Confronting Mid-Life and Embracing Wonder

This post is dedicated to Ruby Lake.

It’s no secret that I’ve been turned inward for many months now, as I touched on in my last, brief post.  Yet it was only very recently, after my last post, that I was able to finally name what was going on, and it was a shocking revelation:  Mid-life Crisis.

I had been reflecting on what I’ve come to think of as my Bonfire Energy, sometimes what I’ve thought of as Spastic Energy too.  That energy is the energy that comes in fits and starts, that prompts a thousand new ideas I have to do all at once; that causes me to over commit myself and ultimately, to crash and burn.  It’s what my dearest friend once described, many years ago, as a bright and incandescent bonfire.

There was a time, even up to about 5 years ago, when I could keep up with myself.  It wasn’t manic energy or frantic energy perse – I’ve never been hyperactive – but it was constant.  Heck, it was the energy behind the name of this page!

I still can’t tell you what, exactly, happened that caused me to curl into myself – or even exactly when – but I can tell you that I was finding it harder and harder to keep up.  I was over committing myself, trying to maintain a non-existent work-life balance, and more frequently than not, failing.  Projects went unfinished.  Tasks got migrated in a never-ending cycle in my Bullet Journal.  Stepping back and taking breaks became more frequent…

The bonfire was no longer roaring.  The fuel that caused it to burn so white hot and big for so long had been consumed.  I was no longer living off of adrenaline and stress, but I hadn’t even realised that’s what I’d been doing for so many years so I was still trying desperately to find that rather toxic energy to burn.

I finally admitted to myself that the fire is still very much burning, but it’s a tamer fire now – one you could toast marshmallows on perhaps, rather than one you stand several feet back from and hope there’s enough stone around it so the woods behind you don’t end up ablaze.

Then, my daughter texted me a picture.  It was her hand, and a dragonfly was resting on it.  She said, “I made a new fren.”  The dragonfly sat on her hand for the better part of an hour, fanning it’s wings occasionally, and she sat with it, not moving much.  Just being present with a dragonfly fren.

I called her the Dragonfly Whisperer and privately marveled at her way of attracting unexpected animals into her sphere of being, then remembered being a child and marveling at dragonflies, butterflies, fireflies, seashells, and all of the little things that make children’s eyes grow wide with wonder whilst the adults glance over and say, “Oh. Yeah. That’s a dragonfly.”

I also thought of her patience, just sitting and being…of the patience I once had, far before the bonfire roared, to just sit watching ants or caterpillars, trickling streams – and the wonder that each of those activities evoked in that child’s mind.

So it was that I came to realise that it’s time to begin again.  I’ve always believed that it’s never too late to start something new, and the time to do so is the time you realise it should be done (not tomorrow or next week or at the new year), so as I leave the Bonfire Years behind and enter the Campfire Years to come, I’ve started to let go of a lot and open my eyes, and mind, to what’s there before me.

That means stepping back and tamping down the spastic energy that still tries to rear it’s head.  For instance, when I set up July in my Bullet Journal, I decided that, with the exception of work (because those deadlines are imposed by a higher authority than my own), I would look at three things.  The first two were fairly straightforward:  What is truly important to me and my well being; and what is realistic based on the commitments I already have this month.

The third and final thing was to review the plans I’ve made for other endeavours and ask myself if I’m truly prepared to embark on them.  Do I know enough?  Have I practised enough to make launching something new a good use of my time, energy, and money?  Part of having Bonfire Energy has always been diving in with a sink or swim mentality which doesn’t leave room for a thorough or thoughtful review before turning the exam paper in – either you nail it, or you don’t.  While I’ve done well in my life using that approach (I’ve been very fortunate and I know it), Camp Fire Energy requires a more studied look.  Too little fuel and the fire burns to embers and goes out.  Too much, and your marshmallows, as well as the stick you’re toasting them with, not to mention your eyebrows, are up in flames.

So it is that, with child-like eyes, I will sit down and learn.  As I learned to form my letters, to read, and to write when I was in grade school, so shall I learn again.

Before I end this, I want to assure you that this is not some Eat, Pray, Love rubbish.  I am not embarking on a zen journey to appropriate the teachings of another culture and bring them back with me as some great or ancient  teachings, the likes of which can only be found at the top of a remote mountaintop scaled several times each day by Meaning of Life Seekers from the comfortable suburbs of any city of your choice.

What it is, is this:  It’s the result of years of incorporating a daily mindfulness practise into my life, and of privately wondering when I’d ever see something truly tangible.  It’s the result of being brutally honest with myself as I sit with my feelings and ask myself the hard questions – then answer them openly.  It is an acknowledgement of where I’ve been and who I was, and how that person has affected who I am, and who I will be.  It’s the banking of a fire, bringing it under control, and deciding that it’s time to actually use the light – not as a flare to the heavens, but as a light to read and learn by.

I think that I can happily say that those years of mindfulness practise have yielded a significant reward, and the journey is only just beginning.