Sunday, August 25, 2013

An Extraordinary Life

Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share with the hope that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and uncertainty.

NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.

It’s something I always wanted, something I always expected. Perhaps it’s because my formative years were filled with images of the new Super Woman: “I can bring home the bacon; fry it up in a pan. And never, ever let you forget you’re a man.” This notion that women could have it all was crammed down our throats, and encouraged many of us to aspire to great achievements in both the home and business front. We could be everything, all at the same time, and succeed in all our endeavors.

During my young adulthood I became immersed in the New Age movement (an earlier iteration of the current “law of attraction”) that asserted, “Thought Manifests.” You could have the life you dreamed of simply by training your thoughts; eradicate negative, self-doubting, limiting thoughts and replace them with affirmations such as, “You can have it all,” or, “I now have my dream job with a plentiful salary and oodles of respect, plus my ideal life partner and a luxurious home on the beach; this or something better NOW!”

I threw myself into the program, probably because as a struggling, broke single mom my life sucked – and I was willing to immerse myself in a philosophy that promised that I could turn everything around with nothing more than the power of my thoughts.

I won’t go into the events leading to my break-up with the New Age movement. But the break-up was swift and complete. Several years later I embraced a softer spirituality, one that relied on concrete planning and effort in addition to “right thinking.” But my belief that I could create and live an extraordinary life persisted.

While raising my son I worked my way through college while holding down a job (this was not done entirely on my own, but largely so). And I made a deliberate career choice by moving into the nonprofit sector. I had no interest in jobs that did not directly help save the downtrodden, the animals, or the planet. Anything else seemed misguided and wasted effort. In addition to working and raising my son, I was always doing volunteer work and/or taking higher education courses in the hopes of improving my resume. My plan was to become the Executive Director of a nonprofit. That would be extraordinary! I could introduce myself as the woman at the top of an effort to eradicate homelessness, hunger, or environmental degradation.

When my son finished high school, I realized the timing was right to return to the bottom rung of a new career. Becoming a park ranger had always been my dream. I loved the idea of working outdoors, working in natural spaces, using my hands as well as my brain, and helping others to connect with the healing, spiritual powers of nature.

View of Astoria from the Astor Column
After a long search for my new home, I discovered Astoria Oregon. It captured my heart with the very first glimpse, driving along Highway 30 from Portland and seeing the mighty Columbia River off to my right and Coxcomb Hill off to the left, where most of the small city dwelled. Victorian-style homes of every imaginable color, size, quality of design, and state of disrepair marched up steep streets. The Astoria-Megler Bridge rose regally as it left Astoria, giving ample room for massive container ships to pass under, and then jetted across the river for four miles, barely skimming the surface until it met Washington State.

Astoria has an incredibly rich human history starting with the Clatsop Indians who resided there for thousands of years; Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery over-wintered here; soon afterwards Astoria became a fur-trading post; and later the canneries opened providing work for Scandinavians - primarily Finns - to come in droves to make Astoria their new home. Later early lighthouses were built to warn of the perilous sand bar at the river's mouth, and then came the military forts. Currently the U.S. Coast Guard uses the mouth of the Columbia River as a training area for helicopter rescue, rescue swimmers, and extreme-condition boating: Coasties from around the country come to train in one of the most treacherous river bars in the world, nicknamed "The Graveyard of the Pacific."  

The area surrounding Astoria had ample agencies that utilized park rangers: Oregon State Parks, Washington State Parks, U.S. Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, County Forest, and City Parks. Timing and opportunity coincided across the river in Washington, where I started my career with parks. I spent two years living in the Astoria area, and when no permanent employment became available by the time I was interviewing for permanent ranger positions, I made the difficult choice to leave behind Astoria and move to a state park on the Olympic Peninsula.

Throughout my years with Washington Parks, I fought and struggled and persevered. Periodically I would ask myself, “is this what I wanted, what I hoped for? Is this my dream job? Is this the extraordinary job that will go with my extraordinary life?” For five years I could not answer that question, and chose to continue trying until I had my answer.

