Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Being Alive Takes Time

Being alive takes time. I wrote these words on a post-it note by my computer. These words have been sitting here for a few months now. I can't remember exactly what inspired me to write them down or where I found this statement. But here they are staring at me. Some days I wonder what the hell that statement even means to me. Some days I want to replace those words with, being alive is fucking hard. But let's face it, we need no reminder of that.

I know I'm not alone in saying that I've been feeling a pretty wicked malaise for awhile now. This malaise breaks on occasion with happy thoughts of Paris and my other upcoming travels. The malaise even breaks for a beautiful moon or a happy dog in passing. Yet, the malaise seems to pervade. It's just a matter of degree. And the malaise easily finds opportunity to feed itself on all manner of things. I got my hair done yesterday and opted to go lighter instead of darker. Immediately after, I felt irritated that I didn't go darker but I'd be feeling the opposite if I had done the opposite. Just below the surface, I know full well that it isn't the hair. It's just an opportunity for that malaise to manifest itself in apparent ways... in this case, every time I pass a mirror. Oh, that malaise knows what it is doing!

When I think about this malaise, I think about how hard we can be on ourselves. I truly read other bloggers' feelings about their/your own malaise, frustration, anxiety, exhaustion with it all... and I feel that they/you are so very courageous. I fully appreciate the honesty of such expression and I see incredible human beings tackling life with passion and authenticity. I feel connected and compassionate. I know that there is no success without failure, no courage without fear. I embrace this struggle in others. However, I just see myself as a hot mess.

Being alive is difficult and that is why it takes time. I don't perceive this statement as asserting that it takes a certain amount of time to reach "aliveness" but rather, once we commit to being fully alive, it takes patience and time to grow. That choice to be fully alive comes with great (and often rather painful) awareness. We are aware of who we are, where we've been, what patterns we've been automatically following that might be incongruent with who we really are. And that is a heavy load. Of course we will feel malaise, sadness, frustration, loss, anxiety. Huge changes are afoot for all of us.

There is a duality in everything and a degree to that duality. The more we dare to be alive, the more likely we will feel the depths of pain. But with such comes tremendous heights of happiness, too. There is no escaping sadness, pain, struggle. And why should there be? The struggle is essential. These are the times we really discover what we are about, what matters to us, what splintering path we are to take on this journey.

And no, we can't fully appreciate this on our own. We are hard on ourselves, we see failure instead of valiant effort, weakness instead of strength. But we have each other. In just the last two weeks, reading about your various struggles has made me stronger, more brave, more accepting of my own struggles. Thank you all for that! I don't read your blogs because you have exciting lives, because you live in France or are planning to. I read your blogs because you are authentic and share a part of yourself that transcends place and the material. You are alive and not only does that take time but it takes balls tremendous courage and strength of character. I consider myself so fortunate that each of you share yourselves so freely and beautifully. It is a steady source of inspiration.

The only other quote I have at my desk right now is a Chinese proverb postcard that reads, "do not fear slow progress, but do fear stagnation." Be gentle with yourselves, dear readers. And I'll promise to try and do the same for myself. And when that fails us, we have one another to lean on. Thanks for holding me up so willingly!

42 comments:

La Framéricaine said...

boebe,

Please let me b the first to second that emotion! Congratulations on your new do, too! I'm sure that it looks gorgeous!

I try to stay away from duality and, instead, hug up to multiplicity models so that I have some extra room to slip and slide around des malaises.

By the way, way to go with "incongruent!" That feels so right and I had forgotten about that little fellow. Such I nice word!

The pencil pushers at Merriam-Webster had the nerve to define it by using its opposite--congruent--"superposable so as to be coincident throughout."

Didn't they ever receive instruction from a 4th grade teacher in not defining a word using the word or a variant? Shame on them!

But, look, there's my "coincidence" again! I'm on a roll and you are part of it! Yippee!!!

You are so right. I look forward to getting up everyday just to see what y'all have come up with since the last time I set my eyes on your prizes. Keep on typin', woman! It's a great satisfaction to read you>

Amitiés,

okjimm said...

