Have you ever felt like just giving up? I get notes from people saying they just can’t try, that trying is for the privileged, or the healthy, or the young. They don’t have the money, or the joint mobility, or the stamina, or the time.
I feel sympathetic to these notes, and to the pain and tears in the eyes of the people who tell me their stories in person. There is a lot to feel overwhelmed by.
Lately, I have noticed my own minor irritation at some of the public people I look to for other points of view, for inspiration or ideas. I read the Twitter stream and see the cheerful quips, the encouragements to “go forward!” and I am struck by the fact that, while yes we are nourished by uplifting words, but as disasters are happening, world events are unfolding, is all we can say really “rah, rah, rah”? There has to be something more.
That something, for me, is in the spaces between giving up and ignoring the pain. That something, for me, is recognizing the power I do have and pushing beyond my comfort zone in order to grow and become strong. That something more is honoring the stories and simultaneously trying to remember that they are just stories. I can use them to inform today or use them to get trapped in yesterday or in the false promises of tomorrow. Yes, we live in the context of time and are well served by memory and imagination, but not when these take us away from recognizing what we can do right now. A plan is helpful. What we’ve learned in the past is helpful. Hanging on to regret, sorrow, or anger is not helpful. Clinging to some vapor of a dream that we won’t put the effort into manifesting is not helpful. Being resigned to “our fate” is not helpful. We are only fated to something if we tell ourselves we are.
What obstacles are you facing? I can give you a whole list of mine. What abilities do you have? What in you feels flexible enough to even take on one of the obstacles, perhaps shifting direction slightly, in order to put yourself into different relationship with what feels like an obstruction?
Sometimes the very obstacles themselves are a sign to me that instead of “go, go, go, rah, rah, rah” what might be more helpful is the change in perspective the Hanged One gives: he dangles upside down in meditation, waiting until the shift in perspective opens him to the light in the head that cracks preconceived reality, enabling wisdom to birth itself within. In other words, we can sink into patience and open our field to something new. This is not the same as resignation. This is active, aware listening to what may be.
This is a difficult lesson about will. At least it feels that way to me sometimes. My personality would much rather have all the answers and know exactly how to best move forward, best deliver, best make good on the plans I’ve set in motion that often involve people who trust me. I hate not knowing. And yet, not knowing is how I learn. Not knowing allows the universe to surprise me, it leaves room for the Gods to speak, the fog to whisper as it leaves droplets on the trees, the bees to dance the messages only they comprehend. Not knowing leaves room for the weaving of a magic I could not set out to weave were I to plot it carefully.
What has this to do with will? Engaging my will means showing up to work even when I do not know. It means practicing, getting through the list of tasks that I know can be done, making my best attempts with the things that feel like obstacles, and then – most difficult for me – letting some things go for now. Will is not about a closed fist. Willing is served by knowing. To put our energy toward something in a way that is appropriate and effective requires discerning when to grip hard, when to hold lightly, and when to let go. The more we practice, the more often we get it right.