Lately, a lot of my life seems fruitless.
A landscape architect once explained to me that if you use native plants as greenery around a building, you should only have to water them for the first two years. After that, the plants should survive on local rainfall. I feel like I put the flowers in the ground and made sure they had the good start they needed, but they all start to die as soon as I cut back the sprinklers. Maybe what I planted isn’t native, and needs to be replaced. At this stage, however, whether I stick with what’s there or start fresh, whatever I want to grow will require watering before it takes root. Like the rest of the state, I’m in a drought, but my garden needs watering regardless.
The one area of my life that I’ve kept up? Exercise. Usually I am a sloth when moods like this hit. This time, however, I’ve gotten into a pretty decent routine of walking and yoga. I even bought my first set of small weights, so I could add some strength training. (Two and three pounds. Like real weights, only smaller. Almost nothing. But still something.) It puzzled me that while everything else in life fell apart, that part managed to flourish.
Recently, I talked to my BFF – the other Kimberly – about this period of frustration. She thought about it for a second, and then said, “You always did really well in school.” She was right, and she would know, having attended a couple years of high school with me, but I couldn’t see how that fact was relevant. “When you studied and did well on a test, you got that satisfaction that you did a good job and you could move on.” Another pause.
I agreed with her, that system had worked for me. Sometimes I missed it.
“I think life is like that,” she continued, “but sometimes it takes a lot longer. You do the work and it’ll pay off – eventually.”
Sometimes she’s very wise, that other Kimberly. It’s one of the reasons we’re still friends after more years than either of us wants to admit.
I can keep up the exercise because I get to see the pay off. I get my body moving, watch what I eat – at least some of the time – and the weight stays where I want it. I know lots of folks have a hard time seeing results in this area, too, but I think everyone has some area of life that works in a logical way. For one friend, it’s cooking. She puts together the ingredients, does the chopping, boiling, sautéing or whatever else is called for, and gets something tasty as a result. For another, it’s craft projects. She cuts, draws, folds, glues and glitters, and ends up with something decorative or fun or both.
There are days when that small piece of predictability means the difference between some vestige of sanity and a screaming tantrum in the middle of Target.
Weirdly enough, I find myself enjoying dabbling with the free weights. Granted, I’m starting really easy, but still – it makes simple movements more productive. Soon, I’ll move up to five and ten pound weights, allowing myself to feel – at least in one small area of my life – like I’m not stuck at Square One.
I wrote to another dear friend, Matt, about the subject of stuckness. (Stuckicity? Stuckitude?) He emailed me back with this comment: “Here’s a little secret…you ALREADY HAVE gotten off ‘Square One’ in your life! Don’t lose sight of that. It’s just you’ve still not found the ‘square’ you’re looking for…but you will…so don’t lose heart!”
He’s right. Deep down, I know this. I’ve gained skills and a depth of understanding over the years, and those don’t go away. No matter how unaccomplished I may feel, I am not the person I was twenty years ago, or even ten, that one who had yet to finish her first real story, despite writing for most of her life. (Okay, I suppose I finished one story of decent length when I was fifteen or so, but no one will read that as long as I’m alive.) I know more about writing, more about people, and most importantly, more about myself than I did then. I know that my moods will change eventually, that what seems like gibberish on the page today may become profound tomorrow, and that small steps – even ones taken grudgingly, because I forced myself to go just a little bit further – are better than nothing. Not just that. Those many small steps, taken together, become the epic journey.
Oh, and I’ve learned that I have smart, loyal friends who will give me encouragement when my own supply has run out. That may be the most valuable piece of knowledge I’ll ever pick up.
Kimberly is not picking up the weights tonight, because she’s also learned that doing exercises with them four days in a row is not smart. She learns slowly sometimes, but she does learn.