Sometimes I lay awake at night and I try to practice gratitude; I try to practice filling my head up with thoughts that lead to better things. Thoughts that blend with prayer that blend with hope that blend with promise. And sometimes I think about how hot my feet are and how I never knew a belly could feel so heavy and, basically, I am like a dog being led by the leash of my own seemingly pressing external circumstances: I forget all about those thoughts that lead to better things. I just feel really hot and like a baby elephant has taken up residence on top of me for the evening.
But tonight was different.
Not at first, necessarily. At first, I lay in bed and spent my usual time wondering why it is that some feet are just prone to heating up when a body is supposed to be sleeping. But then I remembered something.
I was maybe 14 and my brothers and I had heard about a meteor shower playing in the sky that evening. Our parents were the kind who, so long as we called, never minded if we stayed out past midnight, so an evening spent on our own good porch under the stars was no problem at all.
We laid down in lawn chairs and waited for something to happen. Ah! That is a feeling! You can spend your whole life in that posture–it is both good and less than good, I think. Because the secret is that, yes, there is something that is going to happen. Right around the corner, actually, and as my friend John likes to say, Miracles happen, so why not to me? I mean, you never know what good thing is waiting for you, so long as you keep walking forward–that is what my mom says, and I know, I am a very lucky person to have such a mom and such a friend.
But I think the deeper secret is that something IS happening. Your life. Always. Whatever it is you are waiting for, you are already in the process of reaching it. Whatever it is you are hoping for tomorrow, today has everything to do with it manifesting. It’s like when I used to go through my own grand lessons of patience on a weekly basis–also called teaching kinderballet to tiny humans who just recently traded in their diapers for leotards. We’d be in the middle of our warmup, fully occupied with it, and inquiring minds who still hadn’t learned that double-edged sword of an art called not saying what you’re thinking would continually ask me, “But Miss Jessica! When are we going to start DANCING?!”
Oh, hon. This IS dancing. You’re doing it. Just like practicing scales is playing the piano, learning how to pointe your feet and stretching out your hamstrings is dancing. And one day you’ll learn that cooking dinner and grocery shopping and smiling at your doorman when it is 5:45 in the morning and you’d rather not be walking your dog at that hour, let alone smiling at a human who has the nerve to be both awake and chipper, either.
Eventually, all these mundane small things–what nobody sees, what feels like endless hours of preparation when you’re breathlessly waiting for The Real Thing (whatever that is)–is, in fact, The Real Thing (oh).
LIfe is all of it.
It’s warming up and learning that the C major scale has no sharps and flats, a happier, more I’m-better-after-years-of-therapy-and-I-can-see-that-life-is-good-and-I’m-not-actually-a-victim (not angry anymore, as Ani DiFranco puts it)–that C major scale is a cousin to the darker, moodier A minor scale. You learn that all the preparation not only feels endless, but as it turns out, IS endless. You will never stop doing it. Not for meals, not for good dental hygiene, not for fitting into the clothes that don’t have those very forgiving elastic waste bands that nine month pregnant girls live in, not for developing a sound set of emotions and healthy, fulfilling relationships–not ever. And eventually, all that preparation will blend into a rocking life. That is the plan, anyway.
But back to my story.
Soon the stars started falling and, randomly, my brothers called to, “Look! To the right!” or “Right over there! Behind that big tree!”
I could have gotten whiplash, trying so hard to see what they were talking about.
Also, more importantly: I missed every falling star.
Finally, I realized my plan of desperately trying to see for myself what they were describing wasn’t working, so I changed (that’s a choice that’s available every day, you know: to change. Woooo! We can do it! We can change our clothes and we can change our lives! That’s my motto. Well, it is now, at 2:12 in the morning, anyway). That is when I laid down peacefully, without hurry, and simply looked up at the sky, anticipating what was mine.
And it happened. Not at the exact moment it did for my brothers, but that’s okay. Finally, I saw shooting stars. They felt personal in that instance–like they were meant just for me–and that’s okay, too.
You could exhaust yourself chasing after what is meant for another. No, wait, let me rephrase that: You WILL exhaust yourself chasing after what is meant for another. It is a good thing to listen to others describe their paths; it is a great thing to practice joy for the good that meets them on that path, but it is not up to any of us to chase down another’s path.
In so doing, we miss that glorious, custom made path that is OURS.
Those falling stars that night were better than any 4th of July show I’ve ever seen. The ones I saw were of no lesser or greater value than the ones my brothers saw and excitedly described. The major difference is that some were meant for me and some were meant for them, and as soon as I realized it, I was able to enjoy and connect with that cascading beauty.
I think life can be like that. Focus on what is yours, friends, and I think you’ll be amazed at what you discover both around you and within you.