The slipstream of life


I dislike talking about being busy.  I’ve said this before.  We are all busy.  Everybody’s life is full.  I know this is true, and discussion of being busy feels like both an excuse and, frankly, a bit of a bore.

Lately, however, my own life feels particularly abundant, as it were, with demands, responsibilities, and, yes, joys.

Every single day it feels like I step into a slipstream in the morning and am carried along all day. Sometimes I am unable to take a breath. The truth is I can’t decide if this is good or bad feeling.  Sometimes the whitewater of my life makes me feel out of control, and that I definitely hate.  Other times, I’m aware that I truly love everything I’m doing, or at the very least I value all the responsibilities.  Furthermore, I choose them.  While I still feel somewhat overwhelmed, it’s hard to feel unhappy or complain in this situation.

I chose this.

Remembering our agency is a quick way to gratitude.  It’s an effective way to stop feeling victim-y and overwhelmed, too.  Busy is not bad.  Busy is not unique.  Busy does not have to be the end of the world.  How fortunate we are to have so many things that want our attention! (this reminds me of a piece I wrote a long time ago, about how the work-home tension is one of deep privilege).

Even so, it’s sometimes hard to maintain our – my – equilibrium when life is rushing at me like whitewater.  Still (continuing), I want to be still (not moving).

Years ago I wrote about stillness, and how I realized that it was never going to arrive, but instead be something I needed to actively seek amidst the activity of my full life. I think all the time – daily, at least – of TS’s Eliot’s lines from Four Quartets, We must be still and still moving. Being still in the middle of the busy-ness, that’s the goal, at least for me.  Finding ways to breathe and to be here, mostly because without doing that I miss my life.  And as I remind myself, over and over again, I chose this, this manifold set of responsibilities and identities which unfurl, shimmering, piling upon each other, beautiful and daunting at the same time.

More and more I’ve been instagramming with my made-up hashtag of #everydaylife, and I think in part that’s a way I force myself to stop and notice.  Sometimes those posts are the sky, sometimes they are the chaos of my kitchen island while the kids do a Chemistry project, sometimes they’re the scene as we head out the door in the morning.  When I stop and take a picture, and think to myself this is my everyday life, I am still.

For a brief moment, only, but still.  Still.

30 thoughts on “The slipstream of life”

  1. Yes. Yes yes and yes. The incessant chatter about being busy IS a bore. Enough. I love #everydaylife and I will join you in hashtagging.

  2. YES. It is okay to be busy. And it is okay not to be. My life is full, but not always in the rushing around busy kind of way, and sometimes I feel guilty about that (Which I know is ridiculous and my own issue entirely).
    I love that you use instagram as a means of noticing and finding stillness within everyday life.

  3. Beautifully articulated. I am right there with you on all fronts — the slipstream, the choices, the recognition that I may be harried and hassled at time, but I am blessed. And, of course, the overwhelming desire to stop time – if only for a few moments each day — and remember these lessons. Thank you for such a poignant start to my Wednesday – and now stepping into my slipstream in 3…2…1. 🙂

  4. I love the choice of the word abundance rather than business. When I get into a period in which the abundance feels overwhelming I find it helpful to remember that it is a season and in seasons to come I will probably miss the abundance of this time.

    Your beautiful post also brings to mind these lines from Robert Frost’s poem The Master Speed:

    And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
    Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
    But in the rush of everything to waste,
    That you may have the power of standing still-

  5. This gives me goosebumps … the Master Speed is one of my favorite poems, and I read it (and memorized it) in the wedding of one of my dearest friends and Grace’s godmother. It’s perfect here – thank you for sharing. xoxo

  6. I want to say so much (big surprise) about this post, but I will just say this instead:

    1. “slipstream” – I’ve always loved that word and really have only read it consistently in your posts, like this one, until the other day when I was reading Tropper’s THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU and saw it there. And of course it made me think of you!

    2. Your thoughts here remind me of a story I had once crafted in my mind (but never wrote beyond a few chicken scratch notes) to be called “Little Life”. The protagonist was going to be someone like you or me or any number of us, contemplating where she was in that moment of her life. The title was a play on words and central to her internal debate and conflict. Was she “lifeless, without much alive left in her” or did she simply just have a “small, but profound and all encompassing life, all things considered”. Anyway, what you describe here is much of the kind of thought process the character was going to have as she tried to figure it all out and whether she could be happy with what she did have.

