We're already at the new normal. Might as well get used to it.
The dust sluiced off my riding vest and circled around the drain, the brown-grey of the great Chilean Atacama finally finding its new home here in Oregon. I'll be finding that dust in everything for a while, but at least it's off my skin.
But not out of my heart.
That trip went sideways when I fractured my patella. I rode anyway, but the trip wasn't what I had planned. I'd had to pivot.
As I hobbled on my one good leg out of the bare bathroom- everything in my house is bare these days- I hung the vest over the fireplace to dry. It's a big, empty living room with three things: a TV, couch and table. No other furniture, pictures, plants or much of anything else in the house.
I sleep on the floor or the couch. I have two glasses, one cup, one chipped plate, one bowl. A chair and a desk for the computer. That's all, folks.
The only decorations are the contents of my luggage strewn out all over the floor, dumping dust, waiting their turn in the tub.
Not what I said was gonna happen.
By this time, said she last summer, my house will be sold and I'll be learning Spanish in Colombia. And next year I'm going to celebrate by Kilimanjaro for the second time at I turn 70.
Yeah, and I'm going to win next year's Oscar for Best ....well. Pivoter? Person Whose Plans Implode?
I've had to pivot so many times in the last two years, I can't imagine any kind of life that isn't about pirouettes and redirects.
I wrote about pivoting just before leaving on this trip, which came about because of yet another pivot. In that story I said if something happened (it did) I'd be ready for it. I was. I won't insult you by saying it was fun, but I was ready for it.
Sound familiar? Bet it is to just about everyone these days. This change-as-constant stuff.
I took the house off the market. By now I have already sold pretty much all my belongings. What little I didn't sell is boxed up in the garage.
Pivots. Pivots. Pivots. Pivots.
Since making the decision to sell my home in Denver and move to Oregon in 2020, my life has been in a constant state of whirling dervish. To that, if you're not familiar with this marvelous phenomenon please see this:
This trance dance is all about reaching enlightenment. Emptying the mind of everything but Allah, and devotion. I love that.
When I researched that this morning it really hit me. We are required to pivot thousands of times in life as conditions change and the wind shifts direction. Instead of fighting change, as many of us do, why not use it as a way of doing precisely the same thing: reach some level of enlightenment?
Isn't learning how to pivot, to ride the winds, to move with life's changes with gratitude and humility a form of great wisdom?
Look, I'm hardly the first to ask this, but I'm finding myself in a fascinating place to ask about it in different ways.
Isn't learning to do that part and parcel of teaching the next generation how to deal with what seems impossible? It's our job to be the example of how to be as life inevitably drop kicks us one way or the other. Right now so many of us are blaming, arguing, fighting, resisting. That is no way to live. All it teaches our kids is how to be victims.
This morning in that lovely way that serendipity serves us what we need, The Marginalian published this:
The hardest state for a human being to sustain is that of open-endedness. We may know that uncertainty is the crucible of creativity, we may know that uncertainty is the key to democracy and good science, and yet in our longing for certainty we keep propping ourselves up from the elemental wobbliness of life on the crutch of opinion. Few things are more seductive to us than a ready opinion, and we brandish few things more flagrantly as we move through the world, slicing through its fundamental uncertainty with our insecure certitudes. The trouble with opinion is that it instantly islands us in the stream of life, cutting off its subject — and us along with it — from the interconnected totality of deep truth. (author bolded)
I love that line "uncertainty is the crucible of creativity." That's why I read her and support her work. Eloquent, powerful, and on point.
I had a lot of opinions about how my life was going to go this past summer. I was wrong on all of them.
When I arrived home from Chile on the 16th, I limped into a dusty, musty house. It looks uninhabited. I had already gifted it to the Next Owner.
I am said Next Owner for a while longer.
But here was the great visual gift: the bare walls, the empty floors, the minimal decor that are left are the blank canvas of Next.
I have no clue what's next, but I won't be re-nesting. I did take a few things from the garage (one gold Buddha, for example) and re-home him strategically to remind myself to stay Zen. Nothing is in the house that can't promptly be returned to the garage for immediate departure. Could happen at any time.