// Being alive takes time //

Whatta neat thought. And a really, really thoughtful post. Really. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

wow...i am just coming out of a funk....jut trust that there is sun on the other side.
nancy

Randal Graves said...

What the hell are you talking about? We lead very exciting lives. Just not in the four dimensions where we tie our shoes, fry eggs and pull the weeds out of the cracks in the driveway. ;-)

For about the billionth time, you say wonderfully what I would struggle to get across. This malaise and its associated feelings aren't even subject to the common meaning of 'second guessing.' That implies too strongly a single choice of either A or B, and there's so much more going on than that. On the surface, your example of hair would be 'light' or 'dark,' but as you continued, it was simply a manifestation of something greater, something far more complex.

Struggle, yes. Perhaps that is why we often fear finding happiness? Do we recognize such a thing as fake, that it's not True Happiness®, and that happiness (or contentment or other positive things) are by definition fleeting because being alive means always recognizing that more struggle is inevitable?

Perhaps we few choose to embrace it. I've wondered if I'd recognize anything True if it were to come along.

Valiant effort is for Arthurian heroes. We fail. Well, this post certainly doesn't

Richard said...

I love your quote / line Being alive takes time. It certainly does.

I found 3 google references to it (your is #1). Another is in an online article (though it begins Celebrating being alive takes time.. The final is in a book titled: The Book of Awakening: Having the Life You Want by Being Present to the Life You Have by By Mark Nepo

I started responding a number of times, but I just end up meandering.

For the past 3-4 weeks, I have been focusing on the experience I had for the first time observing art as a love of creation or expression rather than the product of a task or the exercise of a skill.

It is cliché to say do what you love and you will never have to work again. What if I don’t know what I love, what if today I am an author and tomorrow a carpenter?

I reflect upon my experience with taking panoramic photos. I was delighted with my first attempt. I have been less moved by my subsequent attempts. I think (not yet settled on this, 3 weeks is too short for me to reach a conclusion) that it is because my first attempt was innocent, but my subsequent attempts were directed and focused on the achievement (the imagined result) rather than innocent love of doing. (I don’t know if that makes any sense to you. It does to me, but, then again, I am inside my head :P

I empathize with you and hope you will find the sanctuary which will free you of your malaise and where your soul will shudder with enchantment.

I found this section of the online article very poignant (I also borrowed a bit from it):

Celebrating being alive takes time. Time to gaze, time to contemplate and time to allow our hearts to take it all in. Sometimes we feel that this is a luxury we can't afford right now as there is a paper to write up, a child that needs our attention, something that needs clearing up or some piece of work that's screaming for attention.

When we constantly give in to the heavy demands made on us we become soulless machines and treat other people the same way too. We look upon our spouses as machines that provide, maids as those which cook and clean, colleagues as ones with specific jobs to perform. Living like this is no fun.

We all need moments when our souls will shudder in enchantment.

La Belette Rouge said...

Great post and fantastic comments. This post makes me think about the wisdom of our forefathers in including "the pursuit of happiness." Happiness, the real kind, is not something that is a given and it cannot be found at the mall. Believe me, I have looked.

To be fully alive an to achieve happiness may take an entire lifetime , at least, to achieve. And, the pursuit can often bring up its opposite. We seek joy we are aware of where there is not joy. We seek aliveness we notice where there is decay and death. We cannot have one with the other.

If we choose dark hair over light hair there is grief of the awareness of the limits in our life. I am many things but I cannot be them all at once. Some people may say that it is just hair, and to those people, I would say, nuh-uh. It is symbolic of the choices we have to make and the loss that comes with each and every choice.

p.s. Richard, I love your comment and how you modified the title, "Celebrating being alive takes time."

Julianne said...

Your post reminded me of this writing by Kahlil Gibran, that has always been comforting to me.

On Joy and Sorrow
Kahlil Gibran

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, "Joy is greater thar sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.