I am grateful that I chose to leave at a time when things were going well. I’d pushed myself through some horrendous experiences and hung on. Then I had the rewarding opportunity to manage the No Child Left Inside program, which gave grant funding throughout the state to nonprofits who provided environmental education programs to youth (the program was short-lived because of the budget crisis). From there I went to my last park with Washington State. There I was able to experience the bread-and-butter of state park rangering during the summer without any horrendous tragedies. I found myself brittle, chronically depleted and unable to rejuvenate, and constantly ready for a fight. It was during this relatively average time that I realized it was time to let go of the dream and walk away.

So I am grateful. I left on my terms, not because someone else decided I couldn’t cut it. I left during a good time, rather than in defeat during the tough times.

And yet… this was my dream, and I’d fought so very hard for it – harder than I’ve ever fought for anything. After leaving I was aimless and drifting, and the only thing I knew was that my compass was pointing once again to Astoria.

During the next two years in Astoria my life started to unravel: I found myself unable to hold down a job, my “nerve” and self-discipline were gone, I found interpersonal struggles overwhelming, crowds brought unbearable chaos, and my anxiety started to permeate.

So what does someone do, who has believed that all her dreams could be achieved with hard work and perseverance, after giving everything she could (after giving too much) just to walk away? What does someone do who has no more direction, who keeps trying job after job only to leave discouraged and even more anxious? It had been seven years since I left behind my son to go on my grand adventure; I expected to have arrived by now. I expected that my career would have solidified and filled me with great satisfaction, and that I would have immersed myself in a community of friends and even found my life partner. I expected that seven years would have been ample time to find extraordinary.

Train tracks along riverfront
A friend invited me to a presentation given by two sisters, both Finnish, both born and raised in Astoria. They told the story of their mother who had come to American from Finland in her early 20’s with a girlfriend, and eventually made her way across the country to Astoria, Oregon. After finding her place in this rough canning town, she opened a restaurant on the river.

Her restaurant was known for being a simple place with good, simple food. What it was also known for was that no one ever left hungry. She was known not just for providing large portions to hungry cannery workers and fishermen, but also to the hobos who would ride the train into Astoria. She never turned anyone away.

I found the story incredibly moving. This was not the kind of life achievement that would make headlines. Running a restaurant that provided basic nourishment was not glamorous. One could not introduce oneself as a restaurant owner and expect admiration and envy. This surely was not an extraordinary way for her to spend her life. And yet… it was extraordinary. It was simple and honest and extraordinary. She became known for providing nourishment to anyone who wanted or needed. This sounded like a beautiful way to dedicate a life. No glory, only simplicity and lots of hard work.

Hearing this story moved me, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I wished for my extraordinary job within my extraordinary life, wasn’t there some Ego there? I not only wanted to do something that made me proud, I wanted to do something that made others take notice and admire me. In fact I’d had that as a park ranger. Yes there are many park visitors who detest government employees, anyone in a uniform, and particularly law enforcement officers. But lots of people admire park rangers. Many folks harbor a secret desire to become a park ranger. I had much of the prestige and mystique and respect I’d hoped for; but I was a miserable wreck. Perhaps I’d been going about this all wrong. Perhaps having an extraordinary life didn’t have to capture headlines. Perhaps having an extraordinary life was not at all what I’d assumed it was. Perhaps raising children (or not), loving well, and finding a simple job is extraordinary in that you participate fully in life and do your best. Perhaps grandiosity is not everyone’s path to extraordinary.

I still wrestle with these questions: what kind of life do I want to have now? Do I still hope for headline-variety extraordinary? Do I still believe that someday I can and will have It All? But for right now I have completely changed my priorities. My son and his partner have taken on a greater importance in my life. They are young and discovering and creating, and it is a beautiful thing to witness and share in. And there is something else that has taken on great importance in my life: healing.

In some ways my focus has always been on Me. But it used to be on the Me that wanted others’ respect and admiration. Now the Me I focus on is the part that was overshadowed for all those years: my health, deep connections with others, inner peace.  For now I’ve moved to Portland where I’m working as a Temp, the only job I’ve found so far where I’m paid to go in and work for eight hours; nothing more, nothing less. I don’t get embroiled in office politics, gossip or power plays. I am not expected to put in unpaid overtime, or bring my work home, or in any way worry about work after I walk out the doors. It is not grand, I am not saving the planet, and it does not prompt people to say, “Oh, how exciting – I’ve always wanted to do that!” But I give an honest day’s work in exchange for my paycheck; and this job allows me to go home every evening and turn my focus to my family and working through my PTSD. It provides easier opportunities to learn to manage my anxiety. I no longer feel overwhelmed and depleted.

