– T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
January came and I imagined the year ahead, as I sometimes do. I know we’re supposed to stay in the present moment. And, I try. But, my imagination is just so darn tempting sometimes.
I looked to spring. And I envisioned blooming – pure, vibrant energy bursting forth – and the ways I might nurture that energy to keep it stoked.
Then, spring came… The buds burst forth, yes. But the energy that most called to me was a longing for space. Wide open space. And serenity. With the latter very much dependent on the former.
Historically, I have not been a Marvel movie person. However, I recently saw the latest installment of Ant-Man. In it, I was introduced to the concept of “going subatomic.” Shrinking to a size so tiny that you can fit between the atoms and, in doing so, create this immense spaciousness in which whole worlds can exist.
I had a field day with this! The whole idea of shrinking is perhaps a discussion for another day. Let me just say that, on principle, I don’t like the idea of having to “shrink” to fit anything. However, I do like the idea of there being another perspective with respect to something that at first appears fixed, firm and solid. Limited. You walk up to a brick wall and see a dead end. Then, consider the idea that there could be whole galaxies between each atom of every single brick of that wall.
Some days, when I look at my calendar, it’s like the brick wall. Every square accounted for. (Often, double or triple accounted for…) I’ve been asking myself, what would it be like to look at all of those squares and see space in between? Find micro-moments and make them into whole constellations of time and space?
This spring, I thought I was going to be enthralled in this vibrant season of blooming and, in some ways, I am. But, more so, I am drawn to the idea of that space in between. And, it’s not just me. It is a theme I am hearing over and over again from friends, clients, colleagues. Maybe it’s that there is so much blooming. It feels like the next phase of return to travel, return to office, return to in-person events is a super-powered “return to normal.” And everyone seems to be feeling it.
It’s not that this blooming is bad. In fact, in so many ways, it’s wonderful. Connecting and reconnecting in ways we haven’t in so long. Experiences and memories we didn’t know if we’d ever have again and we didn’t realize how much we missed. Even those things we didn’t miss so much, seeing their benefits too.
And…it can be a lot. Especially when we’re out of practice. Especially when some of us may have realized in the in-between period that we thrive on more down time. Perhaps we’re more introverted than we realized. Perhaps we realized we actually do need rest and have now seen the benefits we reap when we allow ourselves self-care.
As one who is always seeking to hold both, recognizing there are tradeoffs but trying to find ways to integrate things so those tradeoffs are softened, I got curious about the room that feels to be missing and how we can create it – go subatomic, if you will – so we can enjoy the bloom in full technicolor.
I’ve begun to think of this as “Serenity now!” (one of the many gems from 90’s treasure, Seinfeld, providing some welcome levity). A friend then dubbed it “serenity with a quickness.” When she did, it dawned on me that I often associate space and serenity with time. Yet, maybe it could be possible to have space and serenity in an expeditious way.
And, I realized, that is what we need right now. We have everything else on demand. Netflix, UberEats, Amazon Prime, telehealth, music, podcasts, videoconferences, messaging, mail. Why can’t we have serenity… NOW!?
So, I started experimenting with how I could channel serenity on demand and bring it into my days. Full as they may be. Blooming and all.
What I’m finding is that it does not take much. Indeed, there is time. And, serenity is quite available. So long as I am intentional.
Maybe it’s a focused meditation or visualization, geared towards peace and expansiveness. Maybe it’s choosing calming music for my yoga sessions instead of the inspirational or educational podcasts I’ll sometimes multitask with. In fact, scratch multitasking altogether. As much as I can, at least. It’s incredible what simplifying can do. Sometimes doing less is actually doing more.
Ironically, being present in the moment really does make a big difference. Even though it can be hard. I find fixing my awareness on a nearby person or object helps. I especially like focusing in on the freckles on my son’s nose when I find myself at risk of mentally wandering from the moment we’re sharing. Energetic anchoring too. Particularly when I successfully connect to spacious serenity, I’ll do a kind of power-up and imprint that feeling in an object, location or activity so I can return to it when I please. Lighting that special candle. My favorite mug for tea. The shell we brought back from the beach. The statuette that reminds me of the magic of the forest.
I’ve also learned that there’s, perhaps, no better way to create room in my life than to let go of what’s not serving me. And I find much serenity basking in the space that remains. The space that, in fact, was there for me all along.