Arbitrary as it is, the end of a calendar year always lends itself towards reflection and re-evaluation. Marking time with numbers makes it near impossible to avoid an attempt at measuring progress as the dial ticks once more. Really though, these annual assessments are only useful if they inform how we think about the course of our lives more than what we think may have been accomplished in it.
Generally speaking, we'd like to think that we have more sway over what happens in our lives then we actually do (see The Joy of Survival.). That is not to say that we have no capacity for affecting the things that happen, because we most certainly do, but the illusion that we are in control over things we are not often causes us to expend ourselves in ways that are at best counterproductive.
Only so much effort, employed at the right time and in an appropriate manner, has any real impact. Otherwise, as my father might say, we're just farting in the wind.
Most of the people I meet are not lazying around with their lives. In fact, they are "leaning in" and putting themselves forth in every way imaginable. Often, these efforts do not lead to desired outcomes and its easy to feel discouraged. Or even question the value of the pursuit altogether.
I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to just pack a bag and leave it all behind. Just depart completely from my wife, my daughter, the yoga center, this blog, everything. To completely shirk the entrenched structures of my daily routines and feel the days pass and the seasons unfold with all their boring and magnificent void-ness. But just as soon would come the loneliness. That bleak feeling of there not being anyone to hold and love. The blunt sting of unmitigated uncertainty forever blaring in the back of the mind.
Oh, let us not take for granted what a profound blessing it is to wrap ourselves in the warmth of familiarity and friendship.
Recently I learned something amazing about my heart from my friend and colleague, Leslie Kaminoff at yogaanatomy.net. I learned that my heart alone does not generate enough force to circulate the blood through my body. That in fact, there was first a fetal circulation. A momentum started in me by my mother. And when I took my first inhale, and this life began, my heart picked up that existing momentum. Like pushing my daughter on a swing, once the momentum is started, the amount of force required to keep it going is much less. The force that propels the blood through my body and the momentum of my life did not originate in me.
My daughter is in school now. Sure feels like an accomplishment to have ushered her into the hands of outside educators. (For anyone still in the trenches of early parenthood, I encourage you to take refuge in and support Mathew Remski's new project, Family Wakes Us Up.) Already, I can see the influence of what I once heard referred to as the "shit head habits of other shit head kids." But I have to trust that, even if she ends up adopting ways of being different from my own, something of what I hope to have communicated through our relationship will always be there for her to fall back on.
The momentum of my daughter's life may have originated in the spark created by her mother and me, but now it is hers alone to carry.
That my heart does not act alone and my daughter cannot be controlled speaks to a broader point regarding my efforts in life. No matter how determined and disciplined I may be, there is simply no way to know how things will play out. The momentum of my life swings both forward and back. If my efforts coincide with the up swing and are sufficiently released for a time during the back swing then I further the continued health of my life force. If I am off, exerting and releasing in opposition to the existing rhythm then I weaken the momentum, expend myself unnecessarily, and the whole thing starts to feel like a drag.
So here's to kicking our legs forward at the right moment and letting it all swing back without a fight. Sometimes when it feels like the passing of the years is catching up to the road ahead, a strained metaphor is the best you got to go on. And that's just going to have to be enough.
Speaking of efforts coming to fruition, my yoga DVD is now available: http://jbrownyogavideo.com