Life Is a Pop Quiz
Most of the wisdom and lessons I have learned in my life have been hard won.
Not because the lessons were difficult or hard to learn, but because I just can’t seem to get out of my own way. I like to picture myself as a leaf floating in a river, gracefully negotiating its way through churning waterfalls and protruding rocks, but the truth is I am more like a salmon swimming upstream. Instead of going with the flow and trusting in the journey, I sally forth convinced that this time I absolutely know what is best. Sadly, this is most often in the wrong direction. But like I said, most of the lessons in my life have been hard won, which is actually just a polite way of saying they have been painful.
The good news, at least what I tell myself, is that while the lessons may be hard won, eventually I do learn them. And with each lesson learned, I imagine myself ticking off a necessary box as I get one step closer to earning a merit badge of life.
Ah, if only it worked that way.
Unfortunately, just like in Scouting, you don’t get to just claim a merit badge, you have to earn it. You must demonstrate not only that you have masted the material, but that you can apply it. In my life, applying it usually translates to Creation throwing me a curve ball, kind of like a pop-quiz then waiting to see what I do. The thing about curve balls? They never come straight at you.
Recently, I had a total meltdown. One day I was happy and grateful; the very next day, for no apparent reason, I was angry at the world, angry that life is unfair, angry that I work so hard. I was angry that everything in my life felt like it was suddenly going wrong, angry that I was struggling. I was even angry that other people were happy. Just plain angry.
So, what did this ersatz leaf do? Did I float gracefully through the troubled waters? Oh no. I stomped around my house and lost my patience with Hadley. Then, after angrily calling out “Creation—really? Why me?“ for the 111th time, when I finally heard what I was saying, I knew I was in trouble.
While playing the victim is momentarily vindicating, it is not a long-term strategy. The universal answer to me Why Me? is Why Not!, guaranteed to draw more of whatever I didn’t want to begin with directly into my life, like a magnet. Sigh . . .
I reminded myself to breathe and sat down on my couch. Okay, lets think about this, why am I angry? I was halfway through reciting, again, the reasons why I was angry, being careful not to blame anyone, but recounting the slights I experienced nevertheless. All of a sudden, I saw it, and it stopped me mid-sentence.
A lavender plant. My 2021 planting ritual of faith. (For more details, read my blog post entitled Courageous Curiosity). There it was, sitting in the window, stretching toward the light. In the sunshine, it was an amazing shade of green. I reminded myself of the lesson of this plant, the ritual of faith it developed: As Above, So Below.
As Above, So Below.
“Okay, Creation.” As Above, I am angry. How does that translate to So Below?
With no answer immediate forthcoming, I returned to my list of slights. Everything I listed had to do with how much I was doing and caring for others, and how little was seemed like was being done for me in return. Sigh. Couldn’t anyone see how much I needed help and some compassion or even a little concern? It seemed so obvious!
Yes, it was obvious. In the silence following that thought, I clearly heard the voice of Creation asking me, “And what are you going to do about it?” What was I going to do about it? Really, Creation, this is not about me.
But it was about me. Yes, I had willingly given of my time to care for people who were important to me, but the sad truth is that I was doing things and caring for everyone except myself. I had left myself off the list. I really didn’t need to have myself on my list because . . . and I knew it before I even finished the sentence.
Over the last year, my Happiness Habits, as well as the Ayurvedic tradition of dinacharya, had become rituals in my daily practice of life. Dinacharya, the Sanskrit word for daily routine, is a concept from Ayurvedic medicine that looks at the cycles of nature and bases daily activities around them. Ayurveda teaches that routines help establish balance.
I was definitely out of balance. I was exhausted, and I was angry.
The only person I could be angry with was myself. Creation had shown me how important it was for me to practice my Happiness Habits, and how an established practice of selfcare kept me grounded. But here I was. Why? Because I had taken these lessons for granted. Somehow, as important as they were at the time, they managed to fall by the wayside as my life took on new lessons.
Okay, I failed that one.
So, I returned to my Happiness Habits and my routine of caring for myself, the very same ones that I had previously established but had foolishly convinced myself I no longer needed. And once I did, I was right as rain!
Just like the flight attendants remind travelers at the beginning of any flight,
Before caring for others, each person must first care for themself. I needed to make personal daily care a priority in my life, there is always enough time.
Obviously, I failed the pop quiz, but I got it now. Creation, I am ready for a make-up quiz any time you are.
PS. Have you ever felt like your life or your choices were being tested? Please add your comments.
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