This Is the Day

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2013 was an interesting and full year. I did some things right. I did some things wrong. I learned a lot.

At mid-year, during the first day of a year-long workshop in which I’m participating, all the participants were asked to state what we wanted to learn during the year of the class. I said I wanted to learn to enjoy the journey. I have spent much of my life thinking that I could finally start living when I reached a certain point, met a certain goal, or achieved a certain something. During the first half of 2013, I finally realized that point, goal, or something was never going to be reached. It’s a moving target. Reach one point, meet one goal, achieve one something, and another pops up to take its place. So, since the destination isn’t really there, the only solution is to relax and enjoy the journey.

That became my work—or part of my work—during the last half of the year.

Relaxing and enjoying the journey is both as simple as it sounds and incredibly difficult. We have expectations and desires we want to have met. We like some experiences and we don’t like others. It’s easy to relax and enjoy the journey when we get what we want, when we like what’s happening. When we don’t? Well, not so much.

The last six months have given me plenty of opportunity to experience both—whether through the ups and downs of my writing life, the events of my everyday life, or the literal journey I took to Italy in the fall. Sometimes I was able to relax and enjoy during the difficult moments, sometimes I wasn’t. Sometimes when I fell off the enjoyment wagon, I was able to brush myself off and get right back on. Other times, I beat myself up for falling off. (Yeah, pretty much the exact opposite of relaxing and enjoying there.)

But even the perpetual falling of the “beating myself up” cycle was a learning experience—once I was able to see what I was doing. One of the things I have learned—and keep learning—is that I usually learn more from my mistakes than from what I get right.

I remember the first time that lesson was brought home to me—when I really got it. I was living in Chicago and had to take public transportation from Hyde Park, where I lived, to the Uptown-Edgewater neighborhood, where I was meeting a friend at the church we both attended. I had never taken public transportation to that neighborhood before, I wasn’t familiar with the ‘L’ lines, and I had to transfer from one line to another downtown. Of course, I got lost. I missed the stop where I was supposed to transfer. I don’t remember how far I went out of my way, but I do remember I was running late—and, since this was in the days before cell phones, I couldn’t call my friend to let him know what had happened. In any case, I got off the train when I could, found an ‘L’ map, and figured out what I needed to do to get myself where I needed to be. And I now had a much better understanding of how the ‘L’ worked, which trains stopped where, how they intersected, and how to use the system. I got on the train I needed and stood in that car, knowing I was late, but feeling a huge since of accomplishment. I had learned something I never would have learned if I’d just followed my friend’s directions and done everything “right” the first time.

That wasn’t the last time I learned this lesson. I’ve always been an “I’ve got to do it right first time” kind of girl. But every time I learn the lesson, I relax a little more. It’s getting easier to appreciate my mistakes, or at least to accept them, and use them for the learning opportunities they are.

On New Year’s Eve, a friend and colleague told me how she’d recently come to a new understanding of the verse “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (If you’re wondering, it’s Psalm 118:24. I looked it up.) “This is the day,” she said, “this day. Not the one we might have wanted or hoped for, but this day that we have. Let us rejoice and be glad.” That’s what it means to relax and enjoy the journey, to rejoice in the day we have, the moments as we live them, instead of hoping for something else, wanting something else, making our happiness contingent on something other than what we have right here right now.

A few days ago L. Marie wrote a post about her resolution to be in the now in the new year, and trend spotters are saying 2014 is the year for mindfulness. That’s a trend I can get on board with. I know I will be continuing my year of learning to enjoy the journey, which really means being in the now and being okay with whatever the now brings. If we can drop our judgments, our expectations, and our desires, we may find the moment holds all we need.

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6 Responses to This Is the Day

  1. Peter Jabin says:

    And every time we become aware that we are not relaxing and enjoying the journey, that we are wrapped around the axel of some thing or another, it is actually an opportunity to choose again. I note the difference between being wrapped around the axel and being aware of being wrapped around the axel. The former is my usual state of mind; the latter is the doorway to freedom.

  2. L. Marie says:

    I love that verse you included, by the way. And your post brought back so many memories. I used to ride the L on my way to high school. My dad told me that the only way to learn how to get around Chicago was to get lost and have to find your way back. Oh and the lake is always east. 🙂 I got lost a couple of times. But that helped me learn how to navigate.

    • sstamm625 says:

      Your dad was so right–and the lake is always east was always helpful. Then I moved to Michigan, and it took me a long time to sort our east and west, in part, I think, because the lake was on the wrong side. The lake thing just messed with my already present directional dyslexia. 🙂

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