    How many times can I say I love your words without sounding creepy? I may be close to that point but you know I do.

  7. i am so by your side on this. I crave stillness and find I am exhausted without it. Yesterday a student walked into my room and remarked about how quiet it was- I had just been on my prep. She was surprised when I told her I needed that time to get through my day. She said her life is never quiet. The busier I get, the more quiet I crave. My Instagram reminder hashtag is #lookup. It’s how I push my pause button. It’s a strange and wonderful life, isn’t it?

  8. I love this post, Lindsey. Busyness (or as Isabelle so aptly called it abundance, above) is a privilege, and makes balance difficult. Balance is always at the forefront of my mind, for some reason. That stillness amidst the swirl of days is important. I find that now, at age 40, with kids in high school and middle school, life is at its busiest. But it is a beautiful busy, with so many good things at its core. I’m grateful for it, and know it won’t last long.

    Thank you for this piece, Lindsey. As always, it brings a slice of meaning to my life. Will be joining you in #everydaylife. xo

  9. I used to teach yoga in the University City section of Philadelphia, and I loved that studio for the reasons you are saying – I felt like the still point in a world rushing around me. The sounds from outside were chaotic: Cars honking, sirens, people yelling, etc. But to be able to be still and breathe inside the chaos….and watch the students do the same…was, as you said, a privilege.

  10. I wholeheartedly agree! We are all busy. And yet so many people use busyness as an excuse, hide behind it. It’s about choice and making the most of moments…something you do beautifully!

  11. I laid in bed last night for over an hour contemplating this exact thought/feeling. Waves of gratitude, deep deep love, and joy overwhelmed while at the same time waves crashing on me of the preciousness and fleeting-ness of time.

    A quote I have been reciting daily is form Meryl Streep – “I want to feel my life while I’m in it.” I desire to have a direct experience with my life even though I know I can’t slow it down.

    Thank you for putting my thoughts so beautifully into words and sharing in the “me too” factor. always, deep love and gratitude.

  12. Yes! I think that, like joy and sorrow, relaxation and busyness are not opposites but are instead halves of the same whole. Maybe you can’t truly feel one unless you experienced the other. To continue your apt water metaphor, when my river of life is most abundant, I look forward to ferrying to the eddy because I know the reward is greater than if I had just stayed on shore.

  13. I truly needed to read this today thank you. I am too busy, yet there is nothing I ant to give up. I just have to take those moments to be still. I may have to print this out and read it every day.

  14. I love thinking of busyness as abundance. This is a great way to turn it all on it’s head. And yes that we chose this- I remind myself of this everyday…Thank you as always.

  15. It took me a while to realize that’s how I was using Instagram, but I do think that’s the primary function, for me, right now. xox

  16. Never close to that point. I’m grateful to know this post resonated. I love slipstream too and yes Van Morrison in my head now!! Please write that story …

  17. Oh, I love this image. Yes. Absolutely. The challenge, at least for me, has always been to take the stillness that I find somewhere like Kripalu out into the world, to keep it with me, no matter what is going on. Not easy. xox

  18. That’s a wonderful way to think about it. I always go to Kahlil Gibran and the image of the deeper sorrow carves into us, the more joy we can contain. Perhaps that is true re: busy-ness and stillness, too. How marvelous to imagine.

  19. Still but still moving. I am such a fan of your Instagram posts and these words fill my heart like those photos. Abundant, not overwhelmed. Full until bursting. I too never know if it’s good or bad, but thank you for reminding me that the choice is mine to make.

  20. I love this post and honestly these insights are what make me miss reading your blog when I get too caught up in the slipstream and neglect some of the stuff that truly fuels me. You are so right: being busy is truly a privilege. That word is definitely synonymous with a full life, a life of opportunity and wonder. When we are busy, we are frequently at our bust. Full to the brim with productivity and promise. In the midst of busyness I know that I am making a difference. I might not always be comfortable but in the uncomfortable I test my boundaries and I frequently surmount them. If I wasn’t ever busy, I would be bored. I would be lifeless. The busy is good. And lately I’ve been pessimistic about all the busy but you reminded me that I need to be more grateful for all the opportunities that I have to be useful. To matter. To have people and purpose. I guess this is a good time to realize that I need to be thankful for all that I have stacked up on my plate right now.

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