Lightly.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly.

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…

So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling…”

– Aldous Huxley, Island

“Love is a growing up.”

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

This quote by James Baldwin is enough to make me want to read everything the man ever wrote. It’s been my Skype status for months now. I used to change that status every time I found a new quote I liked. The fact is, I haven’t found anything that rings more true for me than these words.

Love is a growing up.

In the last year or so, I’ve grown more than I can even begin to explain. I recently celebrated the first anniversary of a relationship that has changed my life in every imaginable way. And no, it was not easy. It wasn’t Hollywood, although it began kind of like the plot for a romantic comedy. You might say, how disappointing that it didn’t continue that way, but really, when the movie-feeling stopped, the real amazingness only began.

I know there are no guarantees for anything in life, but as uncertain as the future may be, I am absolutely sure of one thing: What I learned in this past year I wouldn’t have learned alone. It’s true you should be able to live and be happy by yourself, but you do need people to come into your life and shake things up, so that whether they leave or stay, you’ve changed and grown. Before this year, I was pretty convinced that I was not really the type who had relationships. I was never sure why that was, but it was sort of a fact of life that I did not question very much. You can imagine how much it took me by surprise when someone basically fell from the sky and wanted to stay – and for that to be someone I actually wanted to be with, too! I spent the first few months in utter confusion and disbelief.

Recently, as we celebrated our first anniversary on Skype (yes, long-distance is ANNOYING), I realized that my disbelief has never quite gone away. Sometimes I still expect to wake up and have dreamed this entire relationship. Sometimes, I wait for my house of cards to crash, not quite sure I can accept the fact that someone glued the cards together in these last few months. Sometimes I’m just plain scared. And then yes, love is a battle, not so much with the other person, but with your own demons and insecurities and fears.

But it’s also a growing up. And it helps me to remember – whatever happens, I’m a different person today than I was last year, and I dare say, a calmer and happier person. That alone is worth battling some demons on the nights I can’t sleep…

Thoughts on Living for the Moment

About time I posted something new, I think… you may have realized by now that my summer is not quite as exciting as my roommate’s. It’s been mostly working, and then enjoying my free weekends, and then working again. But of course, stuff always happens when we least expect it, so I’ve had quite a few reasons recently to contemplate the concept of “living for the moment”.

Being the literature geek that I am, I always look for quotes to help me express what I think. So I went and looked up what famous and semi-famous people had to say, and this is what I found:

“Nothing is worth more than this day.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God’s.” ~ Henry Ward Beecher

“We are here and it is now. Further than that all human knowledge is moonshine.” ~ H. L. Mencken

“Nothing ever gets anywhere.  The earth keeps turning round and gets nowhere.  The moment is the only thing that counts.”  ~ Jean Cocteau

I could go on for a bit, but I think you get the idea. It goes hand in hand with the realization that change is the only constant thing in life… I heard this several times before but I always found it a difficult idea. What do you mean, nothing is constant? Don’t I get to have friends, family, people that are always going to be there, no matter what? Can’t I settle down at some point and have my life be at least sort of constant? But the thing is, even if I have a constant relationship, say, with a friend or a sibling, that relationship continues to evolve, to change, to be renewed, and both parties have to be there and keep making an effort to keep the relationship alive, to keep it meaningful. So everything always changes, even what appears to be constant. And most things in my life don’t even appear to be constant at the moment… besides my friends and my family, my life is rapidly changing, and it will keep changing for a while. Some of that was expected… some was not.

The part that was so unexpected, the part that makes me think about these things is a very personal story, but suffice it to say I have been given an opportunity to practice the art of living for the moment in the last few weeks… and got to thinking that it’s really the first time in my life that I have embraced this concept fully. I tend to overthink things. I have a difficult time letting go of the past, and a difficult time not worrying about the future. I am not saying I’ve suddenly become an expert at those things. They are still difficult for me. But I feel that in the last few months, and especially the last weeks, I’ve made some important steps. Right now I am enjoying my summer in full consciousness that everything will change drastically very soon. A month from now I’ll be on the other end of Germany, two months from now I will be in Nairobi. But right now, I am where I am, and I am living these days with the consciousness that they are a gift, that I should be thankful for every single one of them.

And when the summer is over, I will cherish these memories for the rest of my life, but I won’t live in them… I will move to the next chapter of my life and I’ll be so much richer, because I’ll have all these memories and experiences. Someone once said to me to live as if “the mug is already broken”… I can’t exactly recall the context of that conversation but it was about how you shouldn’t save something like a beautiful mug for a special occasion and then end up just never using it because you’re scared it could break. Instead act as if it were already broken… then every moment you have it and still get to use it is a gift, a bonus, something more than you needed or expected.

With that in mind, I’m going to go make tea now, and I’m going to drink it from my favorite mug…  which is special, of course, because Ariane brought it for me from London… but as I just said… that doesn’t mean it should just sit on a shelf and never be used. (Although, honestly, I do really hope that it doesn’t break because no matter how Zen I am feeling at the moment, that would be really sad.)

I hope this wasn’t too philosophical, by the way, but well… this is how I’ve been spending my summer. You asked.
(Actually, okay, you didn’t, but Ariane asked. So there you go. Comments, philosophical or otherwise, can be left on the blog or, for those of you who actually know me, also on facebook of course.)