As I was walking with Sam this morning, I saw the first sign of spring — tiny yellow crocus heads and green spike arms pushing their way out of the ground, stretching towards the sky, unfolding, beginning to bloom.
I felt so relieved I almost cried. Not for the reasons you might think. The actual winter, the weather, hasn’t bothered me so much — except for those few weeks where each night it dipped below zero. Rather it’s the winter in my heart that has lasted too long, lingering past my capacity to endure it, too sad and too dark, heavier than I can hold.
Just before I saw the flowers, I’d been thinking about how confusing it is to be human. Specifically I was contemplating how at the moment we sense we are losing control, when we feel like what we are trying to hold or save is slipping away, we tighten our grip. It’s such a strong instinct, such a powerful habit. We tense up and start grasping before we even realize we are doing it. We hold on, cling, attempt to cement contact and exert control. We see force and resistance as allies in our effort.
Compassion and wisdom suggest a different approach. When we feel we are losing control or things aren’t going the way we want, what we should actually do is release our grip — soften, relax, let go, surrender.
For me, for example, if I’m too busy, have too much to do and am feeling overwhelmed, I go straight to speed, as if by going faster I will somehow catch up. I think if I move more quickly, I’ll be able to keep up. This isn’t what happens though. Getting busier doesn’t allow me to manage the situation of too much, because too much is too much.
Slowing down, softening, letting go of my expectations is the antidote. The fix for too busy is to be less busy. The way to restore overwhelm is to rest. The solution to trying too hard is to give up.
I’m beating myself up right now because Ringo has a cold. I was pushing myself too hard, feeling overwhelmed by everything I was “supposed” to be doing to socialize and train him. We were going to puppy classes twice a week and taking field trips. Somewhere in all that rushing around, he picked up the sniffles. Now he’s on lockdown, can’t go anywhere, and we had to postpone his final set of shots for a week, which means an even longer wait before we can walk him, start him in a basic training class or take him to daycare. He doesn’t get what the fuss is all about since he’s feeling fine other than the occasional sneeze and the cutest intermittent snoring when he sleeps, but I’m feeling guilty and trapped.
“What stands in the way becomes the way.” ~Marcus Aurelius
No matter what I do, spring will come. “This too shall pass.” Ringo will get better and eventually do all the things that got interrupted. He’ll grow up and be such a good dog. There will be days and days that turn into years in which he won’t need me to watch him every second to keep him from inadvertently killing himself. The best thing I can do right now is to soften, relax, ease up, let go, loosen my grip, surrender.