It hit me suddenly, full-force, like a punch to the gut. It’s May already.
My reaction, too, was very much like the reel that happens when you’ve been punched – doubled over, retreating from the fist pushing with such velocity into your midsection. My reactionary thoughts were quick, too, and packed their own punch: its been almost a year, how can you still be so unsettled, why have you been wasting your time, why did you…blah after self-defeating blah.
But that was just an emotional reaction. I don’t know why my default is set to catastrophizing (well, I have suspicions, but let’s not drag them into today’s post). It always has been. Back in the day (almost a year ago), I used to warn the people I supervised: “My first reaction is never my best. Give it a little time, and I’ll have a better one.” And while I haven’t been able to change that about myself, I have picked up some skills to hasten things along.
The first, and most important, is to talk back to that reactionary thug in my head. The second is to move along, as if there’s nothing to see here. Just another first reaction. So when I took that blow to the gut, I told my thoughts to shut the hell up. Then I grabbed my jacket and headed out for a walk.
I was moving pretty quickly as I rounded the corner, as if I could outrun my own thoughts. First stop was for coffee – I wanted the comfort of a cup in my hand. But by the time I reached Washburn-Fair Oaks Park, I was already past the worst of my panic over the swift passage of time. The beautiful evening began to make itself known to my conscious mind. There were families in the park, enjoying the soft spring evening. Some of them had puppies. I defy anyone to sustain a panic attack while watching children play with puppies in a park.
I slowed down and made my way, leisurely, onto Nicollet. I had made a spur-of-the-moment decision to get take out from one of the restaurants on Eat Street, so I stopped three people who had obviously just picked something up and asked what they had. One had Thai, one Chinese, and the last actually had leftovers cleverly disguised as take out. The Asian-influenced culinary choices helped me decide – I went to the Mexican place whose name I can never remember.
I ordered two tacos, hard shells, and a side of beans. When my order was ready, I headed out the door, but stopped to rearrange the items in my sack. That’s when I discovered that my order came with a side of chips and salsa. I took one chip, savoring it’s salty, earthy corn flavor. It was so delicious! I stopped the next pedestrian coming toward me on the sidewalk and offered him the bag of chips and salsa. From his reaction, it was a good impulse.
And just like that, my second – better – reaction arrived. I began to think about the word “may”, and it’s multiple meanings. Suddenly, I remembered riding in a group bike ride on Saturday night when the bike mechanic-cum-poet riding beside me said, “I always love this time of year. Everything seems full of possibility.” One meaning of may – expressing possibility.
What if, I wondered, I gave myself permission to stop worrying about everything and just continue exploring the possibilitties that present themselves? Another meaning of may – expressing permission.
Possibility and permission. If nothing else, this year has been teaching me to dwell within these two concepts. To look beyond fear and find the possibility inherent in each day’s activities. To give myself permission to explore, to try on, to fail. To hold myself in this place for as long as is necessary without giving up or giving in to defeatism.
At that moment (and I’m not making this up) the sun broke through some lingering clouds for a truly spectacular sunset. I stopped thinking so much, and just let myself feel May wash over me.
Note: If you haven’t already watched this on my FB page, I LOVE this flipagram from Saturday’s ride. Even though I am only in it very briefly, I look joyfully in the moment – as do all of my ride companions. It completely captures what it’s like to give yourself permission to be open to possibilities in the moment!