“as we mature”…
I love the way Whyte so nicely says “get old”..but, you know, I have to make some kind of crack because when I saw this I immediately burst into tears.
I just don’t know if there is a better description, for me, of what I have been feeling lately, of why I picked trust as my WOTY and how clearly I am seeing the relationship between trust, vulnerability and courage. I know and certainly unconsciously knew when I picked the word (and can I just say that both BRAVE and VULNERABLE made the short list this year) that I have to , as Whyte says “combecome larger and more courageous and compassionate”. Because I am becoming more and more intimate with disappearance and the understanding of what that truly is.
And I have no choice in the matter of “maturity”, so how I inhabit it is important.
I was at a meditation group last night where we did an exercise in mindful listening. I’m actually quite good at that, it’s what I do in my grief groups. I listen, and in order to be effective, to ask the right questions, I have to listen purposely and without judgement so that I am able to encourage the participant to go deeper. The question last night was sort of ridiculously huge (my judgement based on fear of vulnerability)…it was “what was the biggest change in your life that has led you to where you are today”. I had 3 or 4 responses come up before I settled on a very nice one. Not the true one, the one that was and has been pressing me for days now, that one was discarded immediately. And not one or two others that felt like they spoke a little too closely to the real me. But a pleasant one, a true but safe one. I guess there was some vulnerability because I did state that I didn’t feel safe really sharing in this environment because I didn’t know the people, it was the first time I had come to the group, I know I’m a little closed off but…..but then is that vulnerability or slamming a door shut? I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. AND, not surprisingly, I think my reticence (I went first in the talking part) shut the other people in my group down a bit, one even said as much.
I knew when I chose the word TRUST it would be difficult. Only 19 days into January and it’s already kicking my ass.
Why did I choose TRUST? I said in my WOTY post that it scares me, and it does. I am so not vulnerable, so not brave. I have my life nicely compartmentalized; except for a few very trusted people and long time friends who know pretty much everything, I keep everyone at a distance. I present well, at least now I do; it wasn’t always so and sobriety has certainly helped. That courage Whyte talks about, to be vulnerable…man, there’s my work.
“how we become larger and more..”
I so instinctively and immediately understood this quote that it felt almost like a slap to my face, a dare. I have a sweet friend who is constantly pushing me to stop playing so small, to start to dream and to act on those dreams. And I have, there’s been a lot of brave things I have done in this last year in particular that are moving me ahead a little rather than keeping me stuck in a status quo. But how impossible is that “The only choice we have as we mature…” The ONLY choice. I’m not questioning it; it feels so true, it fucking reeks of truth. But where does that leave me, when I only have one choice?
It leaves me in the same place that a lot of 20-somethings are. Vulnerable, courageous and trusting they hurl themselves into life, damn the consequences. They make bad choices and good choices and keep going because they have long lives ahead of them and can afford some mistakes.
Guess what? Me too. Take out the long lives ahead of me, as I am “maturing” rapidly, but I really am at a point where I have very little to lose by being fully present, open and vulnerable. If I try something and it doesn’t work out no one will think I’m stupid, they’ll give me props for being so brave to try that “at her age!” (Bless her heart). I am plenty capable of blowing up relationships, but only the newer ones, the ones that are more tenuous anyway. Unlike a younger person I HAVE my people….anyone new is a bonus. I’m not afraid of death, mortality is not an issue I struggle with, although, admittedly, aging is. I have some very apparent “intimacy with disappearance”, in more ways than the obvious (definitely a post in that sentence!). But why not go into that aging with compassion for myself and others rather than anger at what I am losing. Why not full bore, balls out ahead. What have I really got to lose?
I’m already on a path with my meditation, my yoga, my interest in a deeper form of spirituality outside the constructs of religion or even god. If I move forward in that intent, then I have nothing to lose, and if I truly have nothing to lose then why not open, be vulnerable and trusting as I flow into my maturity…my old age (because let’s call a spade a spade here)? Why not embrace my life now as a new place of learning with all the freedom of youth and none of the responsibility ahead of me?
(How many questions am I going to ask in one post? Who am I asking?)
You know, I was also thinking about Dylan Thomas in relation to his famous :
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
“Old age should burn and rave at close of day”….that line gets left out, right? I see that as a caution against this disappearance, this gradual diminishment that Whyte is talking about. While I am gaining intimacy with it, I don’t have to capitulate to it. I can become “larger and more courageous and more compassionate”. I’m officially in the later part of my life. I may not look or even really feel it, but there are numbers that tell me it is so, there are realities of life that I cannot hide from. It’s time to man up, to get brave, be courageous, because I can choose to be open and vulnerable or it can be foisted upon me. I still have time to choose MORE.
And that begins with truth and ends with compassion. The thing is, it has to start with MY truth and end with compassion for MYSELF, with the understanding that this is it, no do-overs. “ 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?” (Mary Oliver)
I don’t think I have even touched the surface of this quote and what it means to me.I found it today and tried. I imagine I will be revisiting it a lot, writing more about it. This is enough for now, it’s late and I am ready for sleep.
But I felt the need to be a little vulnerable, at least here.
But that’s kind of a laugh, no? Because I am, except for a few people who actually know me, very anonymous here. I’m open, I say what I feel and mean, but who am I, really?
But hey, I present well, right?
As an added bonus….I am going to be doing a 28 day meditation challenge with Sharon Salzberg. It’s a great way to get your feet wet if you’re new to meditation, and a nice community if you already have a practice. She is my current “meditation” crush and I am looking forward to the daily commitment. Maybe some of you would like to join me? The info is at :