January 1, 2011
A Slice of Wisdom
I did something recently that I have not done in a long time. I read some of my old diaries. It was a New Year tradition for me to look back over the previous years to chart my progress. I abandoned the tradition after I revisited some episodes I wanted to remain forgotten. However, on this day, I was in need of some clarification, some direction that could only come from the candor spoken in the pages of my past. Those pages revealed similar crossroads at different points of my journey where I felt uncertain and frustrated with my progress. I was amazed at how the same stuff kept coming up decade after decade. I was even more amazed that I used the same strategy each time to calm the fears and to lessen the anxiety. Whenever I felt my progress blocked, I would make a list of things I needed to accomplish to remove what I saw as the obstacles in my path. A list was needed to clarify my focus and to chart my course. The problem was not with the list; the problem was not giving enough credit to me for what I accomplished on my list.
Each year, I checked the lists and checked them twice to see where I needed to go. I paused at times in surprise at how far I had come — only long enough to push the bar up a little higher. I have a fear of complacency, so I keep looking around for more that I need to do to get where I believe I want to be. So I create a new list without taking a breath of satisfaction. I didn’t breathe long enough to really celebrate the single mother who moved herself from welfare to work. I didn’t stop long enough to inhale the satisfaction of being able to finally get braces, buy the car I listed, pay off school loans, buy a house and finally graduate from college and grad school. I just crossed these things off my list as I created new lists. I checked off the lists without really celebrating the accomplishments on my lists. I’ve come a long way from that single mom on welfare, so why not celebrate her? Finishing undergrad after 20 years was a real thing that in turn inspired other friends and family members to return to school, so why not really celebrate that?
Don’t get me wrong: anybody that knows me knows that a party doesn’t owe me a thing, and I have celebrated me, but I have been remiss in dismissing the extraordinary as ordinary. Each thing leads to the next thing, so no one thing really can be rated as larger than the other. Life is a series of steps. These lists saved me when the dark spaces wanted to swallow me whole. These lists were simple prayers that were not overlooked by God but by me when my cinema-influenced imagination did not match my present-day reality. Perhaps, I am supposed to be exactly where I am? Perhaps, my audience is not to be larger than my listserv or my classroom? Perhaps, being able to celebrate my blessings regardless of the size of the stage is me showing up in the full regalia for my blessings? If I truly believe that I am earning my space on earth, should I question the pace or learn to celebrate the process?
When I forget all that I have accomplished, I do a disservice to my journey. I am who I am because of all the muck and all the joy I have walked, danced, skipped and sometimes ran through. Lists are important to keep me on task and to mark my journey, but I gotta check once to see how far I’ve come and check it twice to make sure I celebrate it all.
In the meantime….be good to YOU!