For as long as I can remember, I have wrestled with a callous set of twins: Grief and Worry. I’ve spent much of my life either wallowing self-indulgently in their company or scheduling as many activities as possible to prolong our eventual, inevitable reunion. Throughout elementary school, I remember flipping through a bright blue binder full of old photos containing memories of younger me and crying, understanding the terrible reality that I would never be where I was or who I was in those photos—at those precise moments in time—ever again. I would never experience the same feeling of being seven years old at Suzanne Shuff’s house eating cake and drinking a Capri Sun with the other girls of Troop 4023. Yet I did not bemoan the passing of these captured moments because I was distinctly happy in them. In fact, I remember feeling rather melancholy at most of my Girl Scout troop meetings. What caused my grief was simply that the uniqueness of the moments had passed—that the uniqueness of every moment always passes.
While Grief prefers to spend her time ruminating on what has passed, Worry concerns herself with the meticulous details of all—and I mean all—conceivable future scenarios. Understandably, Worry likes to consult Grief when predicting patterns of possible emotional storms. Worry sits erect in a luxurious, mahogany leather chair at her command center, reference book of Past Transgressions in her left hand and all controls dedicated to the Prevention of Future Pain within reach of her right hand. What is unpredictable or potentially uncontrollable must be eliminated in order to sustain her white-knuckled reign. Worry’s presence in my life has materialized through a near obsessive pursuit of knowledge (what you know can’t hurt you, right?), a deep-seated fear of tornadoes (the essence of unpredictability), and the creation and subsequent abandonment of several five-year plans. Despite abounding evidence to the contrary, Worry operates methodically and reliably under the notion that all pain can be avoided if she develops a sophisticated enough life plan.
While varying in actual emotional vibration—Grief churns and Worry quivers—what these two states have in common is their preoccupation with time: its simultaneous ephemerality and infinitude. Grief understands that life is fleeting, that life can end as abruptly as it began; Worry knows that a day can feel like a year if not structured properly. I wish I could say that I found a way to keep these evil twins at bay, but many days I spend too much time in their company. And there’s that word again: time. From practicing yoga, reading poetry, and attending regular therapy sessions, I know conceptually of Grief and Worry’s antidote, Presence. She beckons me to come dance with her, already, even if it feels safer to sit in my seat and watch, introspect, contemplate, yearn. Presence knows that some days I will dance with Grief or Worry, but there will be other days that I dance with Tranquility, Optimism, Wonder. Some days I might even dance with every emotion on the spectrum. What matters is that I try—we try—every day to let the rhythm of the dance envelop and deliver us to where we are supposed to go.
Perhaps, instead of constantly reflecting and ruminating, I can sometimes simply be. I can exist: sleep and dream, feel the wave of tall grass on my ankles, observe the birds, talk of inconsequential things, make my bed, keep my bed unmade, listen to my sister, watch the clouds merge and scatter, savor the golden evening light. Peace can be found in the tangible things of this world.
It is one of my last lunch breaks beneath the trees of Wooten Hall. Soon I will trade twisting branches for billowy clouds. Over the past few years, this place has been a sort of refuge for me—a haven of green and brown amidst the hours of work and talk. It is in the presence of these wise beings, having endured years of sunshine and storms, that my spirit soars. I’ll miss seeing these trees every day, but if I know anything about life, I know that there are special spots everywhere. There are special spots everywhere, waiting to be found, and if not found, then created by you.
As concepts, faith and hope need not be reserved for the churchgoer or the expectant mother. They have the ability to be gentle and godless states of being—born in art, or in an unfailing belief in the goodness of others.
Verbal excess does not necessarily resolve things. Yes, there is catharsis in vocalizing every arising thought, but this process has the tendency to overwhelm a treasured listener and devalue any wisdom that may be expressed.
The truth of life that we continuously seek is a simple, uncomplicated truth. And yet, we desire complex solutions to match our complex problems—spiritual remedies as convoluted as our thought patterns.
An important yet frequently dismissed part of life is the experience of pleasure. Not pleasure as an end goal, necessarily, but pleasure as a byproduct of essential human acts. Things like admiring the arc of a tree branch, cupping a rose to inhale its lovely scent, petting the intricate fur of an animal, gazing upon the lushness of an oil painting, touching the skin of your beloved, or savoring the sweetness of the raspberry jam on your morning toast.
It’s a Wednesday, and I’m wearing a long, cotton dress that I found in the closet of my old room at my parents’ house. I like the way the fabric hugs my calves when I walk. Lately I’ve been contemplating the role of art and writing in the 21st century—how it is produced and disseminated, and in what contexts it is viewed. I keep thinking, Would Sylvia Plath have posted her poems on Instagram? Would she have created a WordPress blog to share her work? Commented on other writers’ posts? I feel torn between honoring tradition and dismantling the rule book.