Simple Bluebells

I can’t predict what jobs lay ahead. I can’t predict what my life will look like. All I can manage is one day at a time. A few years ago, my days were frenetic and distressing. Today, most of my days are OK. And sometimes they’re really good. Will my days ever be extraordinary? I’m not sure. But being healthy, happy, and loved are more important to me than answering that question. And I’m working on that, every day.

Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Stuck on Replay

Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share with the hope that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and uncertainty.

NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.

Being an introspective person is both a blessing and a curse. I can’t imagine not reviewing my actions and examining them closely, especially when I’m dissatisfied with the results. But sometimes it’s really hard to let go of the past and move on; some stories just get stuck in my brain and play over and over.

As a young adult I was let go from a job on the last day of my trial period. Some of the reasons they gave me were simply not true. In fact when I first accepted the job, they’d provided a misleading job description; and throughout my trial period they routinely made changes to my job when my boss was out of the office. I felt misled and yanked around. When I tried to argue the inaccuracies cited for my dismissal, my boss held up his hands and said, “Kjerstin, it’s over.”

But it wasn’t over, at least not for me. For years my thoughts would return to where they’d gotten stuck, to losing this job where I’d been mistreated, misunderstood, underestimated and undervalued. They had wronged me!

Self-righteous indignation: I can wrap it around me like a well-worn blanket.

Many years later I brought it up with a friend. I wanted to figure out why I couldn’t let the story go and just move on; I wanted to know if I’d done something to contribute to things happening the way they did. I told her about the job, explained how only the women in the office, regardless of their positions, filled in for the receptionist. And I complained about the time a male employee told me with disapproval that when Tammy came in to do his filing, she always had a smile on her face (unlike me). After telling the story, she suggested that it may have been a case of sexual discrimination.

Well that was interesting. And it seemed to fit. After replaying the entire story in my mind with this new interpretation, I felt like everything fell into place. That was it; I had been the victim of sexual discrimination! With my confusion resolved and my innocence confirmed, I was finally able to set the story aside. What a relief!

And then a few months ago the story began to resurface.

After so many years, I replayed the events with a fresh perspective. I remembered how proud I’d been of my title, marketing assistant, and how indignant I’d been when I was told to do some filing for another department. That wasn’t in my job description! I shouldn’t have to do filing, something so menial! I remember complaining that they really needed to hire an administrative assistant to do this for them. And when I was told that I was going to start providing filing assistance a few hours each day, I was incensed. They didn’t have the right to hire me for one job, just to change it without my agreement! I complained to my boss, complained to the other department, and even wrote a letter to HR insisting that my rights had been violated. I did the work grudgingly, making sure everyone knew how unhappy I was about it.

Since that early job two decades ago I’ve had many new experiences including supervising employees who too have used the rally cry, “that’s not my job!” And as a supervisor it struck me that it was the least experienced employees who were the most indignant. I also had the accumulated experiences of observing and at times participating in employee bitch sessions about how tough we had it. Over time I came to notice an inverse relationship: the better the job situation, the more employees seemed to complain about it. As I’d said to my own employees, and started saying to myself, “you’re paid the same either way. How is it hurting you to do this particular task?”

Now, this many years later I can finally admit that my actions helped the story play out the way it did. I wasn’t asked to do anything unreasonable; I was asked to provide a needed service. I was being paid the same, for the same hours of work. And yet I had responded with sullen, self-righteous indignation. There may have been gender discrimination and I’m not excusing that. But even so, I had to take responsibility for my own actions, and how I participated in this story. It was a humbling moment to realize that I was not blameless: I had not done my best.

It took me two decades to understand that I hadn’t been a hapless victim. And somehow by accepting responsibility for my behavior, the story was finally able to play out in its entirety. It is no longer stuck on replay; it is comfortably in my past, and I’ve moved on.

Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Temple of My Soul

Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share with the hope that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and uncertainty.

NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.

I’m out of trust with my body. OK, actually I hate my body. I really, deeply hate it.

When I think about it, most of my life I’ve felt scrawny and weak. The other women in my family have sturdy frames, sturdy enough to bench press a child in each arm, sturdy enough that arm muscles and big shoulders have to be monitored so they don’t get too big. Sure I benefit from having a smaller frame that fits society’s images of female attractiveness. And at times it’s nice to be small enough to get into the car when someone parks far too close to me, or move through a crowd by ducking low. But all my life I’ve hated feeling frail and insubstantial.

