Stop waiting for everything to get back to ‘normal’

Close the other browser tabs, put your phone in a drawer, and take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself, silently, internally, “How am I holding back? What am I waiting for?”

Not in the sense of, I should be doing more. With wide open curiosity. In the sense of, “what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” as the poet Mary Oliver asks.

Part of me is waiting. For things to be just right. For all my work to be done. For the weather to be perfect. For enough money in my savings account. For the lover I’ve always wanted. For the community I’ve so badly needed. For coronavirus to be over so we can get back to “normal.”

Occasionally, I am awoken, and the part of me that’s waiting let’s go. In the dark morning my dad would come to take me fishing. Hank Williams Jr. cassette tapes and the windows down on the way to the river. The smell of the boat engine’s gasoline. Its phosphorescent sheen in the water. Largemouth bass jumping as the sun rises. Life was living through me, as it always is — but I wasn’t stopping it.

Nowadays it’s a friend pointing out a hawk above us. Or a bite of a good meal. Or when I volunteer at the food bank.

And sometimes, even rarer, I wake myself up. I somehow remember to be mindful, to not be so hard on myself when I realize I’ve forgotten to pay attention. To not see my preoccupation as more evidence that I’m sleeping through life. To not hold myself liable — because, what is a “self” anyway?

Stephen Jenkinson, a social worker who has worked for many years in palliative care, says, “You’re not supposed to feel bad about having forgotten. You’re supposed to feel more. That’s the invitation.”

What I hear in that is this: When you realize you’re waiting for something that will never come, don’t pull back even more. Get curious. Step towards the mystery. Stop resisting life because you’re afraid of what comes at the end of it — because that’s coming, whether you resist or not.

In other words, assure that part of you that’s holding back that it’s okay to back off, surrender, let go. Whisper the words of Elizabeth Gilbert in its ear: “You are afraid of surrender because you don’t want to lose control. But you never had control; all you had was anxiety.”

I’m a writer, meditation teacher, and host of the Meditation for the 99% podcast. If you’d like to work with me on your meditation practice or being more mindful in your life, reach out.

Download my free ebook on starting and sticking with a meditation practice here.

Photo by Drug Addiction Clinic Vita