Hope this is meaningful to you! Thanks for commenting on my blog. I appreciate your taking the time to read it! I have a long way to go but I will learn as I go along.

Julianne said...

I just realized that I posted a comment to the wrong blog. So sorry! I did want to say that I copied and printed out your Anais Nin quote, because it is so applicable to my life right now!

Lynn said...

You write ever so beautifully, and reading this post of yours gives me a glimmer of hope to be easy on myself and not take things to seriously, and that there are other people like me.

On the other hand, a change can be good, at least to shift our energy from the normal blandness of life and its mannerisms. So, celebrate the lighter color hair you!

I hope you have a great time in Paris this summer, just 20 days away, wow!

La Framéricaine said...

b and julianne,

If that Khalil Gibran poem was a "mistake" then please make more of them! I felt that it was right on point as concerned b's beautiful post on "being alive taking time."

His poem resonates with my own guiding principle of le bénéfique et le maléfique in life--otherwise known as "the blessing and the curse."

It has seemed to me for a very long time now that the precise qualities that have made people enthusiastic about me in life are also the very qualities that will make them cranky with me at some point or another. However, it doesn't stop with me, personally.

When one reads about the lives of others--the famous, the infamous, or the below-the-radar--this principle seems to pop up with great regularity.

Thus, I say just keep being like you are and allow change and evolution to come according to you own deepest and most compelling inclinations and disinclinations. You can trust yourself above and beyond all others.

Amitiés,

b said...

la framéricaine,

You are so very lovely and I am incredibly grateful for these thoughtful comments! I do like the multiplicity models over duality. It does allow for that extra room, doesn't it? And it makes me feel less incongruous when I'm one or the other.

Your second comment just absolutely astounds me. You touch upon the very heart of much of my current struggle. "The blessing and the curse" - so apt and so felt right now. Thank you for the encouragement. It means so much more than I can express!

b said...

okjimm,

Thank you for stopping by my blog! I really appreciate your comment. This is a neat thought and yet one that escapes me at times. I suppose that is why I wrote it down and have it at my computer! Even then, I lose sight of it from time to time. :)

b said...

Nancy,

Thank you for this very encouraging comment. I do trust that there is sun on the other side and interestingly, the sun finally came out here today in Portland, which felt so appropriate. I think sometimes the closer we are to seeing the sun again, that last stretch of faith and effort is the toughest. I'm happy to hear that you are coming out of your funk. I think I am too! Thanks again for the encouragement!

b said...

Randal,

Of course we lead exciting lives! Please forgive me for stating otherwise. :) You know where I was going with that (I hope).

No, the malaise is not a second guessing and it isn't necessarily indicative of something being wrong. it just is. The malaise is complex for sure! And yes, being alive does necessitate acknowledgment that there will be more struggle. And maybe that does prevent us from pursuing our bliss and not just pleasure?

I wonder if even Arthurian heroes felt valiant amidst their own struggle? Hmmm...

b said...

Richard,

I'm glad this quote resonates for you. Thank you for the references. I got it from Mark Nepo's "The Book of Awakening," which I try to read daily. I definitely recommend the book.

I would say in response to your various interests: pursue what you love right now and try to embrace that it will change. I know this is easier to say than believe and embrace, especially in a society that seems to esteem people who have a very clearly defined hobby/passion/pursuit. But I think that kind of acceptance relieves pressure to master an interest and stick with it to some end.

"I empathize with you and hope you will find the sanctuary which will free you of your malaise and where your soul will shudder with enchantment." - Thank you so much, Richard. I know that those soul shuddering moments of enchantment are just ahead for me and truly, I feel some of it already. I know that these bouts of malaise will come but just as inevitably as they come, they will also subside.

I really appreciate this quote from the online article. We certainly do need plenty of those moments in which our soul will shudder in enchantment! Thank you so very much for this thoughtful comment and your compassion!

b said...