When I started training to become a law enforcement ranger I made the decision that I wasn’t going to let my small frame stop me. My body would do what I decided it must do. Being a law enforcement ranger is a physically rigorous job. There were running, pushups, sit-ups, and bench pressing requirements; defensive tactics involved several techniques for throwing a person to the ground and into hand-cuffing position, as well as strikes such as punching and kicking. Then there was firearms training, holding out my weapon until my shoulder throbbed, and firing hundreds of rounds until my fatigued finger could no longer pull the trigger. And the basics of rangering include hours at a time of raking, weed eating, chain sawing, repairing plumbing in the freezing rain, mopping out dozens of restrooms, and digging holes for fence posts and signs. In truth I spent a lot of personal time recovering. But it was so satisfying and empowering to feel strong, to not let my body size limit what I could do.

It wasn’t long after I walked away from rangering that my body started to fail me. I’d continued a regular regimen of hiking and jogging. Then suddenly while jogging my legs started to feel like they were weighted down with lead. And soon after I started having chronic joint pain, which then spread to muscle spasms. Before long I had to stop jogging entirely. Then, while working at a particularly stressful job (not only were the responsibilities and learning curve daunting, the “politics” and power struggles were vicious) I started experiencing brain fog and dizziness. These symptoms would last for weeks at a time; I felt like I was drunk, unsteady on my feet and unable to think clearly or articular myself. After presentations I would shake my head to myself, wondering what the heck had just happened – I’d been rambling and disjointed. Being under time pressure to crunch numbers or write reports, I found my brain unable to perform. Do you recall in college preparing for that third or fourth final, when your brain and body are exhausted and you just don’t have it in you to cram for one more all-nighter? It was like that all the time for weeks at a time; I would wake up morning after morning, hoping my head would be clear – and within seconds of standing up the fog and dizziness would rush in again. I lost any sense I’d gained of body-confidence and robustness.

Prior to rangering I hadn’t developed upper body strength, I couldn’t throw someone to the ground or repeatedly kick a bag; but these new difficulties were quite unfamiliar. I’d always been a hiker and jogger, and my brain had always been quick and sharp. I left rangering having lost my spiritual faith; but I still had faith in myself to be able to make it through any challenge. But then my body and brain and nerves failed me. So not only could I no longer count on Life, my body stopped being reliable too.

(I have since come to believe that all these symptoms stem from my PTSD, from too much adrenaline coursing through my system for too many years, and for putting unsustainable pressures on my body for too long.)

I’ve been going to a fabulous therapist for about a year. The primary focus of her technique is to help me learn to tune in to my body. If something triggers me and I start panicking, focusing on my breathing can soothe and distract me. But more than that, as I learn to really pay attention to my body I hope to notice physical precursors to anxiety attacks and be able to thwart them: clouded thinking, dizziness, rapid heart rate and breathing. Alongside this therapy practice I have realized that healing begins with my body. So in addition to the therapy I’m getting regular chiropractic adjustments and massages, practicing body awareness, and doing yoga at home.

Last evening during a massage I decided to focus on each body part as it was being massaged, to try and tune in to its sensations. What happened is that I started to remember some of the amazing things my body has endured and achieved during this life.

L.A. Gear
As the massage started at my feet, I remembered a time as a young adult hiking with my boyfriend through the Big Basin Redwoods towards the California coast. I trekked in over twelve miles wearing my fashionable but decidedly unathletic L.A. Gear. For the last few miles, the bottoms of my feet felt every rock and stick underfoot as pain shot straight up through my entire body and I kept thinking, “my dogs are really barking!” I recalled as a young teen going barefoot an entire summer. It was lovely until I got planters warts on the bottoms of my feet and for weeks had to treat them with medicine and scrub them with pumice. And I recall a time during my sunbathing years getting a burn on the bottoms of my feet, and how unbelievably red and hot and itchy they were. Who knew you could sunburn the bottoms of your feet?

