Sometimes, someone comes at us with something we can’t really understand. There’s a word or concept that’s new to our vernacular. There are a number of possible responses. Maybe we cast a furrowed, skeptical brow in their direction. Maybe we nod, as if we want to seem knowledgeable, when we really have no idea. Maybe we take it on board, like tapping our feet to the rhythm of a song to which we don’t know how to dance. Maybe we even recite it back, like poetry whose meaning escapes us, but we like the sound of the words. Perhaps we discount or ignore it, even if it perks our interest just a bit. We’re busy, so what’s your point?
Eventually, we’ll hear it again.
And sometimes, maybe even years later, there’s an ah-ha moment when this thing that’s been flirting with you sinks in. You know the moves. You grasp the meaning. That’s what they were talking about. It becomes one with your psyche. Once, you didn’t have the vocabulary. Then you had the vocabulary, but you hadn’t yet matched it up to your own experience. And then, like the sun passing through the clouds, casting your shadow, then taking it away, then giving it back to you again, you realize that you’re both a much smaller and a much larger presence in the universe than you suspected. Goldilocks had it wrong – you’re all three – too big, too small and just right, all at the same time.
I call the experience “humility.”
A number of years ago, I was exasperated at work, gesticulating wildly at my boss, wondering aloud why people just didn’t Get It. (Yes, that very well could have been yesterday, but trust me, it was worse then.) My boss, who also knew that I was also struggling in my personal life, looked at me and said “K – I want you to go home and listen to the second stanza of Vienna by Billy Joel. Trust me.”
Huh? Talk about a non sequitur. But my boss was also my mentor. And if she gave me that Irish-Catholic, no-nonsense look and said “Trust me,” I did. Like Daniel-san in the Karate Kid, filled with doubt, I did what she suggested. And I got what she was trying to say, but I didn’t fully appreciate it.
Even now, when my life and work are much better – but still, there’s this thing…impatience? I read Leo Babuata’s Zen Habits on The Half Step That Will Change Your Life. Leo, man – a half step? At least give me a Texas Two Step! Things to do, places to go, people to see – I gotta get moving!
These visions that I have in my life – god, they’re beautiful! – they must be completed. That the vision is not already my reality must mean that I’m a failure, and that’s not cool, so I’m going to double down on my effort. And pretty soon, I look like my cat who chases shadows caused by the basement recessed lighting, and like her, I’m no more closer to having that vision completed than she is.
Slow down, you’re doing fine.
You can’t be everything you wanna be before your time,
Although it’s so romantic on the borderline tonight, tonight.
No, I’m not doing fine, I’m not there, yet.
Too bad, but it’s the life you lead.
You’re so ahead of yourself that you forgot what you need.
I know exactly what I need. Let me list it for you. I’m not getting it. I’m messing something up. Because I’m not there, yet.
Though you can see when you’re wrong,
You know, you can’t always see when you’re right, you’re right.
Huh? I’m right? Where am I right, again?
You’ve got your passion. You’ve got your pride,
But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?
Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.
When will you realize Vienna waits for you?
My dreams won’t all come true? What does Vienna have to do with anything? My passion, the images of what could be? Something’s gotta give, right? Right? When? Please don’t talk to me about patience, because I don’t know where that comes from – some other land, and….it’s going to happen, right?
And then one day, you wake up. And if you’re really lucky, you realize how small progress is really big progress. You just thought that you had a 500 piece puzzle you were putting together, when really, it’s more like a 10,000 piece puzzle; a million piece puzzle. You just had to chunk it down smaller. And turn the pieces around. And no. No matter how hard you tried to fit that one piece in, it doesn’t go there. But don’t you love trying?
But eventually, once you’ve given yourself the permission and the space to become a seeker of yourself, you can start to make out the pieces you’ve been missing.
I’ll give you this hint. One puzzle piece lies in between finding your passion, following it, and feeling like you’re living it. It is called patience and its lesson is learning how to live in the present moment. It’s part of your journey.
I know, this entire entry could have been written in Greek.
Just go listen to the 2nd verse of Vienna, and then go take a half step in some direction – who cares which? Just pick one. Trust me on this.