A few weeks ago, a fluke accident occurred and my Apple Watch was flushed down the toilet.
Yep, crazy but true.
Just like life.
I reacted with shock and annoyance, blaming myself, and then the chaotic situation at home that most definitely caused my clumsiness. My heart was racing; my breath shallow and my fuse short.
I wanted to rue the day my husband bought me the damn watch.
Reactivity ruled the moment.
I brought to mind what I coach others to do and slowed everything down.
I sat outside and took some long, deep breaths.
Growing up, whenever we lost or broke something, my dad would always calmly remind us, “it’s just money.” I thought of that and let go of some of the anger I was feeling, putting into perspective that it was just a silly material object.
But, was it more?
I looked down at the hand on which the watch had sat for several years and noticed a tan line where the watch had been; clearly it had been a constant companion.
I thought about how much I relied on my watch for tracking certain things; my sleep, my steps, my calories, my mileage, my pace and my heart rate.
Maybe I had become a little too used to this tracking.
I needed to know how many miles I walked each day.
I needed to check often to see if I was walking faster than I did the day before.
I needed to improve.
Tracking was an important part of goal setting, of living up to my own standards.
I went down to the beach for my walk. It felt strange without my watch, but as soon as I began walking, I felt a sense of freedom. I began focusing on my surroundings rather than checking my pace. I stopped to tie my shoe and felt relieved that I didn’t have to pause my tracking.
This walk, I thought, could be just a walk. I didn’t need to track miles, pace or time.
I stopped along the walk whenever I wanted to; I took a detour and bought a coffee. I enjoyed the sights and sounds all around me and decided I would not replace my watch.
I have “kept track” for most of my life.
I’ve always had a plan which required that I stay on track so as to accomplish something. In the last 60 years, I rarely, if ever, allowed myself to lose track.
I went directly from high school to college; from college to law school and from law school to work. I was determined to have four children and I followed that track even when continuing in that direction became complicated. I bought a house before I was 35 and contributed to my kids’ college funds at an early age.
Staying on track was always important to me; probably in part because I felt it was important to my parents. I am not sure I ever considered deviating from a plan. Staying on track gave me purpose; having a purpose made me feel productive. What did feeling productive make me feel? Worthy? Valuable?
But life teaches that we aren’t really protected by a commitment to stay on track. Things happen. We fall off the track. The end of the line appears. We reach a place where we can no longer see where the tracks continue. We hit a road block. Or we reach our destination.
What happens then?
We must learn to turn, adjust, slow down, reevaluate and often put down new tracks..
Veering off track can be liberating and we should listen to our inner urge to do so; to discover something new, to live with more openness, to risk more.
But sometimes there is no specific destination; no guide to take us to our next stop.
In the last two years, I have lost my brother, my father, and my mother.
I sold my 20 year old business and stepped away from the corporate world after over 40 years.
And soon, my youngest is off to college, leaving me with an empty nest.
I am unsettled, unmoored, unsure.
As I weave a new life together, I often feel like I am wandering aimlessly.
J.R. Tolkien promises that “not all who wander are lost” but I feel lost.
I have no track to follow; no GPS, no reminder of what I need to do that will make me feel like I am moving towards something important.
How do we re-learn how to meander? To wander?
To take our time, to be curious, to spend time creating, coloring outside the lines? To not need to know where on the track we are or where we are compared to others, or even to earlier versions of ourselves?
I look down at my hand and remember that my Apple Watch no longer sits on my wrist. There is nothing to track. I am on my own, ready to determine from the inside whether I am moving forward and being productive. It looks different at this point in my life. And that’s ok.
While I will always be someone who gets things done, I am learning to expand my own definitions of what is important, what is productive, what will lead to the next thing and whether something needs to lead to anything at all.
How I spend my time, and focus my attention is up to me.
You may be in another phase of life, and staying on track may make sense for you. But I promise you, there is something to be gained in letting go of those expectations of yourself and in going easy on yourself when you step out of the lines and become open to unchartered territory.
I often turn to my favorite poet and philosopher, John O’Donohue, for wisdom, particularly in times of transition and change.
Once again, he delivers the perfect message in his poem, To A New Beginning:
In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.
For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.
It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.
Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life's desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
I read these words and breathe more fully; trusting that we all must learn to find ease in risk, to hold nothing back.
I can’t see it yet but I am trusting that soon I will be home in a new rhythm.
And being home is what we all most need and desire.
With love and light,