She moved to my legs and I recalled never being a particularly flexible person. Even as a child participating regularly in my mom’s modern dance classes my legs in particular weren’t very flexible. I recall the only time in my life I managed to do the splits. Unfortunately it wasn’t intentional. We had a trapeze at home; I fell from it to the ground with a leg out to either side. Even while writhing in pain I recall hoping that after this I would be able to do the splits again; not so. I remember not many years ago having a huge crush on a woman who was entirely unavailable. Before going on a jog she helped me stretch my calves and thighs. I was lying on my back with a leg extended in the air. She held onto my foot and leaned against my leg, pushing it towards my head. I remember the bittersweet pain and longing of this intimate exchange, her body against mine, the pain in the back of my leg, her face coming close to mine, and knowing that we would only ever be friends. One of my favorite memories from academy happened after the college closed early because of heavy snowfall. That evening a knock came on my hotel room door, and three fellow cadets were standing outside encouraging me to come on a run with them. I’d left my running gear at the college, but they were too enthusiastic to disappoint. So in my cop boots, jeans, and winter coat I set out with them for a long run through the snowy streets of Mt. Vernon, WA. The stars were twinkling in an inky black sky, and thick flakes fell heavily. My legs were stiff and cold for the entire run, but it was exhilarating and gorgeous and magical.

Holding my son
The massage moved to my hips. My recollection turned to giving birth to my son. As a young person I’d lived a very internal life, preferring an imaginative existence over one in the physical world. I was pretty out of touch with my physical self. Being in labor was the first time in my life that I was completely present. All of my physical self, all of my emotional self, all of my essence participated in this event - and everything was focused between my hips. I was jolted awake by this extraordinary happening and I was unable to hide from it. Many years later when Chris was a young teen my partner and I decided to have a child together. After months of hormone therapy and the very clinical experience of having sperm inserted via syringe at a doctor’s office, my pregnancy test finally showed a positive. With constant attention paid to every imagined physical change by those trying to conceive in this way, the emotional investment is enormous. Just as we approached the magical two months when we could start announcing our exciting news, I went into the bathroom one evening and found a smear on the toilet paper. I knew without a doubt that it was bad. In the coming days of cramps and wrenching tears, my body expelled from between my hips this person who was never to be.

My back ached as she started to massage it. Entering peri-menopause a few years ago, my menstrual cycle has shortened to three weeks and I was yet again on my period. Every three weeks: I wonder if my body is frantically kicking out eggs in a desperate attempt at creating new life, or if rather it is hurrying to get them out since clearly my time of giving birth is over. I thought next of all those sleep-overs as a child, sleeping on two bean bag chairs that would move apart during the night, leaving our middles on the floor while our upper bodies and legs were up high on the bags; or sleeping right on the floor, or on lumpy couches. Somehow the morning stiffness was both short-lived and inconsequential, a part of the adventure of experiencing friendship and growing up.

She started massaging my arms. When I began my fitness training to become a ranger, I went from noodle arms that could barely do one pushup to sturdy arms that could do over 50 (and I mean full pushups, not the kind with knees on the ground). I recall hiking along the Washington coast with a friend. We came to an outcropping of rock extending into the ocean, and climbed the rocks to get to the other side. As I grabbed the rock above me I vividly remember knowing with certainty, for the first time in my life, that my arms had the strength to pull me up. It was an exhilarating feeling! A few years ago when my beloved dog Jackie entered old age, many times my arms would have to carry her 20 pounds after her hips seized up during our evening walks. She would sit awkwardly in my arms, resting her chin on my shoulder and observing the world; my arms would ache as I paid tribute to our long friendship by carrying her as she had carried me emotionally so many times.

My masseuse worked on my neck and throat. The same elegant but spindly neck that a chiropractor once told me had a design prone to problems. My head held even slightly off-center would result in screaming neck pain that would trigger migraines. Oh, how I wished I had a sturdy neck! And my throat: as a child emoting silently, voicing frustrations and outrage only in my head or on paper; then as a mom learning to advocate for my child but not yet for myself; and gradually over the years learning to say what I needed to say. During academy some defensive tactics instructors seemed to think I wouldn’t succeed, that I didn’t have what it took. They kept telling me I needed to “get angry.” The pressure was building as our defensive tactics training was coming to an end and I was still struggling with the techniques. I was increasingly worried that I would not pass, would not graduate, and would lose my job as a ranger. I began to doubt myself, and alternated between defeat and determination that I would not let anyone else bring my dream to an end. (I reached out to my friends via email, and to this day have kept their amazing letters encouraging me, praising me for my accomplishments, and reassuring me that I had the right to be there.) Standing there with a bandana covering my hair and told to open my eyes wide, our academy commander sprayed my face full of pepper spray. Eyes burning, face burning, feeling shocked and overwhelmed and unable to breathe, suddenly a defensive tactics instructor wearing a padded blue bodysuit was in my space and trying to grab the baton out of my hands. Batting at him, doubling over in agony, him grabbing again at my weapon, all over me and unrelenting. All my anger at being judged and underestimated welled up inside me and I charged at him, putting all my strength into swinging my baton, kicking and punching him in a frenzy; and all my rage at every man who had ever taken possession of my body traveling up my body and erupting out through my throat as I roared, “GET THE FUCK OFF ME!”

