Things Are OK Even When They Could be Better
I hope we can settle for good enough. I know high expectations are, well, high. And it is easier to stick with that point of view when everything is going well. We meet the right person; we succeed in our work; we stay relatively healthy; no accidents; car starts; dishwasher does its job; our kids get the gold medal.
Yet, sometimes, we do our best to do what’s right and, still, we do things wrong. Things didn’t turn out the way we expected. We plan for the unforeseen only to discover that what we thought might happen did not. And the problem we are now facing was never on our radar for even one second.
There is no escape from the uncertainty of life.
By now, my readers know that I love Oliver Burkeman’s book, Four Thousand Weeks. Maybe because he is often on the same page as me but can express the ideas so brilliantly and poetically.
As an illustration, here is a story from his book: Part 11 – Beyond Control
It goes like this:
“A friend was attending a talk by philosopher Krishnamurti when ‘partway through this particular talk,’ recalls the writer Jim Dreaver, ‘Krishnamurti suddenly paused, leaned forward, and said, almost conspiratorially,’ Do you want to know what my secret is? Almost as though we were one body, we sat up… I could see people all around me lean forward, their ears straining, their mouths slowly opening in hushed anticipation.’
Then Krishnamurti said in a soft, almost shy voice,
You see, I don’t mind what happens.
Burkeman continues: “I don’t mind what happens. Perhaps these words need a little unpacking; I don’t think Krishnamurti means to say that we shouldn’t feel sorrow, compassion, or anger when bad things happen to ourselves or others, nor that we should give up on our efforts to prevent bad things from happening in the future.
Rather, a life spent not minding what happens is one lived without the inner demand to know that the future will conform to your desires for it—and thus without having to be constantly on edge as you wait to discover whether or not things will unfold as expected.
None of that means we can’t act wisely in the present to reduce the chances of bad developments later on. And we can still respond, to the best of our abilities, should bad things nonetheless occur; we’re not obliged to accept suffering or injustice as part of the inevitable order of things. But to the extent that we can stop demanding certainty that things will go our way later on, we’ll be liberated from anxiety in the only moment it ever actually is, which is this one…
The real problem isn’t planning…we treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command. But all a plan is—all it could ever possibly be—is a present-moment statement of intent. It’s an expression of your current thoughts about how you’d ideally like to deploy your modest influence over the future. The future, of course, is under no obligation to comply.”
I love this line:
“we treat our plans as though they are a lasso, thrown from the present around the future, in order to bring it under our command.”
As I consider my hopes and make my plans I can now picture myself sitting upright on a magnificent steed, lasso at the ready, hurling it perfectly around the future and reeling it into my life. And I can laugh and enjoy the moment as, instead, I get down off my high horse and make my way steadily on the ground. One foot after another, minding the potholes, eyes open wide to respond to the circumstances that arise. Confident that my lassoing techniques aren’t required to take care of this moment’s surprise.
Makes me think of my favourite Haiku:
climbs Mount Fuji –Issa
1:) Another haiku I love from Issa that has nothing to do with today’s post goes like this:
Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house
2:) We are on the last bit of our 21 day respite and will wend our way across the continent on Friday. Re-entry can be tricky and I have put my lasso down and happily return with warm memories and fresh eyes. Knowing full well that everything changes, and we aren’t exactly the same people returning as we were when we left. Furthurmore, there are bound to be surprises of all kinds. The wondrous adventure of being alive.
3:) An enormous shout out to the people who welcomed us and cared for us on this adventure. The seen and the unseen. Thank you is not anywhere close to adequate but my wholehearted thanks, nonetheless.
4:) May things be good enough with all of you, dear readers. Always, my warmest wishes, Trudy
Banner thanks to Shelly A. from several years ago in Austin Texas. Wonderful memories.
Silhouette and bamboo on Gabriola and Japan respectively by me.
I love the keeping house casually Trudy. We are missing you.
I would like to send you a stanza of a poem by Mary Oliver. “Three Poems for James Wright”
“And think how somewhere in Tuscany
a small spider might even now
be stepping forth, testing
the silks of her web, the morning air,
the possibilities; maybe even, who knows,
singing a tiny song.”
I loved this – I will now be searching for small spiders, singing as they weave. How lovely.
Dear Pat: what a beautiful comment that fits right into this blog post. I LOVE the stanza and I don’t recall seeing this before on my Mary Oliver journeys. This is simply delightful. You brought a wonderful closure to my day. I will be back in the studio next week. Many thanks and warm wishes, Trudy
Ah dear friend, not minding what happens next, not trying to lasso ie control the future, just opening to the surprise of the next moment – yes, oh yes. Thank you as always Trudy. safe travels home to you and Sophie. love you xoxo
Thanks dear Janice. Sounds easier than it is to put into practice. But that’s ok too. Haha I return with some trepidation having gotten used to stepping outside with no additional preparation. However, I don’t live in Ottawa for the weather so I am wholeheartedly looking forward to my return as well. Love to all. T
Exactly what I needed -again!
a thousand thanks, Trudy.
Hello Gottfried. Happy to be of service. Thanks for reading my blog and sending this note.
I liked, I keep house ….causally. Fantastic.
Great post. Thank you.
To the seen and unseen, very buddha.
Hi Kathryn: thanks for your comment. I too love Issa’s spider Haiku. Happy to hear that you liked the post. I appreciate your kind notes. Warmly, trudy
A very wise english war bride,told me this one,many,many years ago. IF YOU WANT TO SURVIVE,LET A SPIDER THRIVE……..much room for thought here. She was talking about gossip,judgement etc. It has stayed in my little brain and pops up if i am tempted to quick judgement or unkindness.It always fasinates me how these little things stay alive in the brain and heart,no matter how much we attempt to put into them.safe travels.
Hi Jean: you always have neat things to say that I have not heard before. What my grandmother used to say was “don’t kill a spider or it will rain.” I hadn’t thought of that until I read your sweet comment. Thanks as always, Jean. Warmly, trudy