Including immediate departure from life, but we kinda avoid that part.
In other words, I can't take off my virtual ballet shoes. I'm ready to pivot at any moment.
That's a good life lesson. But only part of it.
I've been so stressed out that at times I've taken it out on others, which is deeply painful to me. I've had to sit with that and ask some hard questions about where that frustration comes from. Worse, why on earth would I cascade that on others?
I got one answer (there are many), and it's kinda Zen itself. It's critical to not only remind myself here but also share it.
I've mentioned this before and it's worth mentioning again. In his book Do Hard Things, author Steve Magness writes that we feel frustrated when we are learning. I'm not at all sure why that particular line struck me with the force of a tsunami wave, but it did. And I am still considering how apt it is.
And watching it in practice daily.
The other is that, as my dear friend and fellow adventurer Maggie said this morning, the years 70 to 90 are full of more rapid developments than when we're toddlers.
Society discusses aging too often in terms of deterioration. Well, not really.
For when you and I begin the slow shift away from the intense focus on the body, the agency it gives us, we are also freed to do far more work spiritually and emotionally.
We continue to develop. It's important to call it what it is: evolution, growing, shedding that which no longer serves.
I seek to maintain as much body agency as possible as I age for one primary reason: The body and mind are twinned. My great passions are travel and a few key sports, but also, the healthier I am in the body, the better my mind and brain can work to allow me to do deep spiritual work.
So yes, of course. The eyes and ears may not be as sharp. Reflexes may slow, depending on the individual, hair may go grey or go away, or show up in most unwelcome places. Part of the essential pivot as we age is to remain engaged, vigilant about the body's needs, respectful of the changing landscape of our worlds, and willing to keep right on dancing with the buffeting winds.
We are developing, not deteriorating. What we call it matters. How we frame it helps us work with our reality more effectively.
Maggie challenged me, as she did for herself and I pass this along to you, to choose some new items that I've never done for a wish list. I need to learn Spanish. I want to explore volunteering with animals. Learning animal massage. There is so much that I still want to do. None of these things is beyond my ken.
I get to learn how to work out while doing more complex workarounds on this body which really has suffered a lot of dings and dongs the last three years.
What do you want to do with the blank canvas that is your life? Especially as we enter our later years with different choices in front of us and very different challenges?
Learning to pivot gracefully is the new normal, the way I see it. It's not just that we change careers and everything settles in forever. To that, kindly see what just happened to Marvel hero Chris Hemsworth:
Even heroes have to pivot, and perhaps put away the cape. Perhaps forever.
However. Magic Johnson stunned the world in November 1991 by announcing he was HIV-positive. That used to be a death sentence. Today:
Being able to pivot also means being able to redesign who we are as we evolve, how we identify in each new self as we add chapters and close the book on those which are no longer relevant. Pivoting inherently involves release.
Sometimes that means significant loss, which deserves the respect of mourning. If we don't mourn, that with which we once identified continues to be velcroed to us for life.
As Maggie told me, she had to release her love of flying right after she had gotten her pilot instrument license at 69. A long-held dream finally achieved, then her body betrayed her.
Gone is the dream to fly charter planes in Florida. Now she paints, and she's good at it. This is why Maggie's my friend. I'm sure she misses the flying but let's face it, time spent wailing alas and alas about what can't be (for now) is time not spent pivoting to the next big plot twist.
I likely can't do Kilimanjaro as I had announced this year. Maybe the house sells, maybe it doesn't. Does it matter? Not really. What does matter is our ability to remain in play, with play being the operative word. Maggie may or may not be able to return to flying. She is still playing. She just shifted her focus.
As must we all, as life, as change, demands.
As I watched the whirling dervishes in the video, I was transfixed by the looks of exaltation on their faces. They were entranced, surrounded by flowing white fabric. Uplifted. Men of all ages, all seeking something higher, constantly moving, twirling, pivoting.
In exaltation to a higher power.
Something to that.
Where might your next pivot take you? Somewhere wonderful, I hope. If we let go of who we were, we can find out who we can become.
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