A time to float

A wise woman asked me this week: “Do you feel like you have arrived? Or are you still crossing the threshold?” She was referring to more than a year of my actively pushing through some major life events, including expanding my private practice, finalizing a divorce, and organizing a move, while caring for my daughter (and my senior dog!) through it all.

I had to acknowledge that my mind is so conditioned to be striving and pushing, and to be future-oriented, that the feeling of “arrival” is not a familiar one. There is a place for striving and pushing, to be sure; but I don’t want to keep pushing through my life and miss the enjoyment! I want to stop and smell the roses, literally (they are gorgeous this time of year!) and emotionally.

Here is a game-changing idea, from my same wise friend, who is a very active and successful professional, spouse and parent. She suggests: striving is not always necessary. Just stay here. Enjoy this life now. You have arrived; cut the engine and float.

I’ve always loved the metaphor of captaining a ship to describe navigating the challenges of life. As Louisa May Alcott wrote, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” In the calm after a storm, not much navigation is needed. We can cut the engine, catch our breath, and gather our strength again. We can float for a while. We can tend to the hull of our ship —our bodies, as well as our spirits—and patch up any scratches or damage that may have occurred during the storm. We can soak in the sun and be rejuvenated.

I know and value my striving part. Now, I want to get to know and value my floating part!

What this looks like in my life now is really basic. Like this: Instead of driving to an errand yesterday, I parked my car at home and walked. Yes, it took twice as long. And it felt so, so good to be at a walking pace in the middle of the afternoon. In the middle of my life.

Last weekend, I actually laid in the hammock for over half an hour, doing nothing except gently rocking and looking at the sky. It was relaxing. A little disorienting, too—do I need to be doing something now? Is this okay, to just be, like this?

In fact, it’s essential. We need to float from time to time in order to stay afloat, emotionally, in this busy and demanding life.

Practice not-doing, and everything will fall into place.
—Attributed to Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, circa 6th century BCE