Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On metaphorical volcanoes.

I am big on metaphors.

Always have been, always will be. In my work, they're a mainstay, so often when I find myself scrambling for words, stories come out instead. Life is like a stretched-out slinky, I tell my clients. You are always moving up, forward; even when it feels you have fallen back to the same old place, you are likely just hovering above it. Briefly visiting, stretched out, hearing the echoes of the old, but still with a coil or two between current you and the past. That one in particular is a favorite of mine, though I have many. My brain learns best when there's a story to be told. 

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, these stories we tell that make our own realities easier to face. I am well aware that things are quite peachy for me at the moment, and this is a blessing. And yet, my brain still finds a way to grab the tiniest insecurity and blow it up to hot air balloon-levels of big deal. When I was studying abroad (if you've been around here long enough, you know this story), there was a massive volcanic eruption that delayed all flights to and from all of Europe, basically, five days prior to my departure date. I was a wreck. It had been a lovely, exciting, life-changing, incredibly difficult semester, and I was ready to set foot on American soil again. I remember calling my sister, planted firmly in my living room and willing the tears to just give up for like a second, man. I was ready to do anything in my power to make it so that I could come home on April 24th as planned--move mountains, commandeer ships, what have you. I'm sure I sounded like a royal mess to all of my family members, but my sweet big sister-- one who has always known when to give me a hug, chocolate, and a mirror to clearly see what life has planted in front of me-- said the two most beautiful sentences I've ever heard. "Mary," she chided, gently, "there are some things in life you can control. Volcanoes are not one of them." 

I swear to you, it was like she hit me over the head with the world's biggest lightbulb. Really, Mary? Really?! Here you are, one of six billion, and you are going to run yourself ragged trying to figure out how to squelch that volcano. I heard it loud and clear, and yet-- it's been three & a half years and I still find myself trying to throw fire blankets at my own metaphorical Mount St. Helens on a regular basis.

 Each time, I hear my sister's voice-- you cannot control this. There is nothing on this earth that you could do, for better or for worse, to control the outcome of this situation. Like the ash so (ahem) pleasantly clogging up those airplane engines, keeping me from home-- there are at least two players in every game. Doing what I do, authentically, and doing it to the best of my ability is as far as I can go. The rest is not up to me, and isn't that a freeing thought? I could do and say all of the right and wrong things all at once, and life would still play out as it's meant to. What a weight off of my shoulders, indeed-- imagine going through life believing that it is up to you and only you to squash the fires, stop the rains, blow out the volcanoes. 

This is not to say I am not a staunch advocate for being an active participant in your own life (have you seen my life lists?), but rather that sometimes (often), it's good to do you as genuinely as possible, and let the chips fall where they may. 

And so. All of this to tell you that, yes, friends. I am still here. Things are so inexplicably lovely that I've barely had time to blink, but I have apparently had plenty of time to ruminate. I will be back again soon, but in the meantime, if you are a story-thinker like myself, a worrywart like myself, I hope that maybe this was a good reminder for you as well. There are things you can change-- however, learn to tell the difference between anthill and volcano. 
Stop pushing. Watch it erupt, for a while. Let it be.


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