Do you remember the early days of the pandemic? When we couldn’t go to work, all the stores were closed, we were isolating and quarantining and we had all this time we needed to fill?
Do you remember how in those early days, and later too, we learned new skills, practiced art, asked ourselves what we were passionate about and got creative finding ways to spend time with our families?
Do you remember how frustrating it was to be alone with our thoughts? And then, how much less frustrating it became? Do you remember how we learned to appreciate, really appreciate the experience of just being and not having to do anything?
And I am not sure when I lost that, but I have. Work returned. Stores reopened. We had entertainment again. I seem to have forgotten how to simply be, without performing or trying to prove my worth.
So, this is my reminder to myself and to anyone else who needs to read it. It is okay, more than okay, to simply be. Your worth comes from your being, not from your doing. Your worth comes from who you are, not from what you think others want you to be. The goal of this life is to be fully ourselves.
Sure, doing is important. If we never did anything, our world, our homes, our relationships would fall apart. But we are often quick to overlook the importance of just being.
Today is Sunday. Today is a great day to simply be. Spend some time today just being in awe of the wonderful person you are.
How often, when everything seems out of control, are we reminded to just breathe? And so, we take a deep, cleansing breath, allowing the oxygen to fill our lungs and feed our body. And then…we hold it. How often, when things seem out of control, do we forget to exhale? We forget that everything has a cycle, that every season comes and goes, bringing life and letting it go. We forget that every inhale must have an exhale. It is the only way we can keep breathing.
I don’t know if it is Covid, or American Politics, or just a recognition that 2020 has been hard on all of us, but I notice I am holding on to a lot of tension in my body. I try to focus on releasing that tension, but inevitably I find my shoulders up at my ears, my jaw clenched, and tension around my eyes.
It became quite apparent to me as I watched the results of the US election pour in, and then pause, and then change, and finally be called. It was as if, for a moment, I could exhale. And then, just as quickly, I inhaled again, but this time with anticipation of the possibility of a better future.
As I watch the Coronavirus numbers in Ontario creep and leap higher, I feel that same tension, the uncertainty of what it will mean for holiday gatherings, for schools and hospitals and for my and many others’ loved ones. I wonder when it will end. And then, news of a possible vaccine, stories of neighbours showing up for one another again, seeing someone you know is smiling under their mask because it shows in their eyes…and there’s the exhale. And then inhale again, with anticipation for innovation and possibilities for an end to this pandemic. Parker Palmer is an author and teacher who writes and speaks about the relationship between the cycles of life and the breath. I recently read a reflection written by Palmer about Autumn and letting go. In it, Palmer reminds us that in Autumn, as the leaves are changing and the days are growing cooler and shorter, that nature is planting seeds which will bring life back in the spring.
He reminds us that we can not have the beauty and abundance of spring and summer, without the work of autumn and winter. We can’t experience and enjoy the light, without first experiencing darkness (something I really experienced yesterday when the power went out in my neighbourhood for four hours after it was already dark). There is no joy without loss, no life without death. And no inhale without an exhale. The inhale brings new beginnings, new possibilities. The inhale begins life. Our first task in life is to inhale. The exhale allows us to let go, to release. It symbolizes an ending and opens us up to receive something new. Just as life begins with an inhale, life ends with an exhale. Both are necessary. Each needs the other. Inhale and exhale match one another throughout our entire lives, existing in perfect rhythm. Parker also talks about how preoccupied we are with the inhale. We want the new. We want the bright. We want the warm and beautiful, and we want it without letting go. However, we can’t be inhale-only people. We physically can not inhale without first exhaling.
This season of fall is an exhale season. Nature reminds us to breathe. Trees drop their leaves in a vibrant exhale. Darkness comes earlier and reminds us to rest.
For me, remembering to exhale in this season of my life, to let go of anger and frustration and learning to be okay with uncertainty, is allowing me to inhale possibility and hope and wisdom.
Moving into winter, the exhale will mean allowing myself time to rest. It will mean simplifying and saying no thank you to invitations that don’t nourish me. It will mean noticing the space created by letting go, just as there is space when the trees let go of their leaves. For me, fall and winter will be about letting go and being intentional about nourishing my body, my mind, my spirit, my relationships. It will be a reminder that I don’t always have to inhale. What will it look like for you?!
Last year, I wrote a 45 day series called 45 Days of Courage in which I shared what I believe courage looks like in my life. One of the posts I consistently go back to is a post about believing we are enough. We are constantly being told in direct and indirect ways, that who we are, right now, is not enough. That if we only had this car or that wrinkle cream we would feel as if we are enough. We see people posting on Instagram and Pinterest their perfect meals and we read about how they balance work and parenting and being the perfect partner and having a busy social life and we wonder why we are struggling. Maybe we aren’t enough?
