without times of struggle, but I do not need to actively make them harder. I can let go of expectations and simply be.

The idea of simply being is one I struggle with on a consistent basis. I am not sure who said the phrase we are human beings not human doings. In times of stress, I revert back to be a human doing. My doing aspect has been coming to the forefront lately. You may have noticed quite a large absence from me in the past few weeks. The absence coincided with lots of change. I did not plan to be away, but the doing took over and I lost a sense of the ability to slow down, the ability to ruminate, to contemplate and to reflect. Only lately have I realized the importance of giving myself this time. 

Quite a lot of changes have taken place in the last few weeks. My husband took a new job, that was the impetus. The caveat was the job he took wasn’t in Iowa. The job was in New Hampshire. You can see how my wanting to do in a time when there are things to be done went wild. My brain went a hundred miles an hour not stopping to think just making list after list after list. Nonstop doing for weeks. This is my foible. When I am overwhelmed, my pattern is to research and do. I am good at those things and to some degree all the doing has served me well. The problem is doing and research only get you so far. When your soul is in a state of unrest, all the doing and the research just feeds my monkey mind. I spin out on tangents worried about things that are unlikely at best and a near impossibility at worst, which is a way of saying I freak out and fall apart. My falling apart does not look like such from an outside perspective. You have to be close to me to see all the cracks in my facade, the fissures that show the strain, the wear, the not being kind, the moments of snapping, of crying of despair. Why in a moment of joy and hope do I find despair? Because life is not simple, to gain one thing you lose another. Life is an odd game of chess where you make concessions, you take losses, in exchange for hope. 

We have moved from one state to another before, in fact those seem to be the only times we move. Why the sense of despair? Haven’t I done this before? Yes, I have done this before, but as much as I have moved, each one is different. The doing stuff is simple, make the call, go to the store, get what is needed. The harder parts are saying goodbye to a community, starting over in a place where you know no one. Beginning again.

I love to learn, but I want it to be on my terms, when I am ready. Oftentimes, life tells me I need to learn when I am not ready or when I thought I had it all together. I had a feeling of peace and acceptance. I felt I was able to be in the world the person I wanted to be, and then stress tested me and I broke apart. Religious authors sometimes say when we break apart it is a way to allow God in, for God to show himself in the mess. I am not sure I see God in this yet. I haven’t given up hope, but I am not seeing what God is doing in this moment. If I am completely honest, I am not sure how I feel about God lately. 

Right now I am in the midst of the storm or so I think, being present with mess in the middle is hard for me. Even in fiction, when a character is making a bad choice intentionally I get worked up and frustrated. If I am watching a movie, I will pause and walk away for a bit because I am so infuriated by their choice. I clearly prefer like-able characters and am attached to their outcomes. I am working to find peace in this messiness, but it is a daily struggle and at least lately I feel like I fail more than I succeed. I have days where my temper is short, where I cry many tears and wonder if we made the right choice. I doubt when I should have faith, I fear the future when I should trust. And here we see the irony, that I am judging and evaluating myself even now. I am not accepting. I am striving. A deep part of me wants to justify why this is the right thing to do- how striving will help me, why I need to be better and do more. Instead though, I need to give myself grace. To understand that I am really doing the best I can even if it doesn’t feel like it, even if I am crying and falling apart. Right now I am doing my best, and the continual striving doesn’t actually help. I need to be present with the tears, the joy, and the moments in between. In the busy-ness of this season I wish you a few moments of presence, of taking it all in and accepting ourselves and each other as we are. Because we are all doing our best to weather the storm.

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