The thing about getting older that no one really prepares you for--or perhaps they do, but you don’t really get it until you’re knee-deep-in-the-muck-of-it--is that stress is often such that you peel back one layer only to find another below it. And then another after that. And on and on in slow succession, ad infinitum.
It sounds torturous, doesn’t it?
But that’s the thing. It’s not, entirely.
I mean, don’t get me wrong, it is occasionally tremendously uncomfortable. But, the older I get the more sure I am that part of our job, as human beings, is to sit in--or with--that discomfort.
And stress, well stress can be quite valuable. Because it helps determine what is worth that very particular discomfort, and what isn’t.
And some things really aren’t.
I spent the last year and half trekking just a little bit east of Fifth Avenue each morning. And each morning I felt my body brace with a sort of ambiguous, amorphous fear. And that fear--that stress--well, there wasn’t a damn thing valuable about it; it didn’t fortify me, it didn’t make me better, it was simply to be survived. And while there was some value in passing the time, there was a heck of a lot more in leaving. And leave I did, hard and stressful as that was. I left because ultimately, I believed in bigger things.
That’s the other thing about getting older that one really prepares you for: the really miraculous process of figuring out what you believe in. There are things I believe in--strongly, deeply. Beliefs that continuously bring me to my knees. And those beliefs are mostly simple. I believe in kindness. And honesty. I believe in integrity and generosity and transparency. And I believe in the action of those things, carried out on the everyday level.
And, when our beliefs--our values--line up with the continuous unfolding of the stress, well that tremor is transformed into something quite important. Quotidien, but still magic.
Sometimes, for me, sitting down to write is the scariest thing in the world--in fact, I have spent the better part of the last few months doing whatever I can to avoid it. But it is also the most important thing I know to do. It moves my life forward, it makes me better, it is belief made manifest. It is worth every bit of fear and stress and knee-shaking terror. And that is entirely the point.