A year ago, I made a commitment to myself, and began an effort to make shifts in my habits, to say ‘no’ a lot more, and to reclaim my life in ways that for too long had gone awry. This week, I had to make that commitment again.
As I get older, time — as an idea, as a practice and sparring partner; as a companion on this journey — is a mutable, unreliable thing. I can’t really expend much in the way of cognitive resources worrying about it, as I might have in my youth. It’s only a variable, useful in paperwork and filing taxes, but otherwise, an abstraction that doesn’t deserve much focus.
I’m more concerned about the general sense of being, the fulfilment factor, and the emotional undercurrent that influences my choices, day to day. Thus, when I find myself struggling in familiar territory that I’ve been actively building myself up and out of, I have to stop and reassess.
We all want to be growing, learning, expanding and leaning into the best version of ourselves. If we’re paying attention, the people we maintain relationships with are an excellent indicator of our progress, or perhaps lack thereof.
Since we rarely enjoy others making life decisions on our behalf, we must push through the initial barrier of fear, trepidation or resistance, again and again. Gather information, hear perspectives and insights from your fellow travelers, but be like Captain Picard, and make the ultimate call, right or wrong. Life is for learning, so one can safely argue that no experience goes to waste.
For me, over the years, there have been many steps forward and upward, but there have been nearly as many slides backward. Every so often, it feels like I’m at a complete standstill, or as if some unconscious reset happened over a few weeks or months, and I’m in very tangible ways back to where I was a decade ago.
Of course, that’s not at all true. It’s a paradox of perception, and an unfair, reductionist assessment of the facts at hand. Like everyone else, I’ve changed in ways both small and quite significant. We can’t possibly keep track of the subtlety of incremental improvement and evolutionary adjustments that we progress through in a lifetime. I’ve read countless books, written numerous journals, had and lost many loves. Friends, family, and pets have passed away. We may not have physically moved to somewhere else, but we most certainly have been moved.
It can all seem quite heavy at times, especially so when we feel as if we’re forever clambering up a damn hill. We live in a culture with a strong bias toward the treacherous and negative, so it’s understandable that we would give extra weight to the suffering, the challenges, and the setbacks.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We can defy gravity. We can observe the pattern trying to reassert itself, hoping to undo all we’ve accomplished until now. And we can choose to keep observing it, so to bear witness as it simply fades away.