La Belette,

Yeah, I stopped looking for happiness at the mall too. Every now and then a pair of great jeans or shoes will try to deceive me but I'm quickly restored to sanity. :)

Happiness and struggle are certainly not exclusive, as Kahlil Gibran's poem from Julianne's comment so eloquently illuminates. I really do understand and appreciate this. I think it is just difficult to see beyond the malaise at times. For the most part, I'm constantly aware of the simultaneous presence of happiness and struggle, and I just try to ride out those periods where malaise dominates.

Yeah, the hair thing is interesting. It certainly reflects that tug-of-war between light and dark aspects of self. And really, sometimes I want to be light and sometimes dark.

Thank you so much for your comment!

b said...

Julianne,

Thank you for coming to my blog, even if it was a mistake! :) I look forward to visiting your blog now! I understand that you have just started blogging? How exciting!

Oh, this Khalil Gibran poem is so very apt and so beautiful. Thank you for taking the time to share it with me. It truly is meaningful and I've read and reread it several times today.

Thank you again so very much! I'm glad you like the Anaïs Nin quote. It certainly ties in well with this Khalil Gibran piece, doesn't it?

b said...

Lynn,

Hi! How have you been? Thank you so much for your very kind comment. I am glad that this post gave you hope. I was afraid that it might be seen as depressive when really, it doesn't come from such a place.

As a person who can at times take these life issues too seriously, I think this idea of being gentle with myself begs constant repeating!

Change can absolutely be good and it does shift that energy. Haha. I will celebrate the lighter color hair me!! Thank you!!

Yes, Paris is less than three weeks away!!! It is going to be amazing. I'm so excited!

Julianne said...

I came to your blog through a link from La Belette, and I thought I was responding to you because you had commented on my blog, but it was another person that had a link to LBR. So I read your blog and immediately the Prophet came to mind. (That is a most profound book ) , so I wanted to share it. If you don't have the book, you should check it out. He was a very wise person. After I did so I realized it wasn't you that had commented on my blog, and I didn't want you to think " what is she talking about ." So, I guess it wasn't really a mistake..... Thanks so much for the encouragement. I have wanted to blog for a while, but writing does not come easily to me, and I thought, what does a sahm have to say that anyone wants to hear, then I realized, now negative that was. Of course I have a lot to say. So I decided to take the plunge.

lapagefrancaise said...

This post was just what I needed to read. Your posts are often just what I need to read. Thank you B. Being fully alive, as you said and I think I have commented on your blog in a different post, does involve the risk of painful awareness, but like you said, what other choice do we have?
I hope we can meet when you come to Paris, have a coffee in a cafe and have a walk in Paris. I would love to meet you in person! I hope your preparation for your trip is going well.

Victor said...

Click, click and click on this screen in front of my face, and I landed here ... just wanted to say, thanks for this! :)

Betty C. said...

I like that first quotation. And I do think we bloggers are always looking for more: better organization, better contacts, better writing, goals, lists, etc. It is a common thread...maybe we are too hard on ourselves, as you say.

{this is glamorous} said...

So glad you left a comment on my site today, because it lead me back here . . .

Being alive does take time, and it is exhilarating and overwhelming and sad and beautiful at once, and I've only just returned from Paris, and all I can I do now is miss it . . .

sub-urban rambler said...

if half of us alive is as in-touch as you are with these questions, the world would be a better place...

was it rilke, in his letter to the young poet, advised, "live the questions now..."

oh yes. sometimes i feel like a major hack when i try too too hard. a mere contrivance. when we push things too too fast, it springs back to tell us that it is not yet time... but when we let nature takes its course, we hope our reason for being will be revealed. even if in fact we are relegated to be asking more questions. because they will keep on coming. and we will feel a constant inadequacy. i like your admonition about being gentle. but authenticity starts with acknowledging our own limitations. we do not have to have answers, just learning to live with all of them as best... let the questions serve as your springboard; you can fly from there...

if 10 yrs ago, you predicted that i'd reach the relative contentment of now, i would have been highly sceptical as i felt like an overworked hack in gotham just trying to survive and not knowing half of me and lacking direction. today i wish i was a better manager. i wish i was a better at half a dozen other things. but i am not. but i will be the damnedest best of 'good enough' me. right now. i will let later takes care of later...

hang in there...

