This summer I entered grad school. For years, while in undergrad, I knew this would be happening. It is a one year intensive program and because I knew, I intended to clear most everything off my list- even my job. This might be why I am surprised to overhear many of my fellow students discuss their new puppies, upcoming weddings, moving into new houses and taking Alaskan cruises. Yesterday, in class, a student said the schedule makes it hard to go to the cabin every weekend……
To this, I was relieved to hear my instructor say when he did this program he cleared away everything he could for the year.
I mean, I get it. I was young once and many of my fellow students are young. In my early 20’s I crammed everything into several months: built a new house, got married, went to Maui for my honeymoon, opened a business, had a baby and got a puppy. I had it all, or so I thought.
Now that I am middle-aged I see those years as sort of crazy making. I mean I am happy I have my baby, now 17 and my marriage, going on 20 years (the house and business is sold and the puppy became a dog that died). But, in my youth there was a sense of urgency that drove my choices that now, looking back, just doesn’t seem wise.
If I had to come up with a reason for this urgency, which of course I do, it is because I felt unfulfilled, and I felt pressured. I had to have experiences, driven by my own desires and the expectations of society. I wasn’t content, trusting or fulfilled enough to just be. I had to fill up my self and my life.
I no longer feel this urgency, and I find this incredibly ironic. If anything, with half my life over (at least I hope I still have half of it left) I should be trying to fit everything in while I still have time. Instead, I feel more at ease. I am not anxious about the cabin time I might be missing (of course I have no cabin). I do want another puppy, but I would never get one right now. And, moving would be nice, but I can wait. I guess that is what’s different— I can wait now. In my youth, I could not.
What else is different is I understand the importance of focused attention. To bring in too many experiences would undercut my learning, and therefore my future. I want to be a good therapist, or whatever I end up being after I graduate. I want to feel prepared and committed. I now know there is no reward for having a lot on my plate. Doing and having too much brings stress, anxiety and feelings of overwhelm.
I appreciate the experience of expanded time— of being committed and intentional about what can be on my plate right now and knowing that there is time— that whatever else there is, can wait. Before I close this post though, I do have a confession. I have one small regret and a subtle fear: will I have enough time to do what I still want to do? It took me 40+ years to finally follow my desire to be a therapist. When I sit in classes, I am enlivened and know I have found my calling. I think about the books and articles I want to write, the classes I want to teach, the people I want to serve, the groups I want to lead, the business I want to open. And with each of those desires is a quiet, yet persistent thought: will I have enough time…..?
In middle-age, the reality becomes more real- time is running out. Yet, there is still time. Perhaps now, with the diminishing of pressured, often inauthentic urgings to fill up space, the ability to focus my attention and living in this space of expanded time, miracles can occur.
The Soul Reporter