Taking a stance to resist what life hands you isn’t always helpful. Resistance wears you out and sucks the life force out of you. It’s like paddling a boat upstream in a raging river.
It starts out innocent enough. You just want to return to a place you left behind. What’s wrong with that? So you paddle. You paddle like a crazy person but the current is always against you. And it just wears you down.
But do you stop? No. There is too much at stake. Too much to lose. It just hurts too much. You want to go back. You need to go back. Or at least that is what your mind keeps telling you. And if you can’t get back, then you need to get ahead to where things are calmer. You need to be anywhere but here in the thick of it.
If my boat were real I would have impressive biceps. I’d look like Hulk Hogan. In the seventies. You’d see me and you’d think, “Whoa. Look at that old chick with the crazy muscles. Don’t mess with her.”
Only you probably wouldn’t say chick. You’d say whatever the going word is for a tough looking woman today.
What would happen if a person just said screw it and tossed the paddle overboard? I’ll tell you what would happen. All hell would break loose. Your boat would spin around a couple times, bump against some rocks and lurch its way through some rapids. It would twirl its way downstream at a dizzying pace and there you’d be kneeling in the bow, white knuckling the sides and screaming for mercy. But if you took the time to open your eyes and relax your grip you might surprise yourself. You might find out the journey, while terrifying, was also kind of exhilarating.
Then right about the time you accepted you were going to die and decided to loosen your grip and start enjoying the spray of water on your face, you would come around a bend and into a wide part where the current was slow and gentle. Since you couldn’t go back and you couldn’t paddle ahead you would just drift along. You would be in the now.
And that’s where life’s magic always happens.
In the now. The place where you spend your entire life, but just don’t know it.
You would see things. A beautiful rock formation. A bird skimming the water. A cloud shaped like Winnie the Pooh.
You might also see some things about yourself. That you spend too much time trying to patch things up to resemble the way things used to be. That you spend too much time looking ahead trying to protect everyone from what might happen next.
You might find a pocket of peace in just allowing yourself to lift up your paddle and drift.
I was not raised in a family that drifted. Drifting was for slackers. We were hardworking. We were always looking ahead for danger and behind for lessons learned. We bounced out of bed at the crack of dawn ready to tackle the day and wrestle it to the ground. We didn’t stand around gawking, we got things done.
A librarian for most of her working adult life my mother rarely read books. I would even go so far as to say she was suspicious of those who did. For both my parents, anything that didn’t produce something visible or make money fell under the category of “nothing better to do”.
Mom had bookcases filled with novels that she was saving for when she was old and had nothing better to do. She was still saying that a year ago at 85. Recently she tried to read a book and discovered she could no longer remember what she just read. That she was no longer able to follow the plot line.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I take issue with my parents for having a solid work ethic. We never wanted for anything and we always felt cared for and safe. I am grateful. But would my mother have been happier, more content, less wound up if she had been the sort of person who was able to while away an afternoon engrossed in a book? Would we?
At the very least, I think I might be happier if I could simply stop frothing up the water like a drunk drowning elephant. If I could just accept that I am trying to guide our boat back to a shore that no longer exists. It’s gone. It’s behind us now. Like all tired old adages Go With the Flow packs a wallop of wisdom that is lost in its familiarity.
We need to put down out paddles. We need to go with the flow. The past is behind us and the future with its inevitable heartbreak is ahead, but right now we are here. We have always been here. There has never been anywhere else. Just here and now. Here where I am resting my oar and watching the droplets fall into the water and make perfect circles. Circles of life. Circles of now.