Anonymous said...

To comment on la belette rouge's comment (okay, is this considered double dipping?;)...i recently saw a czech film called: "Something Like Happiness" by Bohdan Slama....long story short, one character is blond when she is happy...and when she becomes seriously depressed and suffers a breakdown...her hair is dyed dark...only to return to blond when she gets out of the hospital.
just an observation...but must do more research into that one...
nancy

F.O.T. said...

The weather hasn't been helping either. Most people I know are in a funk too. A little bit might have to do with that it is mid-June and I still have to have my heat on.

Lothian said...

I should have checked your blog sooner, otherwise I might not have had such a meltdown the other day. I think I am going to copy that quote and leave it on my computer too. This post meant the world to me, and your comment on my blog was beyond kindness. I wish I could be as eloquent as everyone else in their comments, but I just needed to say thank you.

Je ne regrette rien said...

Interesting post / comments. I also think being alive takes attention. much of my life has slipped through my fingers unnoticed because I wasn't paying attention. I gave in to routine, to norms, to laziness and inertia. when you pay attention, you notice. and you are confronted with the reality you've created.

dancing doc design said...

b,
malaise and frustration are part of what my french hubby calls "the messy vitality of life",when phrased that way it makes me not only giggle but,come back down to the realization that it is our human condition to feel the ebb and flow of life,the process is more important than the product-(hey, this one I got from a former NFL,New England Patriots player at a party,one never know where one will find a pearl of advice)--I personally can get lost in the trees and forget the connectedness of the glorious forest-oh, and also,when I ask for help from a power greater than moi...I have never gone without an answer-the other insightful comments here are a tribute to you and how your quest is valid,worthy and you are going through a transition where the ebb and flow can get mirky!
joy,bliss and laughter to you b!!!
and thanks de tout mon coeur for your comments!

La Framéricaine said...

b,

Thank you for dropping by "quasi French." It's my philosophical drop box and I frequent it more rarely than HWTF, so I did not see your kind comments until today. I'll be visualizing being safely couched in my safe universe tonight as I drift of to sleep and will imagine you safely couched in yoursl

"The universe is bending in your direction," said a wise old spook once upon a time.

Amitiés,

b said...

Julianne,

I'm so glad that you did happen to come by my blog and I hope my calling it a "mistake" didn't come across as negative. Truly, I so appreciate your comment and I have heard of the Prophet and have a number of Khalil Gibran quotes written down. I've not read the book but your comment has inspired me to go out and get myself a copy. I'm sure it is wonderful and what perfect timing!

I'm glad you started blogging. You are not a sham! It definitely takes some time to build a momentum with blogging. I still have plenty of days in which I feel that I have nothing to write (hence, the recent once-a-week deep thoughts!) or that my writing is just a bunch of mumbo jumbo. But everything posted is meaningful because it is shared. And yes, you do have a lot to say and just by these comments, you say it and share yourself beautifully!!

b said...

La Page Francaise,

Oh, you are so very sweet! I too would so love to meet you in Paris. I am sad we didn't get to meet last trip but that makes this trip that much more special! A coffee in a cafe and a walk in Paris sounds perfect! I can't wait! I will email you my apartment details (address, phone number, etc.) and should also be able to check email from my apartment there.

And regards the first part of your comment... yes, you are absolutely right. What other choice is there to be fully alive, other than risk painful awareness and struggle? That's what I like to refer to as the beautiful struggle.

Thank you so much for returning here and providing such wonderful support and insight. Again, I really am so excited about meeting in person, in Paris!!!

b said...

Victor,

I'm glad you click, click, clicked your way here! I enjoyed reading your latest blog post and look forward to reading more of your blog. It is so refreshing to read other people's experiences on being alive, on being aware, and being open enough to write about with authenticity. So, thank you!!

