In the Midst of Learning

It's been the kind of week that makes you crawl gibbering into a corner, rocking as it all finally catches up to you. And then, because you at last stop moving, are no longer barricaded against it all, what you need to know arrives and the learning starts again.


Last week, there was a moment where I caught myself, having disappeared far into work for a very long time, rendering me oblivious to what I was doing, just focusing on doing, doing, doing. There were seven tabs open in my browser and I was actively working in three of them at the same time, switching tabs as one page loaded, writing something there and clicking post, then moving on to tab 3 to read another paragraph or two in an article, only to switch back again to, #1 while I was thinking all the time about the four other tabs, the notifications in my inbox, the document open on my desktop and the list, as ever longer than is possible to get done in a day. And by the time Thursday arrived, I was gasping for the long weekend to come, thinking I richly deserved one after having worked 12 days in a row with no break (I am self-employed and my boss is a bitch). And Thursday evening, I wrecked my shoulder in a massive way, doing something that I do several times every day and there I was, furious at yet again having to spend my precious time off healing yet another injury.


And then it occurred to me that perhaps these things were not unrelated.


So the long weekend was spent away from the computer, doing nothing but attempting to heal while I read, watched movies and finally, for the first time in a very long time, had time to think. Time to feel. And it wasn't pleasant, because while it is amazing how much you can get done when you're trying to avoid something, what you’re avoiding backs up, gets bigger while it sits there, waiting for you to pay attention to it.


Two quotes got there at the right time:


"Life is made of moments. The faster you move, the more you’ll miss."

- Jon Kabat-Zinn in Mindfulness for Beginners (paraphrased)


"All these years, a lot of us fell for the great palace lie that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and as privately, that after a while, it's gratuitous suffering verging on hysteria, Charlotte Brontë with PMS. But what I've discovered is that the lifelong fear of grief keeps us in a bare and isolated place and that grief may be the way home ... wouldn't it be better to take some time because if you move away from the dead too fast, well, there goes the person ... if you have the courage to really feel the loss and losses, the wound is deep but heals cleanly and there will always be a scar, but the healing will have taken place and the self, no longer trying not to feel the pain, relaxes."

- Anne Lamott, The Long Way Home (transcribed from Bird by Bird with Annie: A Film Portrait of Writer Anne Lamott)



And the ridiculous thing is that I know this, have written about this before, have counseled others to slow down, said that disappearing into work, into activity just delays and warps and sooner or later, you'll have to deal with it anyway. Saying it is a lot easier than living it, though. But the reminder came and I remembered what I’d not wanted to think about because the road there was strewn with pain I did not want to feel.


Pain is not the worst thing that can happen. The worst is to not have had the love.



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