Written by: Madeline McCallum, contributing writer and blogger at http://madelinesmusing.blogspot.com/?m=1
“You do not just wake up and become the
–growth is a process”
Rupi Kaur, The Sun and Her Flowers
Day to day, we expect to fix everything, change the world, and heal ourselves within 24 hours. We get frustrated when important things take time, when we are forced to sit with any discomfort. But when we take the time to actually reflect on our life over a certain period of time, the realization of just how much you have grown and changed can be staggering.
As I was taking a walk in a park near my house the other day, I found myself really contemplating where I was at that moment versus where I was at this time a year ago. As I watched the evaporation of my breath curl around the fingers of my gloves, I felt tired and run down and a little bit lost.
I’ve found the relentlessness of time a bit overwhelming lately – feeling like I need a massive break from life for a bit, but actually, I only have a few days off for the holidays before I am back in the office again. After graduation and upon entering the world of “adulthood,” the majority of the markers of space and time we are used to cease to exist. I’m used to working myself to the bone until winter break, or summer break, relishing in the weeks off and the downtime spent at my childhood home, where I easily slip back into the dependent lifestyle of an exhausted teenager. Life was marked by semesters, by summer break and the beginning of term in the fall, by the schedule of our classes and the weeks we were able to spend resting or on vacation. Now, I can’t help but feel that when I look into the world ahead of me, all I see is “work work work” on an endless loop, with no time off and no space to breathe.
I kept walking further into the park, around the back where there is a lovely little duck pond and a small running creak. I stood on the bridge, watching the ducks slowly swim around and the circular ripples dance out around them. I thought about how right in that moment, when I took a deep inhale in and an exhale out, I felt rest. How crucial it is to now mark my time intentionally by moments like these – in the midst of a working week, taking some time to breathe in and reflect on time passed and ponder the future.
The past year has been tumultuous to say the least, packing in probably the most change I’ve gone through the smallest period of time, ever. I found myself wondering whether I would ever feel grounded again, or if I was just a perpetual wanderer, a gypsy looking for somewhere to lay her head and someone to hold her hand. Although I don’t feel completely settled, I look back on those memories of complete disorientation and feel my feet firmly planted, my thoughts less anxious, and I smile. We truly have no idea what the future holds for us, and hindsight is such a funny thing. If I could tell 18-year-old me what lay before her in the next five years, would I? Would she even believe me? There is no way I could have fathomed how my life would play out.
As I stood looking out onto the pond, the winter air freezing my cheeks, I thought about how there are always ripples created, and the possibility that another duck may fly over and create even more disruption to the circular swimming motion, but the ripples also always settle. If I stood there long enough, I’d see the pond settle into a glassy surface, reflecting back to me the beautiful view of the park trees and the greenery surrounding me. That seemed to me a pretty beautiful realization – no matter how chaotic the surface gets, it will eventually settle. The pond may even freeze over, but the depths below are always kept warm, flowing, just waiting until the next season when things will thaw out and expand.
We do not just wake up one day and become fully-actualized. It takes so much time, and maybe our entire life time. Somehow we put the pressure on ourselves to figure it out before the sun rises the next day and we forget to reflect on how far we have actually gotten, just by getting out of bed every day. Five years ago I had no idea what I wanted, I had no idea who I was and what I liked or disliked and what gave me enjoyment, made me feel alive. The other day in the park I felt warmth in my heart because I knew I loved the trees, and walking, and listening to my favorite music while I walked past the man selling the Christmas trees and hot chocolate. All of the things I have done this year, and in the last decade, have led me to this moment of contentment. And even the parts of this year and that moment that don’t feel so certain or so great – I can take comfort in knowing that next year at this time, hopefully I’ll be smiling at the ways the universe got me through these, too. The sun rose this morning (even though it was pretty gray and in the British winter time, the sun seems more of an abstract idea than an actual, physical presence). But it is there. And it will be there tomorrow.
Wishing everyone happy holidays and a very happy new year – may you allow yourself to rest and reflect!