I realize now that my body was not built for strenuous and continuous punishment; for me the rigors of rangering and law enforcement are not a sustainable choice. And I realize that my body is still recovering. For me to reclaim my physical self, I need to find a new way to be strong and confident and present in my body. Rather than dictating to my body and pushing it to meet my demands, I need to learn how to live life in partnership with my body, in symbiosis. Just as I am reframing my goals based on the new things I have learned about Life, I must reframe my goals based on the reality of this body I have. I don’t know what that will look like, or how I will accomplish it. But laying there with a caring person releasing knots of tension and emotion I was in awe of the incredible things my body has done over the decades. I have laughed about the times I pushed it too far, and been tantalized when it reached out for the touch of another, enthralled by the times it stormed the barricades, pulled me up over the rocks, and unleashed an unknown power and the voice to say NO! This body has its own story and it is marvelous! This body. My body. Me.

Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Free Falling Through Life

Dear Reader: I write to better understand my experiences of life; I share with the hope that my words will touch something inside you, and together we will remember that we all walk through life with love and loss, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, faith and uncertainty.

NOTE: I will never write about upsetting details without a warning.

I can say with certainty that nothing I believed about Life – how the world works, how to achieve goals, what I thought I wanted and how to get there – none of what I believed is real. Life most definitely is not what I thought.

The truth is that all of us are in a free-fall.

Many of us work hard to bury that truth from ourselves, to cover it over with the illusion of stability. My illusion went something like this: if I follow my plan and push really hard through the difficulties, everything will work out for me; ultimately I will have a life partner, a dream career, wealth, and my loved ones and I will be healthy; life will never present me with more than I can handle.

That illusion has been stripped away. I am single, broke, worn down physically and emotionally, and unable to navigate human conflict. I feel one misstep away from living out of my pickup truck. And that is a horrible, raw, frightening way to live. I am face-to-face with the ultimate Truth: nothing is guaranteed, nothing is permanent, and all of us are in a free fall. The most seemingly stable life could be turned upside down in a heartbeat.

It feels horrible living without the illusion. And yet… perhaps from here, this is where I begin to surrender.

All my life I have used my will and determination to push myself forward, push myself against circumstances, push myself through barriers. I pushed and pushed and pushed until I broke. And now my will and determination has abandoned me. I don’t have the ability to push. My resilience was long since used up, reserves overwhelmed and depleted.

I know that willpower and determination alone have not worked. I know that Life will not bend to my will. I do not believe in God. I do not believe in Order, or Purpose, or a Benevolent Force. I do believe that Life has its own purpose and order, but it is neither benevolent nor malevolent, it is neither caring not uncaring, it is indifferent to human dramas. What do I know now?

I can think of myself as an amoeba in the ocean. I might want to go to a warmer climate, or closer to shore, or move to another neighborhood. But I may not be able to control that if the current takes me in the other direction, and my hardest efforts will only frustrate and exhaust me.

What I can do is choose to notice which way the current is going, and surrender to it. I can choose to enjoy the scenery I pass along the way. And I can choose to make friends, maybe even build community, knowing that nothing is permanent but doing it anyway. I can notice, and appreciate what Life is offering in the moment.

Life is all powerful, inevitable, unpredictable, and indifferent. Life is LIFE, with all its glorious beauty and all its horror.

Nothing is guaranteed, nothing is permanent, and all of us are in a free fall. Perhaps from this place of no illusion I can release my rigid grip which in truth holds onto nothing. Maybe here is where I begin to surrender to Life's currents.

Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!