Day 224 - Benching Restlessness
I am a restless person to my core. I have always had ants in my pants. I could not sit still as a kid and can’t do it now either. I am a being in motion. I seem to have two speeds - idle and full throttle. It is just the way I am. I think over the years, I have worked hard to develop other speeds. I have been marginally successful...
Since the quarantine started I have not changed. I have not magically turned into someone with a lazy, easy quality to them. I still have an insane morning routine that is now longer and more full than when I used to go into the office. Here is my routine:
4 mile hike
Every single day. No exceptions.
I also take the same loop everyday. I like the view that never changes but is always different. I like habit. I do like doing something different every now and again but not for my usual routine. I like my routine to be, well, usual.
So on my loop hike that I take every day, there is this bench. It overlooks the mountains and sits in the shade of a lovely old oak tree. It has always beckoned me. But for weeks, I ignored its pleas. I just walked right by it, I could not be bothered to slow down and really hear what it was saying and offering me.
After a few weeks of doing this, the bench’s words became louder as I passed...
Come. Sit down.
I was still too busy.
Then one day as I passed it, I became aware of how much resistance I felt towards taking even five minutes to just sit still. How much stopping my forward motion was something that made me feel like I would go mad if I did...
Of course, never one to back down from a challenge and mildly amused at the thought of me running screaming from the shaded bench, I went and sat down.
The bench has a beautiful view. It is quiet and calm and peaceful. At first both the dog and I were super antsy and couldn’t sit still. The dog used to my normal “get up and go-ness” even she was not really ready to sit there.
I did not enjoy my first sit there on the wooded bench. I was restless. I was in a hurry. I needed to get shit done. I was not enjoying the time because the clock beckoned and called me out. But I made a decision in that first sit that I would remain sitting there until the edginess wore off. Until the racing in my mind and heart quieted. Until I could just sit under that tree on that bench and find some willingness to stay there all day...
It took me twenty minutes that first day. Twenty minutes for the propulsion to quiet down. Twenty minutes for the push and pull of my mind to settle into being still. It took twenty minutes until my restlessness came into presence and I was able to find contentment and permission to sit there all day if I wanted to.
The bench time is now part of my daily hike. At first, I had to sit there every day and wait for the restlessness to pass. To allow the layers of energy to find their rightful place within the bench and tree and sky and flowers. I had to sit on my hands and resist my constant and incessant urge to move the fuck on. I had to be still when everything in me wanted to jump and run.
Now, a few weeks later, I almost run to the bench. I crave it. I need it. I sit and I linger. I think about spending the day there. I think about everything and nothing as I sit. The restlessness that so plagued me before is almost gone...well, as gone as I could ever hope for and still claim to be myself.
I have learned to sit still with the restlessness and it isn’t even a struggle anymore. The first few weeks the struggle to remain was extremely hard and acutely painful. Like some monster was going to get me if I didn’t keep going. Now I remain for minutes and could remain for hours if I wanted. My relationship with time and the clock one that I could totally find it within myself to raise my middle finger in subtle defiance and plant my ass on that bench all day, clock be damned.
It is amazing what one can learn from a bench in the woods. What the trees, grass and flowers can teach you if you let them. I have learned to bench restlessness. I have learned to find a space in my own life that exists for me, and me alone. And that is truly something wonderful.
When the path reveals itself, follow it. (Cheryl Strayed)
Even when the path leads to a bench where absolutely nothing exciting happens except you meet yourself right where you are. This is the place where you come into your fundamental restlessness but also a place where you can, if you try, get in touch with your fundamental spaciousness as well.
Trust that all you’ve learned was worth learning, no matter what answer you have or do not have about what practical use it has in your life. Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into the crazy beauty that awaits. (Again, Cheryl delivers).