I used to think that life was linear. That it went one way. I think school taught me that first. I plodded from year to year till I left. There was college, then university. I got a job with a title, a clear career progression. Which maintained the illusion for a bit longer. The illusion that we’re all heading in a single direction. That we should keep marching forward. That we should try to be consistent. That we should try to head in a straight line that in no way corresponds to the reality of messy, disordered humanity.
Until life showed me that we absolutely can’t and we shouldn’t. For me, it was having kid after kid after kid, and realising that however hard I tried to whip life into some kind of nice linear shape, it was in no way going to comply. For me, it was recognising that I had been completely and irretrievably thrown off course.
Maybe your realisation is an illness – a job loss – or more cheerily, a lottery win. But in all likelihood something (or even a whole bunch of things) will at some point have reared its head, tapped you less than politely on the shoulder, and demonstrated (sometimes repeatedly) that your life is going to have to bend. That however determinedly you continue marching straight ahead, toward the place you thought you were going, you’re going to have to take a detour. However inconveniently. However painfully and reluctantly. You’re going to have to do that.
Because life is cyclical. Life has seasons we move between all the time. The tidiness of my house, or the entries in my children’s reading diaries are all the proof I need. But until ever so recently, I really valued consistency. I really considered it to be a Good Thing to strive for. And looked on jealously and shamefacedly at those I observed being consistent about things that I’m just not.
If we start to veer off our planned course, it’s a problem to be fixed. We are fast to medicate ourselves, attempt to plan our way out of the ‘problem’. But what if we stopped to watch it a bit? What if we stop and wonder whether this deviation is trying to tell us something, rather than putting our energies into resisting it. Forcing it into some kind of box we can pop a lid on, and label.
At times it’s felt like my life is losing any kind of natural rhythm. At times I’ve been working so hard to make it look like I think it ought to, I’ve lost touch with what I want it to be. And as I’m realizing – that’s a life that’s allowed to fluctuate. A life of fits and starts and ups and downs.
Which does not mean I’m always upbeat about this rhythm. I’m not. Sometimes it sucks if I’m in a funky mood, or money feels tight, but every single down is followed by an up. Every single struggle has provided a new answer I wouldn’t have come up with otherwise. Every challenge has forced me to dig deep in a way I wouldn’t have had things been smooth and consistent and like I thought they ought to be.
The British climate combined with my beloved hound brings this into focus for me. The dog forces me to walk with her in all seasons, all weathers. Living on a small island, disguised as a country, helps too. Where the weather can move in suddenly – enveloping us in gloom, or flooding us in sunshine. Or doing both in one day. Affecting the national psyche completely. Dominating our thoughts, feelings and conversations. It doesn’t get more overtly cyclical than that. And in the past I’ve spent a good amount of my energy resisting the gloom. Wishing it gone. Believing that a better climate would equal a happier more shiny life.
I’m not so sure any more. Gloomy days and wet dog walks are still crappy sometimes. The dog stinks, the house gets muddy, you can barely see the end of your nose when the fog rolls in. But I’m trying to ask myself not what I can do to change the gloomy day, or the dog’s need to be walked in it – but instead, what the gloomy day’s got to show me. Which is often how grateful I am for my wellies/warm house/anorack.
Because there is something to learn from everything. However hard or unfair that everything may be. The weather’s a pretty innocuous example. Some everythings are hideous, hurtful, painful and desperately unwelcome. They change us and our lives in ways we never ever planned for or wanted to be changed. In ways we never asked for.
This is something I’m mulling over. Somehow it feels like a better use of my energies. I’m a bit over all the resistance. I’m leaning into hard stuff a little more. Not all the hard stuff. And not all the time (because I’m all about the inconsistency, right?!). I’m starting with the weather. With gloomy days and funky moods. That’s as good a place to start as any…….