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Archive for June, 2011

A Balancing Act

“Desire urges me on, as fear bridles me.”

– Giordano Bruno (1548 – 1600)

I came across this quote in a book I was reading recently and the truth of it struck me.  It seems to describe almost every aspect of my life (and I’m betting I’m not the only one, although perhaps this is misplaced hope that I’m not the only one stuck in the mire).  Whether in my work, relationship, or personal ambitions, I always seem to be engaged in a constant back and forth dance between the desire for something I want to have, be, or create, and the fear that inhibits action.

My twenty-month-old niece came to visit recently and I spent the whole weekend watching her explore her world, envious of her unbridled zest for life and desire to do and discover whatever was in front of her.  At one point, in the pool in my neighborhood, my sister-in-law put her waist deep into the one- foot baby pool.  Instead of crying or cowering in fear at the new experience, she squealed with delight and began to walk, then run, through the water.  Even after she went headfirst under the water a few times because she got in front of her feet, she merely coughed, blinked the water from her eyes, and then begged to be put back into the water to continue her explorations.  When I lifted her out of the water and splashed her back in, she threw back her head in mid-air and screeched with what can only be described as the purest joy. 

Compare this to adult life, where, when one has fallen headfirst quite a few times into deep water (as I most certainly have), the tendency is to withdraw into yourself out of a fear of falling again rather than letting yourself experience life’s challenges with relish.  I wish I could bottle and sell some of the simple joy that radiated out of my niece all weekend over every new event or thing put in front of her — I’d be a rich woman.  Don’t get me wrong, there are most definitely moments in the life of a twenty-month-old that I would not describe as “radiating simple joy” and that in fact may be more accurately described using words like “exorcism.”  However, those moments are fodder for another post entirely.

I think my new mission will be to constantly remind myself to experience and live life like a twenty-month old; I’ll try to look at everything I see with wonder and attempt to let go of the fear to follow every one of my desires.  Then perhaps someday I’ll be able to master this life-long balancing act between desire and fear. I just might leave out the back to back episodes of Dora the Explorer.

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Today marks the summer solstice.  A quick Google search reveals that in purely astronomical terms, this means the sun will be at its highest point in the sky for the whole year at noon today and that this is the longest day (and conversely the shortest night) of the year.  It also marks a turning point of sorts.  The days from this point on will grow shorter and the dark hours longer until the winter solstice, which marks the shortest day and the longest  night. 

Pondering this today (a girl can’t write legal memos all day long– honestly), I found the cyclical nature of this astronomical occurrence somewhat comforting.  No matter what is going on around you, whether it be in your personal life or things observed in the world at large, this sun cycle stays constant. Just as it has for thousands of years.  A reminder that days, even years, go on one after the other — each one marking a new beginning and reminding us that we (and especially our perceived problems) are a very small part of a larger force in the universe. 

A quick Google search also reveals that I am certainly not the first to ponder the deeper meanings of this cycle.  In fact, different religions and cultures across the world have ascribed important meaning to this day and the cycle on a grander scheme for thousands of years.  One of the more notable examples is at Stonehenge, whose main axis was designed to line up perfectly with the sun rising on summer solstice (I told you, it really is impossible to write legal memos all day…thank you Wikipedia).  In any case, I think I will take my camera out tonight and attempt to capture this solstice sun on its way out.  Until then, a poem in honor of the solstice. 

The Summer Day

– Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

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The Best of It

Ok, Ok, I know.  It is the epitome of laziness to keep posting someone else’s genius on your own blog….. but until I finish the actual post I have been working on, it bothers me to see nothing new!  Plus I really like this one. 

The Best of It

–       Kay Ryan

 However carved up  
or pared down we get,  
we keep on making  
the best of it as though  
it doesn’t matter that  
our acre’s down to  
a square foot. As  
though our garden  
could be one bean  
and we’d rejoice if  
it flourishes, as  
though one bean  
could nourish us.

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The Guest House

The Guest House
– Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

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