Thanks for also taking the time to come to my blog. I'm so touched that this post was meaningful to you. So often, I feel like I'm just flailing. And then I realize that I am... that we all are. It's nice to commiserate!

b said...

Betty,

I think all humans strive for "more." I wonder if we are wired that way? Society makes it easy to want more productivity, more achievement, more things, etc. And then beyond that, many of us may just want more peace, more faith, more wisdom. We are hard on ourselves but I think there is something to that striving. It keeps us alive, purposeful.

As our basic needs are rather easily met (depending where you come from), we don't have to worry about striving for food, shelter, etc., so it seems that our "drive" shifts to the next notch on the hierarchy of needs.

Again, I think the striving is great. But so is acceptance and being gentle with ourselves. When the striving itself becomes so consuming, I think it can be dangerous.

With all that (rambling) said, better contacts, organization, writing, etc... yes, demand for those definitely seems to be a rather common thread amongst many of us bloggers. It is so great that we can share that striving and keep it in healthy check with one another! Thanks for being one such blogger!

b said...

This is Glamorous,

Thank you so much for taking the time to come here and comment. Yes, being alive is all of those things in varying proportions all at once. When I look at it from a detached perspective, it seems so beautiful and alive! Yet sometimes, my vision is blurred from within that chaos!

Oh, I'm glad you were able to go to Paris and I understand how you must miss it already. I'm sure I will feel very much the same, as I did before when I went!

b said...

Sub-Urban Rambler,

Oh, thank you so, so much for your comment. Sometimes I feel like a mess... with all of these thoughts, this awareness, these feelings. It means so much to think that someone else can appreciate such and know where I'm coming from. Thank you!

Yes, there is so much wisdom in patience. And sometimes we initiate change but there is a necessary waiting period, a limbo, or seeming purgatory! And you are absolutely right... authenticity does start with acknowledging our own limitations. Ah, that is one of those simple but profound facts that begs constant repeating.

Your perspective and attitude are so wonderful. To acknowledge those areas in which you wish/strive to be better and say to yourself that "I will be the damndest best of 'good enough' me"... that's impressive. And really, that's all we can do. Something tells me, that has led you to this contentment you are now feeling. That takes honesty and integrity.

Thank you for sharing your authenticity here! It is truly inspiring!

b said...

Nancy,

Interesting. I've not heard of this movie but like the premise. Revealing that dark and light side of self outwardly. Sometimes it seems too much to bear completely on the inside, we must reveal it outwardly somehow. And then, sometimes I wonder if I do the opposite at times... revealing the light to mask the dark that might dominate within me at a particular time.

Did you like the movie?

b said...

F.O.T.,

Yeah, the seemingly endless days of thick clouds and gray might contribute. I do like those days and plenty of them, but the sun we had the last few days was so rejuvenating. We're back to clouds today. :(

b said...

Lothian,

So good to "see" you here again! I'm so happy that this post was meaningful to you. I really appreciate the honesty and depth to which you express yourself. Being alive does take time and it is hard. Owning the reality of that and embracing it is even more difficult at times. But so rewarding and we grow in irreversible ways.

Thank you!!

b said...

Je ne regrette rien,

Paying attention is crucial. I too look back on stretches of my life in which I seemed to be on auto pilot. Routine, norms, inertia, laziness... they can seep in and take over quietly. Being aware, we definitely feel and notice much more, both good and bad.

b said...

Dancing Doc,

I like that... "the messy vitality of life." So very true, as is "the process is more important than the product." And I'm always happy to see wisdom among NFL athletes (I do love football!). :)

It is so easy to get lost in the trees, isn't it? But something always gets my attention and reminds me that there is a connectedness, that the journey really is what matters. I'm so grateful for that awareness.

Thank you for always lifting my spirits with your lovely wisdom and beauty!

b said...

La Framericaine,

Oh, I love your philosophical drop box! It is such a joy to "pop in" and read the perils of wisdom and hope. Thank you for sharing such!

I really appreciate this quote about the universe bending. Repeating this quote in my heart brings such a joyous feeling. Merci!