This is a totally unexpected blog post for me. I wasn’t planning on posting one about emotional wellbeing this week. So it might come across a bit rambly. But, bear with me. My kids are going back to school today so I am a tad emotional. My thoughts are swirling and my fingers seem to be moving across the keys on their own. I’m trying to learn to go with the flow so I’m letting them lead me.
My oldest is in CE1 (the French equivalent of 2nd grade) and the youngest is in Moyenne Section (Pre-K). Where did the summer go? Back in June, I thought 8 weeks was SOOO long and I couldn’t imagine how we were going to fill the time. But now, it’s September and they are off.
When did they get so big? I can’t help feeling sad. Ferris was right: Life moves pretty fast. Sometimes too fast. In the past few days, I have learned about the deaths of 5 people. Five seems like a lot. Only one of those people did I know personally, though not well. I had only met her a few times. But she was beautiful and full of life. When she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer she was told that she probably had less than a year. She said, screw that, and she lived for 3 years more. She had passion and compassion. Like the other four did on a more global scale – Wes Craven, Wayne Dyer, Oliver Sacks, and Kyle Jean-Baptise – she touched and inspired those who had the fortune to be introduced to her.
So, yes, my feelings of sadness today are not just about my kids starting a new school year. They is also about mortality. About living life to its fullest. Ferris, I’m stopping and taking a look around. I don’t want to miss it. I want to embrace it. And I don’t think I’m alone in thinking this way.
But I learned something else this weekend. My dad sent me an newsletter he read that he thought I’d enjoy. I did. The author wrote about Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard Psychology professor who wrote the book, “Stumbling on Happiness” and gave an entertaining TED Talk about it. Professor Gilbert also talks about the concept of, what he calls, “The End of History Illusion” (also in TED talk form). The way I understand Dr. Gilbert’s research, humans tend to live in the illusion that we are who were were meant to be in a given moment and we are finished changing. But, in truth, balance, stasis is an illusion.
And here’s the thing. In the newsletter, the author misquoted Dr. Gilbert. The author referred to Dr. Gilbert’s theory as “The End of History Delusion”. I don’t know if that was intentional or not. But I have been turning this name around in my head. And this makes sense to me too.
Last week I wrote about using yoga balance poses to create more calm moments in my life. So, I’ve been trying to balance a lot. And, you know what? Even though I am not losing my balance and falling on my face as much. I still wobble. And today I followed along with a yoga video on youtube where the instructor did too. This struck me. Even when we have balance, at a muscular level, or body is still making minute changes to support that balance.
The image that popped into my head when I read the newsletter from my dad about “The End of History Delusion” is that, I will never get to that point in which I am totally balanced on top of Chaos Mountain. Because, whether you are in Airplane Pose or a seesaw, I will always be making shifts (big or little or both) in one direction or the other. For humans, being “balanced” means still having to sway, back and forth. The concept and image that was in my head before – strong and unmoving in “perfect balance” – is a delusion. Balance is rally about constantly adjusting. Adapting. Learning.
Which brings me back to my kids and their first day of the school year. I can’t help but feel excitement growing in my heart alongside the sadness. Excited for my children. Excited to hear about everything that they learn. It will all be new for them. (And, since my 2nd grader will be learning French conjugation this year, some of it will be new for me too).
I have always believed that knowledge is power. That learning is vital. And studies have shown that mental simulation can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Learning is so vital to the evolution of humans (someone had to be the first to learn to make fire and then share that knowledge) and personal growth. So, as I start off this new school year and my 12-week mind/body challenge (which I promise to describe in more detail later), I have decided to try to keep this excitement about learning alive. By consciously learning something new everyday.
So, from French conjugations to yoga poses to how nanotechnology works and everything in between, I am going to make the most out of life through learning. I’m compiling my list of things I want to learn more about and then will task myself with one new thing to learn a day (this is when I feel grateful for the internet). Starting with Dr. Gilbert’s research on the End of History Illusion and how to redefine what balance really means for me.