by Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.

Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam

returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous

tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,

it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.

But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,

mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Resilience. Persistence. Not resistance, but tenacity. 
I love the imagery of the tree in this poem – the tenacity to seek out light when it is blocked on one side. 
In many ways, this echoes the “deeper” book that I am reading on the weekends (I often have one fluffy before-bed book, one evening book that’s either a mystery or a novel, one non-fiction book that I mostly read on weekends, and then a “deeper” book that is my usual Sunday-morning-I-am-not-religious-but-like-rituals book…). The Obstacle is the Way is a book on Stoic philosophy by Ryan Holiday. 
And this beautiful poem echoes so many of the important messages in that book. 
When you encounter blocks and hurdles? Go over, go around, go under. Just don’t give up. 
Recognize that the obstacles will come – they will always come – but that you can overcome them. 
I am working on this – rather than letting myself get derailed by failures and / or stumbles, I am doubling down and working harder on whatever it was that went off course. 
Persistence. Optimism. Resilience. 

Why do I always forget this??

Every year. Every single year. I forget how chaotic and unproductive the first 1-2 weeks of the semester are. It’s completely bonkers around higher education in those weeks. Students are back, faculty are all back, there are more people in the building, meetings, other obligations. It’s back to back to back most days and then when you DO get a mini break on the weekends? It’s time to go in and reply to all the emails that you neglected all week… which often number in the hundreds.

Keeping all the balls in the air, remembering to eat and sleep and oh, yeah, work on my own stuff (ha) is exhausting. It doesn’t help when you wake up 1.5 hours before your alarm 3 days in a row and have difficulty going back to sleep. Yeah. That’s been fun.

I just have to remember that it’s temporary. Things will smooth out… eventually. The rhythm of life in the middle of the semester will return. But for now? I feel like a headless chicken in a centrifuge. Seriously. I’m happy when I know what day it is (which, admittedly, has been a challenge this week, since we did not convene classes until Tuesday…). I’m also happy when I don’t completely forget important things.

Marshaling my energy to get through these weeks…and knowing that I will.. helps sustain my persistence and perseverance.

Now, if I could just remember that this happens every. single. semester. Wouldn’t that be nice?

We are each a continuous becoming…

That lovely phrase was in the Brain Pickings email by Maria Popova.

They have an amazing ability to curate insightful, timely, and thought-provoking excerpts from an enormous variety of books – as well as the ability to write, and write well, as reflected in the above phrase.

And what a hopeful phrase that is. The idea that we are all a continuous becoming – that we are never ‘done’, but instead, always evolving, changing…. becoming.

I’ve said before in this space that I do not anticipate being the same person on 12/31/2020 as I am  today, and I do not want to be. I want this to be a year of growth and change and evolution.

A year of becoming.

But another mass email this morning had another, very relevant phrase… that to change, we must embrace the discomfort. And that… that is what is hardest for me (and for, well, probably everyone?). Change is not always fun, it is not always comfortable, but when we get to the point of needing to change something? Then we have to live with the accompanying discomfort.

I’m trying to live with – and love – the uncertainty and difficulty that is facing me right now, as I seek to make changes in multiple aspects of my life. It’s hard, particularly for one who cherishes habits and routines. But dammit, I am determined.

This morning, faced with the realization that if I don’t step it up, I won’t meet one of my health goals by 3/1… a goal set by my provider… I literally said, out loud, Bring. It. On.

I’m hoping to bring more of that attitude to more areas of my life.

Seriously, 2020. Bring. It. On.
It’s time for change.

Who will you be…

Who will you be, when you’re finished being who you think you are?
James Clear

Wow. This was my life yesterday. 
Realizing that who I think I am – who I think I should be – is not really who I am. 

That, over the years, I have lost myself. In relationships, in work, in trying to be someone I am not. 

I started the day with this quote – from a collection I keep for myself (my actually commonplace book!) and it just… spoke to me. 

Then, I ended the day with a long session with my therapist (yes, I go to therapy, and yes, I talk about it) in which we came around to this very idea as the source, the root, of much of my discontent in the past few years, with my life, my location, my relationships, my own body… well, with pretty much everything in life. 

And now, as I start to realize this, and try to move back to who I truly am, I realize that 2020 is going to be a year of even more growth and change. I’m not averse to that – just realizing that the start of 2021 in 11.5 months (sheesh, where did the first half of January go already?) is likely going to look a lot different from the start of 2020. 

I’m okay with that. I want to get back to myself. I want to be the me that I really liked, all those years ago. I want to be independent, and involved, and engaged. I want to travel where I want to travel, not compromise with others. I’m already taking steps to do these things, and it feels so good. 

I also know I will regress, backslide, lose ground… and that’s not going to be easy. But this is so, so important to me. 

Being true to who I am. How’s that for another intention for 2020? I kind of like it, I have to say. 


Unexpected enjoyment

You know when you’re dreading something (say, a long meeting on a busy day…) and then it unexpectedly turns out to be interesting, and informative, and something you end up enjoying despite yourself?
That happened yesterday, in the middle of a crazy and busy day that was filled with unanticipated detours. I was scheduled for a training from 10:30-12, and I was not looking forward to it. Bad attitude, perhaps, but we are all trying to get things done before classes start next week, and, well, we’re all a bit frustrated with the number of meetings scheduled for this week and next. 
It had a rather inauspicious beginning, as the person leading the meeting wasn’t there even a few minutes early, and the room was locked and dark. But we found her, and the training started, and it was more interesting than I thought it would be. A good conversation with other faculty I know but not well, and with two meeting leaders who were willing to make it a conversation and not a lecture. 
It reminded me that sometimes no matter how much I dread something, the reality turns out to be much better than anticipated. Sometimes, of course, things go sideways and end up being worse than anticipated… but I prefer when I come out of a meeting, or training, or whatever, and find myself smiling when I’d expected to be frustrated. 
Here’s hoping I can take that attitude to today’s afternoon meeting… another long one…