This is a story about a girl named Amy. Amy was an active soul. She filled her life with performance and achievements. She had degrees, publications, and merits. When there was no movement in her life, she felt stagnant. Stagnation brought with it, thoughts of worthlessness and feelings of self-doubt. No achievements meant no advancement in life.
One day after a long stretch at work, calculating her next advancement for a book she was writing, Amy sat on a bench at the park. She watched as ducks swam in the nearby pond, while mothers pushed strollers, and while an old man with a cane walked slowly along the walkway. As she sat and watched she listened to the chatter in her head, “get up and do something, don’t just sit there.” Her mind wandered with the consciousness she had created. Her inner voice was using the very measurements that she had constructed it to use. If she did not measure up to her expectations, she was not good enough. Amy was exhausted. She began to feel a tear roll down her cheek. The old man with the cane had quietly sat next to her on the bench.
“My dear,” he said, “Why do you cry?”
“Look,” said Amy, “The ducks have their friends and fun. The mothers have their love and commitment to another being. And I, I have nothing. My work does not bring me joy. My hope for the future is gone.”
“Goodness,” said the old man, in a quiet, sullen tone. He sat next to Amy with a calm smile on his face and watched as the mothers pushed their strollers and the ducks swam in the pond.
“Well,” said Amy, in frustration, “Don’t you have anything to say? I mean, I am sitting next to you crying, and you sat next to me! So you must have wanted to say something to the lonely girl on the bench.”
The old man maintained his posture simply looking up at Amy for a moment then back at the pond. She continued to talk. He remained calm and consistent. He gave her eye contact when she talked and looked toward the pond with wonder when she didn’t. (He recognized that if Amy measured herself on performance, it was how she measured others as well. He wasn’t much of a performer.) His breaths were tempered and consistent. He sat a long while with her.
“Well, it was nice to meet you Amy,” said the old man as he used his cane for momentum to stand up.
“What?” Amy said in anger, “You sit next to me and let me go on this whole time. But you give me nothing, no advice, no wisdom, and no reflection?”
“Amy, my dear,” said the old man, “Did you ever consider that each part of life or each relationship is not what you take from it, but what you give to it.”
Amy looked perplexed and walked off in confusion.
The old man slowly got back on the walkway and felt peace in his heart.
You see, on the other side of the pond away from the people walking, the ducks swimming, and Amy performing was a quiet place called: letting go. Right next to the place called : letting go is a place called: just being. These two places are not places we regularly visit in today’s busy society. It is a part of life that we never fully grasp. We walk away in confusion and frustration when we can not understanding something. In its very nature, just being, is not something that can be understood.
The concept of just being was foreign to Amy. She had lived a life filled with performance. She had difficulty sitting still and ran quite functionally on anxiety. She lacked acceptance in the pausing of life.
For some of us, the pauses in life makes us cringe. Not doing, or moving, or growing means that we are lacking. We don’t hesitate to take on the weight of the world as our own and to gain love of ourself only when we have performed. We blame others for not helping us. We worry about what still has to be done. We look at relationships for what we can take, not for what we can give to them.
The strange thing is, just being is not something that you can perform. The very nature of it exudes that. It is also not something that you can reduce or pull apart or intellectualize. You can not collect it, teach it, hide it, or even commit to it. It just is.