Seasons are shifting. You may have noticed. The equinox is upon is. It is happening today – in about four hours (10:30 PM EDT). Today the sun shines directly over the equator and both day and night are equal length – twin windows of sunshine and moonlight. This turning point happens twice a year – once in March and once in September – falling directly between the solstices. The equinoxes are points of balance between the extremes of light and dark. I often stop to note these shifts and take time to appreciate the great cycle of life forever in motion. I see these moments as opportunities to check in with the quiet still-point which registers these passing phases (as if I needed more excuses for reflection.) As much as I would like to be perfectly still and observe life in effortless balance, I still find myself somewhat caught in the swing of the seasons, trying to piggy-back on its momentum to some deeper plane.
I cannot count the amount of times I have tried to ‘turn the corner’. I have been doing it for years – for as long as I can recall, really. Perhaps not all the way back into early childhood, though I cannot rule it out. My parents may be able to speak to that. I suspect that, to some extent, it is common for all of us to do this. Our recurring urge to ‘turn the corner’ arises as a desire to reset, to start again. OK. Here we go. Clean the slate. This time for real. One more shot. This perpetual impulse to ‘start fresh’ feels closely related to perfectionism (at least that’s how it feels to me). There seems to be some part of us that resists moving forward unless every step behind us has fallen faultlessly, sitting at least somewhat resolved in our rear-view mirrors.
I am hit with this feeling more often than I might like, despite trusting that every step forward is supportive. Even now, only a couple of paragraphs into writing, I have already stopped several times to consider tweaking this word or that bit of punctuation, apparently unable to carry on before feeling ‘satisfied’. I tweaked that last sentence even while discussing the very act, and then again after the fact, several times now – and this one too! This analytical impulse seems to be rooted in the desire for everything to work out ‘just so’, falling into its right place. While I have always appreciated tidiness and symmetry, at times it can become a bit compulsive. I can recall as far back as age six or seven (or whenever our family got Tetris on GameBoy), continually pausing and restarting the game after even the slightest ‘error’ (as judged by the young perfectionist-in-the-making). I wanted to set everything up just right and could not fathom one block being out of place. The same behaviour carried on through Super Mario, Golden Eye and various other games I played, pausing and restarting when any element of the level or my performance displeased me. I wanted to turn the corner and start fresh. It was a pattern that spread into parts of my life far beyond video games. (Full disclosure – I spent about an hour playing Tetris today – for the first time in years – just at the thought of it…until I turned the corner and got back to my writing.)
Later in life, this urge asserted itself in the form of frequently committing myself to rather lofty ideals (followed just as frequently by defeats). Long before working toward any of these ideals ever occurred to me, I often got carried away visualizing my incredible (and obviously destined) success, unconsciously investing expectation in particular outcomes. As events unfolded in different directions, I would experience deadening let-down when my dreams fell to pieces. Repeating this pattern over and over exhausted me and eventually led to deepening depression and apathy, my strong idealistic streak being increasingly undermined by a lack of faith in my ability to accomplish anything important. I seemed incapable of dreaming small, and more and more incapable of chasing any dreams at all.
And yet some part of me kept emerging to ‘make a change’, to ‘set things right’. Whether it was my birthday, half-birthday, New Year’s Eve, Lent, March Break, or the third Thursday of June, I looked for any old excuse to start anew, to turn a corner. I wanted to break away from the past and really get the ball rolling once and for all. Though I had dug myself into a bit of a hole, this undying urge to ‘turn the corner’ eventually saw me make significant progress toward freedom and inner peace. I began letting go of clutter, inside and out, and found that the rough road behind me had been paving its way to peace all the way.
The key seems to be quick forgiveness, starting with ourselves. After owning up to our past shortcomings and letting go of judgement, we can see our paths resolve themselves in the rear-view mirror of our minds. Once we accept this inner forgiveness, we can effortlessly and playfully recommit to the loftiest ideals possible, knowing we may well fall off the pony a million more times, continuing to forgive and persist nonetheless. Indeed in any worthy venture, patience and persistence seem to be guiding lights.
Understanding that life is a process, accepting that we are all on journeys of learning and growth, we find a willingness to make mistakes, and a greater faculty for ‘turning the corner’ and ‘getting back on the horse’. Although I seem to need regular reminders, somehow I keep on trucking. On some level we all do, but struggling with our lulls can actually entangle us even more. I have learned this the hard way, and try not to fuss too much when good grooves take sudden turns.
Most recently, after riding the wave of a two-week juice fast into the new school year, kick-starting my writing routine after some summer fun, my lofty dreams of discipline and work fell flat. I tried to right the ship but it ran ashore. September has largely slipped away with little work done. Last week I hardly wrote at all. I slept in most days. I could feel the seasons shifting, and it made me feel heavy. A cold ran through our home and we all had the sniffles, some of us even worse. But I did my best not to wrestle with any of it, taking it in stride and trying as best I could. (Or giving up and watching a movie with a tub of hummus and a sleeve of rice cakes). Now two days into a fast, I am ‘turning a corner’ yet again, renewing my commitment to my morning regimen and riding the momentum of the equinox into a new season! The equinox is hours away and a new moon is upon us tomorrow – it feels like a truly great moment to turn the corner. Join me! Ride the wave of the seasons!