It's entirely possible that I spend far too much time reading. But one of the things I've noticed is, when I hear words of wisdom from someone who knows me, it can feel like criticism, and I don't hear the message because I'm too busy taking it personally. But come across the same thought in a book, and I am free to ask "Could this be true for me too?" and feel willing to changing things that I wouldn't if it was say, Aunt Bea or my friend Amelia giving the very same counsel.
I recently finished Sylvia Boorstein's little zen book, It's Easier Than You Think, recommended by Julie over at Prarie Thistle. It's only taken me months to get to it, but I absolutely loved it. Sylvia's mind works much like mine; restless and a habitual fretter, illustrated by experiences such as this one:
I am on a street corner in a foreign country where my husband and I have agreed to meet at five o'clock. It is two minutes before the hour. I have the thought, "What if he doesn't arrive in the next two minutes? That will surely mean he has been mugged or even killed! Or held hostage somewhere. Or had a heart attack! I wonder where the American embassy is. If he doesn't arrive, I'll go to the embassy..." This thought takes three seconds, during which time adrenaline fills my body, my heart beats rapidly, and I start to sweat. The adrenaline burst intensifies the worry, and more worries arise: "Who do I know in this country? How can I phone our children?" At five o'clock he arrives. I am relieved, and I am tired.
I had to laugh, because I did this years ago when the kids were little and we were hiking Montezuma's Castle in Arizona. I have a vertigo-inducing fear of heights, and the descent to the cliff dwellings consisted of a narrow path protected by a few scattered patches of railing (or was it ropes?). I made it down a few feet before the dizziness kicked in, and decided to take our youngest daughter (not yet two) back up while Hubs took the older kids to the site.
And wouldn't you know it, daughter dearest decided to struggle in my arms, wanting to walk by herself, right as we passed the unprotected patches of the trail, and I was sure we would both plummet to our deaths in the struggle, with my last view of her glaring in protest (apparently, the Sinaqua Indian tribe wouldn't be the only ones who mysteriously disappeared here).
I don't know how we made it back, but I didn't stop panting until we were enveloped in the safety of the Visitors Center, overlooking the trail we had left behind. On our way in, we caught up with a group of mentally challenged young adults with their guides, laughing and chatting, oblivious of any danger. This took me so aback, because I couldn't imagine taking my brother, also mentally challenged, on such a hike. Then I wondered if he would have been just fine. I mean, these hikers were, even enjoyed themselves along the way. Maybe it wasn't so much WHAT was or 'could' be happening, but WHO was perceiving it; i.e. who was wearing what glasses that colored the events possibilities.
Meanwhile, there I was, in the safe-zone of the Visitor's Center--while my daughter ran around exploring--imagining that the rest of our family had already fallen over the edge of the cliffs, and how on earth could I drive back home buried in all that grief? And how would we survive without them? (I think after that we acquired life insurance)....when suddenly here came Hubs and the kids and all that worry melted away, leaving me exhausted.
I cannot tell you the relief I felt when I read Sylvia's experience. I was not alone! And thanks to her mindfulness practice, she is a 'recovered worrier'. I'm realizing that mindfulness is an excellent practice for people like me whose imaginations enjoy running amok--to experience instead what Sylvia calls a calm contentedness.
I am grateful for the mentors I've met in books, helping me learn how to experience life more courageously. With mindfulness I don't need to be an armchair adventurer, exploring the world through books, but more like Ron who travels the world with his camera; showing us what's out there. And while I may have missed my calling as a librarian, I can still get out there and explore.