“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…”Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962
Reading this quote last week it landed, more than lightly. Funny thing is I thought Huxley was advising “slowly my darling.” Musing on that for several days, recalling nearly a decade back, when at a weeklong movement intensive – I there quite literally to “sweat my prayers” (Gabrielle Roth) – I met a woman recently retired though pursuing her independent coaching practice. She told me she never scheduled herself before 11 AM, preferring to enter each day slowly. I’m sure I countered with something like me being a morning person, liking to rise early, getting a good start on my workday.
Looking back, I was driven in that first year of “retirement,” striving to make a success of my independent coaching practice, not knowing how it would all work out after the decades’ long security of a pay cheque arriving twice monthly in my bank account. In those early months, I remember saying I needed to “make hay while the sun shone,” and secured contracts with people I enjoyed, doing work I loved. But I was exhausted. I remember falling asleep at a Friday night cooking class a couple of days before we flew to China for what ended up being an intense two-week tour. That whole trip I was cold, with photos showing me bundled in toque, scarf, and coat. I suffered through a couple of migraines, and within weeks of our return, developed Bells Palsy, a condition that left its indelible mark. A mark that to this day reminds me to go slow.
In my experience, while going slow is akin to walking lightly, it’s not the same. Trusting last week’s confusion, when I follow its thread, I see how going slow reveals the extent to which I am not “walking so lightly.” Lately, when I slow down, stop, sit still, or simply pause standing to notice the sky, step outside with Annie and breathe in the new day, sadness suddenly arrives. Nothing too pronounced, so it’s been easy to dismiss as I start moving or shift my attention. Despite its subtlety, it’s a sadness that’s been here for several weeks. I’ve alluded to it in one of my first posts of the new year, and last week’s when I wrote about remembering the light in the darkness.
I’m not one who writes to impart advice. In ten plus years of blogging, I can count on one hand the number of posts wherein I’ve listed, recommended, suggested what someone else can do to make their life better. Nor am I “reveal all” writer. Instead, usually prompted by someone else’s words, I disclose some of my own internal meanderings – messy as they might be. It’s through my way of writing – a process that can take several hours – I begin to catch a glimpse of a thread that shimmers, that when I tug, brings me, and perhaps someone else, a bit more clarity.
I was a child taught to try hard and do well. Taking that lesson to heart, I tried too hard, grew too serious, and in ways, too hard. To “lightly let things happen, and lightly cope with them” was not what I saw, was never my lived experience. Fond of saying “it’s all true,” pithy wisdom from a long time ago therapist, helps me both to remember to hold the paradox of it all, and to lessen my need to try hard to understand, to fix, to make sense of it all. In the matter of my sadness – or perhaps the sadness that belongs to us all, and to the trees and the land and the sky and all the beings that have been holding our collective, unacknowledged, displaced grief of late, or since our beginnings – now to apply its wisdom to “feel lightly even though I’m feeling deeply.” Now to lighten my grip. No need to try hard despite the quicksands all about, especially as I try to fall asleep.
“Lightly my darling.”
Lightly, with much love and kindest regards, dear friends.