"That's just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?"
~ A. A. Milne, Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting
I lived for a year in Santa Cruz, California, just half a block from the ocean. Shortly after I moved in, I was laid off at Apple Computer, which left me a lot of time to walk on the beach. And I did. I'd walk on the beach and try to figure stuff out. The walking part was wonderful: I got exercise, I watched sea life and bird life and people life, I breathed fresh salt air, smelled all those delicious beach smells. The figuring out part was useless, except for this one thing: I figured out that "figuring out" is useless.
Oh, the arrogance of the human being! Oh the love affair we have with our brains! In this great love affair, we overlook all kinds of inconsistencies and failures, we wake each day ready to love the brain again, trust the brain again, do the same thing today that we did yesterday: Today I will figure this out! we say. Today's the day!
Or at least, that's my version. I'm going to crack this nut, I say to myself as I beat on a rock with a hammer.
I woke early this morning. Hug is off to a workshop and I'm doing a few final things to get ready for our road trip (we leave in the morning). An old friend called to let me know she received a birthday gift I sent. This friend is my age; we met in the 7th grade. She was telling me how much she has going on this month, like leading a summer camp for six and seven year olds.
Friend (laughing): I'm break dancing.
Me: No kidding!
Friend: No, really. I'm break dancing.
Me: Literally? I thought you meant figuratively.
I love it that she is actually break dancing with little kids. When we get off the phone, I hobble back over to the recliner, my feet aching, my butt aching, my knee aching. A few years ago my friend and I might have talked about what we're going to do when we get old, neither of us being able to imagine actual retirement, maybe both of us wondering how we will afford to live, maybe making up stories about being bag ladies. Never in our prodigious imaginations would we have thought she would be break dancing for a living. That's the thing about figuring stuff out: Our brain works with what it already knows, narrows its focus to what looks and sounds likely or reasonable, and the more focused we get on solving something, the less room we have for imagination and intuition to take over—and the less likely we are to simply let go and trust.
My body is not holding up as well as hers is, something I never factored into my figuring. The funny thing is that I am no longer afraid of what this may "mean." It doesn't mean anything unless I choose to give power to a story about what it means. I take the stairs slowly. I walk at a slow pace. I rest often. And I do a lot of wondering. Like Pooh, I ask myself, "What?" And then I laugh at my own answers.