Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Busy Resting

I remember a semester in high school in which two of my classes, scheduled back to back, were at opposite ends of the school. With only a few minutes between bells- I learned to move quickly. I've always moved pretty quickly, stayed busy, and talked at lightning speed. I lived by the mantra, "Head down, chin up." For me this meant keep my head in my work, and my chin up smiling at the world. These days, however, I'm finding myself moving more slowly- in a very good way. When I was younger, I was never able to enjoy walks, hikes, or trips, as I focused only on the destination. I was perplexed by the idea of 'getting there is half the fun.' In my mind, being in transit was a means to an end, and that saying was hackneyed and without meaning.

It wasn't until this year that I really started to appreciate that sentiment at all. I have not adopted a Zen lifestyle replete with happy breathing and constant smiling, rather I have come to a realization that the transit itself in fact shapes the destination. Consciously I knew this- as an anthropologist who trusts that identity is created by a person's socio-cultural environment, I knew this well. As far as my life was concerned, I could in fact point out that my identity involves religion because I was raised with it. I could pick apart all sorts of environmental factors that shaped my being. However, on a smaller day to day basis, I was wondering how I could be so miserable taking classes all the time in order to achieve a degree- if that was half the fun, then I wasn't sure that I wanted the other half at all. So I did something, that in my world, was quite revolutionary: I slowed down. I halved my course load, let go of some organizational commitments, and decided to focus my energies on rest. I let myself sleep, I started reading books for fun, I spent time in the city visiting pleasing places, I devoted time to my friends who had supported me through so much, I started trying to find (or obsessively search) for a feeling of faith that had been long gone. Slowly, I noticed that a change in my mood. It was no longer "Head down, chin up." It was "Chin down, head up." By enjoying the creation and blessings bestowed upon me in the form of rest, companionship, and Boston, I was bowing my head in thanks to that which provided it. At the same time, I was keeping my head up, taking in my surroundings, enjoying time and life as it swarmed around me, rather than having tunnel vision on endless schoolwork. To re-quote Dean Hill quoting someone else, "It is a sin not to take what is given." In my case, I hadn't even realized there was a gift right there in front of me. What a wonderful gift to speed through blindly. So I'm learning my lesson, to quit looking forward only- forward is always a step away, and if that is all we focus on, the now is never enough, and that's what we have the most of: now's.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great observation and I think we found it at about the same time. The one thing I think I'm most excited about when I think of returning in the fall is how much I'm cutting from my schedule and how nice it will be to take time to enjoy my last two years of undergrad. I wonder what you and I would have been like in high school if we'd figured it out back then...