"We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way."
I found the following entry sitting in a collection of drafts I had forgotten about. It has been stuck there since April 9, 2013. I usually delete drafts that are this old, but, since I needed to hear it again, I am putting it out there.
One of the hardest things I've had to learn over the last few years is that the most important parts of any life or story do not necessarily lie in the beginnings or the endings but in the middles, because, in truth, there are no beginnings or endings.
Our stories are made up of middles, from beginning to end.
My normal inclination is to look at an obstacle or a goal and figure out how I can win, be the best, destroy what's blocking me. It used to be that if I didn't think I could win, I wouldn't try. It was all or nothing.
This is, pardon my French, a shitty way to live. I avoided learning new things I didn't already possess the skills to excel at, and I walked away from good things simply because someone else might be better at them than me. Any moment in which I was not already the best was seen as a moment of failure.
I sometimes have the urge to punch the old me in the face, except that she's sometimes this me now, too, and I have an aversion to pain.
Over the last five or six years, I have had to deal with cancer and the resulting hysterectomy, depression, anxiety, a nervous breakdown and job loss, alcoholism, and quitting smoking. My world became very small for a while because I was physically, psychologically, and spiritually exhausted, and I had to focus on smaller and smaller things to get through my days. I didn't have the energy to make it all about winning. Taking a shower or remembering to eat lunch became markers of success for me, and slowly, quite without my choosing, I became immersed in the process of my days rather than leapfrogging ahead of myself from goal to goal.
I was forced to live inside the process of becoming rather than factoring each step into an equation that added up to some imagined end goal. Rather than seeing myself as a failure in every moment in which I wasn't experiencing some kind of end-goal achievement, I was seeing myself as a person who was growing and healing.
My movement through the process became my success, even though nothing had yet been won, even though I was not the world's best at healing.
How I was becoming became as important as where I might be headed.
Life bullied me until there was nowhere to go but acceptance of life as a process you don't actually get to win, and it was brilliant.
I know all of this now, but I still tear myself apart sometimes for not winning in some way, for taking a break rather than pushing ahead, for not stunning the world with my everlasting awesomeness — I am truly my own best bully — and I need reminders to ease up and let the process of being alive happen. My mother sent me a much-needed reminder the other day, and it got to me just in time before I bullied myself into a chocolate ice cream binge under a blanket in bed:
We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed.
— Martin Luther —
The universe is not only a force I bend to my will; the universe also bends me.
Move aside, Winning. I've got stuff to do.