As the pandemic finally hits our small town of Kenora, I am, for the first time since this all started in March , feeling quite sad. I think what I am going through is grief; plans are being cancelled and everything feels terribly uncertain. How long will the pandemic last? How bad will it get? How will this impact my field of work – healthcare? Will I be able to withstand the pressures of working in healthcare for years to come? How long am I willing to live away from home if I can’t visit due to restrictions? How will this impact dating and my ability to find a life partner? Will I ever be able to travel abroad again?
I realize these are big picture questions – and that the answers, although they likely never were certain, are now almost impossible to predict. So it feels a little silly to spend time worrying about something that is totally unpredictable and unknown. I’ve written about uncertainty before and how I think it’s important to learn to relax into it – after all, certainty is an illusion.
Yet in times like these, I think we grasp for certainty, for a sense of control, when so much feels uncertain.
Reflecting on all of this – uncertainty, the future, plans and goals, the vision I’ve had for my life – I circle back to the importance of finding joy in the small things. Of finding peace in simple moments throughout our days, practicing gratitude for a warm bed, an abled body, abundance of food, connections with loved ones, financial security, etc.
It’s helpful to ground ourselves in the present and the simple pleasures. However, I have to admit I still retain a small, deeply rooted sense of sadness, as it seems that the prospect of living an extraordinary life feels indefinitely out of reach.
This sense of sadness and of dissatisfaction is not new to me – in fact it’s quite familiar. It’s the same feeling I experienced back in January 2019 when I had my breakdown/spiritual awakening and turned my life over on its head. It’s a feeling of emptiness, despite knowing how full your life is, how lucky you are.
It’s no quite as intense now, but it’s there.
This time around, however, I am much better equipped. I know that the source of this dissatisfaction is not in my actual life, but rather it stems from a lack of alignment, and a lack of presence.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m always talking about the next best thing – a new endeavour, a new adventure, a new move, a new undertaking. And there isn’t anything wrong with chasing dreams, chasing waterfalls … as long as we can also foster appreciation for where we are now.
In an Podcast episode where Tim Ferris interviews Brené Brown, they talk about how to balance self-acceptance with self-actualisation. This is a conversation I always love to return to every once in a while, to remind myself of how there are two practices here; one of surrendering to our imperfect, flawed, ordinary selves, and one of growth, challenges and improvement. They’re actually quite paradoxical, but finding a way to make time for both is, I believe, crucial.
The pendulum mostly swings from one extreme to the other – and so I am constantly re-assessing where I am to adjust and move forever closer to that balanced place. A place where we find complete surrender to who we are and where we are, yet maintain a desire to learn and grow and explore; equanimity.
I’ve had moments where I felt that balance, but I haven’t felt it in a little while now. Like all good things in life, I believe it takes practice; intention, energy, effort and repetition.
For me, this looks like making time for self-acceptance practices. This means journaling, meditating, therapy, letting go of perfectionism, dropping comparison (the ultimate thief of joy), being present, gratitude, forgiveness, walks, heart to hearts.
And also making time for self-improvement practices. Trying new activities, doing research for work, therapy, setting goals, dreaming, getting out of my comfort zone and pushing myself a little further.
In the end, I think TLC had it wrong. You don’t necessarily have to stick to the rivers and lakes you are used to. I think you can chase waterfalls – you just have to make sure that you don’t lose yourself along the way!