Tag Archives: physics

Lily in the Valley

Vernon Bush

I learned a new gospel song last weekend from friend and superstar Vernon Bush called Lily in the Valley.  Words, “there’s a lily in the valley… a bright and glorious star…” lots of times, followed by a bunch of “amens.” It’s a good song. An uplifting song. It’s a simple, joy-filled tune about finding the good.

Finding the good is easy to do, I find, when I’m not in a valley. But today was a swampy, off-kilter, oh-no, not-at-all-comfortable-in-my-britches kind of low down yuck day, and now I’m not in bed yet because I don’t want to go to sleep feeling bad.  My brain, my darling brain, is a broken record, tormenting me with its perpetual skipping to the accumulated list of everything that went so very wrong today.  It is instant gratification, like eating a whole roll of cookie dough (if you like that kind of thing) to review and add to this list.  It feels like I’m in an endurance contest of trials and each of these wrong things is a notch in my belt. I grow ever more righteous, resentful, frustrated and victimized as the day progresses.

And I find, after focusing all day on this list, that I feel like I missed a day of my life.  I had a few good moments there, where I stopped the record for a time or pulled the reigns in on the momentum, but then another thing would go wrong and I was kicking the dirt again.  It is compelling now, to want to review the day in a kind of audit, making a power point presentation out of it and putting big yellow arrows at all the moments when I made poor choices.  Or big red warning signs on situations I walked into that I know tend to make me grumpy.  I think about all the decisions I could make – wear different clothes, do more yoga, drink more water, quit my job, never talk to people again – that will save me from this fate in the future. I’ve done this for 34 years.  It hasn’t worked yet.

How to stop, so wholly and completely, that the strength of the momentum of this habit can’t take me on it’s ride?  It feels today like turning physics on its head.  A thing in action tends to stay in action.

This is why I write.

Somehow, somewhere, whenever I sit down to write and ask a sincere question, the answer comes.

Just like that.

Now it came, like a tiny whisper from deep in the canyon of my left ribcage, saying “Make a list of the lillies.”

Ok then.

Things I loved about today:

  • Pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
  • Fresh laundry.
  • The neck crack I’ve been waiting for for weeks.
  • Sweet and kind words on my blog from friends and strangers.
  • Saying hi to the new guy, and knowing I made his day better.
  • A confirmed “yes!” from a donor for a $500 sponsorship.
  • Singing along with Ani Difranco in the car.
  • Firefighters.
  • Kittens.
  • This perfect, dark, crickety, warm night, and the pjs I’m about to climb into.

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Saturday afternoon physics lessons

I asked a question on Facebook months ago that was something to the effect of “Why is it we so avoid (over and over and over) doing the things we know are good for us? ” I got a few answers from friends and from myself – none of which rang the bell of that internal “yes” that builds our sense of world and understanding of ourselves.

The question came up again inside me today. It’s one of those lost-feeling, whirly weekend days. I had plans, they changed, so now what… kind of thing. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and I’m still sitting around in my flannel pjs. I made a little food, talked to a friend on the phone, talked half-heartedly over possible plans for the day with Yossi but the talk dissolved into each of us getting lost doing our own thing. All of it leading me into that moment of choice I’ve been somewhat hyper-attuned to in myself lately – do I follow the momentum of my energy? Or make a choice of will to send my energy somewhere new?

Today the momentum was rolling down the hill toward what one may refer to as “wasting the day”. Curling up in the sun and napping. Watching a West Wing marathon. Eating comfort food. Avoiding the work and responsibilities that are at my door. Without any plans or urgency enough to force me out of it, I sit right in the middle of that moment watching the process of my decision-making, or lack thereof.

A variety of options come up, in the form of fortune-telling, where the ultimate aim is to end with me feeling good. I scroll through imaginations…

A. my afternoon disappears but I’m refreshed and nurtured by the downtime,

B. I follow my energy down its lazy path and land in a soup of dissatisfaction,

C. I pull myself up by the bootstraps and go create or do something enlivening.

I feel again how strong the pull is toward the familiar and the comfortable. I feel how the dissatisfaction with following it has steadily collected in my consciousness over time and I wonder if maybe today will be the day that the dissatisfaction is big enough to push the ball back up the hill – magically changing the pattern without me having to do anything hard.

And it occurs to me – this metaphor – the ball rolling down the hill – is based on simple physics. An object in motion stays in motion. I’m no physicist – I never particularly liked nor do I remember much of my last physics class 15 years ago, but it feels to me – here in my bones – that this physical principle of the universe is true of energy too. I feel how the patterns of my being are just energy – energy manifesting this very basic, and probably obvious physical phenomenon. Neural connections following their well worn path of least resistance, blood pumping to muscles that just like to do what they always do, my body alive with energy – all pulsing down the river of habituation that was first cut in the sand when I was but a wee tot. When it feels like pushing a boulder up a mountain just to decide not to eat the ice cream or turn of the TV, it really really is, just like that.

But we’ve been given this gift of will, that saves us from our robotic fate. Will is a tricky one for me – in that it wasn’t particularly nurtured or encouraged and now it’s harder for me to come by. Or more accurately, it requires a more convincing invitation than your average party goer. Once it’s there though, you can bet it’ll the life of the party. I do know that.

I don’t know who will make an appearance at the party today or how the evening will turn out. To be sure, I give my environment a leading role in the play – it distracts me from setting intentions of my own and carries with it its own momentum. Yossi pops in the Netflix and grabs potato chips – now there are two West Wings behind me and it’s almost 5. I’m still in my pajamas. We talk about going for a walk, he falls asleep and I start writing. Maybe the writing is enough. However it turns out, I’ll know more, and I suspect that’s the whole point.

The universe has a momentum too. And it carries with it the ultimate irony. I only have to glance at the stars to be relieved of any sense of significance I’ve given to my Saturday afternoon, or to my entire life. So why does it feel – in my heart of hearts – like stopping a ball from rolling down a hill is changing the whole world?

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