So today I want to revisit the words from that previous post. Not because I don’t want to write something new. I am up before 5:00 on a Saturday morning and can’t sleep. I want to revisit these words because they are so important to me, to remind myself that no matter what I do or don’t do, no matter the good or bad choices I may make, that I am enough. I hope as you read them, or read them again, that you will remember that too.
It takes courage to believe you are enough.
That’s right. Just as you are, right now. Without changing anything.
You are enough.
Without being thinner or richer or more successful.
You are enough when you get frustrated with your kids or when you feed them pizza for the second time in a week.
You are enough when you can’t quit the bad habit you have been trying to overcome or when you can’t stop playing the angry phone call over and over in your head.
You are enough when you know you are enough. You are enough when you can not possibly believe you are enough.
You are enough on the easy days and on the days of struggle too. When you jump out of bed ready to face the day, and when you cry all the way to work, wishing you could just go home again because you are sure you are making the lives of those you serve much much worse.
Today you are enough. Yesterday, you were enough. Tomorrow you will be enough. There is nothing more you need to do or be to be enough.
Read all those words again.
Read them all, and find the courage to believe them.
I have a great love for office supply stores, for beautiful stationary and most of all, for my day planner. I take a lot of time searching for a planner that meets all my needs, that will help me stay organized and that is just the right size.
Currently, my favourite planner is the Passion Planner. I love that it helps me organize my days and weeks, that there is a section each month to reflect on the previous and coming months, a to-do list, and quotes to keep me motivated. I love the tools for helping me set and reach goals. But most of all, I love the Space of Infinite Possibility at the bottom of each week’s page.
The Space of Infinite Possibility. How amazing is that? It’s a weekly reminder that anything can be. What would happen if at every obstacle, at every road block, at each turn and twist I could stop and recognize that moment as a moment of infinite possibility.
As the driver and navigator in the road trip of our lives, each of us has many choices to make each day, with turns and stops and detours and scenic routes taking us down new paths and roads. What an adventure!
Also, how incredibly frightening! I do not like uncertainty. I am not spontaneous. I like predictability. I like to know where I am going, what I need to bring and how long I will be there. Life doesn’t really work like that, though, does it? We are forced to make adjustments and changes each day. Life is unpredictable. The world is unpredictable. Relationships are unpredictable. And all that messy unpredictability is what makes life so valuable and beautiful.
So, I am going to attempt to reframe my belief about predictability and try to live in the space of infinite possibility. I am ready to embrace the turns and detours, to meet interesting and new people, to discover passions and talents I never knew I had. Life is short. If this year has taught me anything it is to appreciate the people, the time and the experiences we are privileged to have.
What does your Space of Infinite Possibility look like? What will you fill that space with this day or week or year? As I consider my own Space of Infinite Possibility, I ask myself:
What if I shift my focus to what is possible instead of the obstacles in my way?
What if I replaced “I can’t” with “I will”?
What if I trust myself and become my own biggest cheerleader ?
What if I reframe failure as an opportunity to learn and grow – an exciting detour on the road to becoming everything I am meant to be?
What if everything I have experienced until now has been preparing me to step into my greatness?
What if I am stronger and more powerful than I ever imagined?
Do you travel the Road of Predictability? How would your life be different if you lived in the Space of Infinite Possibility?
I have a friend and colleague who often reminds me to find joy in unexpected places. Like many of you, I am tired. Like many of you, I have been pushed to my limits.
And also like many of you, I have found moments of joy where I never thought I would.
There is something about collective adversity that brings out the best in humanity. We smile more (with our eyes now, because no one can see us smiling under our masks), we offer to help a stranger, we enjoy the company of friends and no longer take it for granted. We laugh more. These are moments that have brought me glimpses of joy in what has also been a time of great sadness and challenge.
I don’t know what you are facing today. I do know what we have all been facing this year. I don’t know if you are finding this pandemic time to be energizing and productive, or if you are so lonely it physically hurts your heart. I don’t know if this time has helped you reconnect with a partner or loved one, or if this time together has shined a light on a relationship that is just not meant to be.
True joy comes from learning what feeds your soul and doing more of that. But right now it may feel as if that kind of joy is impossible to find.
I do know that even in the darkest and saddest of times, there can be moments of unexpected joy. Maybe joy can be found:
finding money in your jacket pocket
watching a dog cock its head when you say something to it
in the moment your child hugs you when you are feeling sad
in the anticipation of something you hope for
in a song
in a conversation
when you try something new, even though you are scared and awkward
catching up with an old friend
meeting new friends
hearing the words “I love you”
in the moment after you let out all the emotions you have been holding on to
listening to a cat purr on your lap
finishing a project
They may be small, but I urge you to see them, to feel them, to recognize them and to let them fill you with a little bit of happiness.
Maybe finding these small and unexpected moments of joy will lead you to those bigger, soul-energizing, lasting experiences of joy. And if not, keep looking for those unexpected moments, those moments that seem ordinary and mundane but are filled with something that feels like joy for you.