Everything in the first list is true.
Everything in the second list is also true.
- Life is hard.*
- You are not important.
- Your life is not about you.
- You are not in control.
- You are going to die
- Yes, it’s hard. It’s also joyful and magnificent. Which do you choose to focus on?
- Except to those who love and rely on you. Except to those whom you serve.
- Until you humbly discover who you really are.
- You never were. The sooner you let go, the sooner you will be free.
- When you accept this, you can stop being a hero and start being a human.
*this list (and the strong influence to write this post) comes from Adam’s Return (Crossroad Publishing, 2004) by Richard Rohr.
I am a master of getting things done. Sometimes, it’s even stuff that has to do with my growth, learning and development as a human being.
I am a master of knocking out the dishes, wiping the counters clean, spinning over to the couch to fold the laundry. I am a master of getting that laundry distributed and put away. I am a master at mowing, edging and weed pulling. I am a master at unpacking my bag after a trip, dirty clothes in the basket, clean clothes hung up or put away.
I am a master at doing all of the things that have a clear beginning, middle and end.
Checking those things off my list feels fantastic. It fills me with feelings of pride and the clear knowledge of having made a contribution to my household and family.
Every single one of those things is important. And every single one of those things is a convenient hiding place from the real work of becoming the better version of myself that I aspire to be.
That work cannot be charted on a task list but only on the pages of a much bigger book, messy scribbles writing a messy story, one that keeps inviting me back to make a bigger mess and to trust that the mess, the incompleteness is, in fact, the evidence of becoming.
Everything else is consolation.
I keep a book by the bedside called “The Way It Is: New and Collected Poems” by William Stafford.
I pick it up when I want to feel more grounded. I pick it up when I need the consolation of plainspoken sensibility.
More often than not that consolation comes from a return visit to this simple meditation on the progression of the day. Like a thread tied to a fingertip it tugs me into the recognition that every day is an entire life. I need not wonder or worry about then and there because here and now holds everything.
The Light By The Barn
The light by the barn that shines all night
pales at dawn when a little breeze comes.
A little breeze comes breathing the fields
from their sleep and waking the slow windmill.
The slow windmill sings the long day
about anguish and loss to the chickens at work.
The little breeze follows the slow windmill
and the chickens at work till the sun goes down—
Then the light by the barn again.
DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.