It’s March. It’s actually three-quarters of the way into March, which means it’s over one-quarter of the way into 2015. Yikes! And also, slow down! But time never listens. He just keeps on tickin’ at the same speed day in and day out. As always, it is me who needs to slow down. Every so often – perhaps on days with which I find some extra moments of stillness to think – I think about my goals, take a brief inventory of my progress and, hopefully, refocus. Sometimes and for some goals, I’m pretty much on track. I get to pat myself on the back and just ride the momentum onward to the top of the mountain. Other times, with respect to other goals, I am shocked to notice where I am in comparison to where I intended to go.
Some goals send me clear signals to let me know when I am on or off track. Immediate gratification when I am practicing moderation in eating and drinking by the reward of energetic mornings, a happy attitude toward my wardrobe, and a fresh face to greet the day with. Or in contrast, when I am not practicing moderation or remembering my goals, I receive that swift kick in the butt, which comes in the form of ill-fitting jeans, indigestion, and the guilty memory of fried foods in the wee hours. It may not be fun, but it is simpleenough to observe these consequences, refocus and do better the next day. In other words, I don’t let myself get off track for too long because honestly, I wouldn’t have anything to wear, and that would be a real problem. Though I stray here or there and would like to find more balance, I can at least return to my intentions in a relatively short amount of time.
It is those other goals that are more lofty or idealistic, which tend to have more subtle consequence-signals to remind me that I am getting off track. Being kind to strangers, living authentically, speaking from the heart, leading by example. You know, those little ole things. Those goals can be up in the sky and I don’t look up to see them and remember them very often. Days and weeks go by that I haven’t consciously been any kinder to the strangers I’ve encountered than that State Clerk was to me when I was waiting in line at the DMV for a new driver’s license. Getting caught up in the hustle and bustle at work, the mundane annoyances and the running of errands, I forget to lead by an example of openness and selflessness. Instead, I become short and snappy with an attitude of “figure it out for yourself.”
And then this one here . . . I was specifically instructed by my 97-year-old grandmother this last July that I am to “wait for the very best one.” She’s not worried that I’m in my 30’s and not married. She says it’s just as well, as it can take a good long while to find the very best one. Her words touched me deeply at the time and have ever since then when I stop to remember them. But how often do I look at the dating landscape with my grandma glasses on? Are the ones I am considering around me the “very best ones” by my grandma’s standards. Not even close. Not yet anyway. But I can get very far from the path to the very best one as I walk the roads of Nashville and make justifications for many of the candidates I see, or use my imagination to dream up how great they could be if I were to change them. I don’t think that’s what my grandma meant by waiting for the very best one. I think she meant WAIT. Until the best one comes along. Not attempt to change a mediocre one into a good one.
So again, how do I stay on track? How do I keep my eye on the prize? How do I remember the things I want and take the steps to get them or be ready for them when they come to me? Per usual, mindfulness stands out as a practice that could greatly help. Living with intention in every little thing. I can hear my dad as he used to lecture us kids when we’d gotten into trouble, “you’ve got to THINK before you DO.” It’s easy to go with the flow and do what all the other kids are doing, even when it is obviously leading to nowhere good. It’s harder to blaze your own trail. Sometimes mindfulness and living intentionally require us to stick to our own path, however long and hilly and solitary it may be. It also requires faith. We have to believe in our dreams with all of our might and have faith that our path will lead to the treasure, providing a beautiful journey along the way.
At the same time, part of that journey is the lesson of perseverance – getting back up when we fall. Not wallowing in our failures or being waylaid by some hurdle that comes along. Instead, when the difficulties come, we learn resiliency. I have to learn this lesson over and over again. I get better at it but I still have more practice ahead of me. In my yoga posture, when I fall out, I learn not to waste energy moping about the fact that it wasn’t as good as yesterday. I get back into it and make the most of the rest of the time I have to practice it that day. When I fall off my course, I must give myself grace, learn a lesson, and waste no time in getting back to living full-heartedly and giving my all to whatever it is I am doing.
In all this talk of keeping my eye on the prize and sometimes loosing sight of that prize, it may seem that all I do is criticize myself. But that is not my purpose. Self- reflection and critique is simply an expression of faith in ourselves – that we can become all of what we were made to be. An acknowledgement that the work in us is not yet finished and that our imperfections can be viewed through courageous eyes that aren’t afraid to see things as they are and believe in what can be.
I want to end with a short story. A story about balance and enjoying life. A girlfriend and I set out the other night to take a walk in the nice weather and maybe treat ourselves to a little something along the way. We walked and walked and talked and laughed as girls often do. We shared stories of growing up and teenage years and memories of family and friends. We talked about the people in our present lives and what they were going through and how we desired to be there for them. We stopped for some refreshments in the forms of hummus, pita, chips, and beers. We walked some more and stopped for a final treat. It was going to be just a coffee but some muffins in the display case looked so good, we had to try them. We shared a couple of muffins (we had to try both kinds). Something we don’t normally do in our anti-carb society. We laughed more and talked about all the things we love eating (like cereal and pad thai and Mitchell’s Deli sandwiches) …. like girls often do. The muffin was glorious, and the company was even better. We may not have planned to eat amuffin that day but you can’t plan everything. Women have been eating muffins together for hundreds of years, and there’s no reason we should stop now. It was, in actuality, a night of mindfulness as we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of being alive. “Intentions” came up more sporadically (less like planned intentions and more like “why nots?”) but we allowed them in. We talked about the past, we lived in the moment, and we created memories for the future. Mindful living in practice. Grace and flexibility with our intentions. Balance and authentic living.