Do you need to look before you leap? today's NaMoBloMo prompt asks.
Yes. Increasingly so. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, even though it feels like it is. Where does that feeling come from, that to be more cautious is sort of a bit ... well, boring? That if you are cautious it's a negative? I do still have those assumptions flitting around into my mind. Do they come from the inside, or do they come from the culture?
I do have an incautious streak. It's just not so apparent on days like today, where I am tired, at the end of a parasite cleanse, and am arm-wrestling a dose of bitterness and closed-heartedness. (I've decided to welcome them into my house, like Rumi suggests, and be their student). On days like today I feel like my trajectory shall equate to something like an old woman living in the country pointing a shotgun every time the guy comes onto my property to check the gas meter.
I enjoyed practising incaution as a teenager, where it manifested itself as feeling daredevillish and rebellious and fuck you. While I still feel that way sometimes about the world, the whole self-punishment-to-get-back-at-you version thankfully lost its lustre a long time ago (in general. But it's funny when those moods occasionally strike. They are generally in response to feeling hurt, and Susie circa 1978 pops up with a desire to hurt-myself-to-hurt-you-because-you-hurt-me, and I recognise the childishness of it, even while feeling the desire to act it out. We are strange and complex beings and very fragile :).
It's true that as you age you become a little more conservative in certain areas, and greater caution is probably where mine manifests itself. The trick is to separate caution-as-wisdom from caution-because-of-a-developing-crustiness. One is welcome, the other probably requires what may feel closer to incaution than anything else, to dispel it. Being cautious about your decisions is something that parents spend every day teaching their children, and a lesson that children take decades to learn. The choices we make count. Taking time and taking silence to measure our options is not only smart, it's kinda counter-cultural in a way, considering the speed frenzy we live under. Being cautious about the people we want to spend our time with is smart, and self-lovin', and I've taken years to work this one out, and still feel like in this particular paddock I still have a whole stack of fence that needs restringing along the road line.
For me, these days, looking before I leap is based a little more on the fact that resilience just ain't really one of my strong suits. Ever read any of the books about highly sensitive people? That's pretty much me. I get sensory overload in shopping centres and have to come home and lie down in darkened rooms (a true story, I'm afraid). I get upset about the most minor and inconsequential things sometimes. I feel rejected at the drop of a hat or any other item of clothing you care to let go of, and if you do not respond to the comment I have taken the time to leave on your blog as a first-time visitor, I generally start waning in my affection for you right there and then. I guess I have old-fashioned ideas about courtesy and politeness which a good portion of the rest of the world just doesn't seem to share.
I don't like that I am so sensitive. But I do like the fact that I recognise that I am, and embrace it, and look after myself accordingly. But there is a sort of feeling of being a cripple at the side of the road while the marathon runs by.
And yet, who doesn't feel this way in some measure? I'm sure we must all have unattainable standards in our heads that we believe society is asking us to achieve, and if we don't, then we fail. Because think about it - how many "spokespeople" for our culture display their flaws? Very few. And when they do, we generally soften towards them (unless we get childish and demonise them, but that's another story). They are human too. Perhaps it's okay for us to have these flaws.
It's a paradoxical thing that a person becomes more trustworthy the more they share their fragility on their sleeve at least a little every now and then. It's also true that to be able to be that fragile is something that we must feel is within our own power to choose to either do or not to do. It must be freely given, and it is a gift when it is. When somebody has the guts to reveal a bit of their soft underbelly,
my automatic response is always one of a softening of my own heart.
But it's true that as I get older, some days I can feel a crustiness that has developed around the edges of my shell when it comes to the human race. Perhaps it's simply a sign of not getting out enough, or of idealism, but I often feel quite disappointed by other people. The way they behave feels coarse and inconsiderate.
And of course here is that paradox that plays itself out so often - those things that I am feeling so frustrated about in the human race are often the things I am feeling frustrated about in myself. I have become adept at noticing how I have learned to close my heart down, and at those times I must appear just as crusty and untrustworthy to others as they feel to me.
Which is a hard thing to get your head around. It takes years to reclaim your own projections, to own your own shit, to realise that what it is about other people that is getting to you is really what it is about yourself. And to return once more to those practices that help to soften you around the edges. To realise that though caution is most welcome in its wisdom garb, its spiky defensiveness version has never served you very well at all.
Living open heartedly can sometimes feel akin to being naked out in the freezing cold, sucking air into your lungs that feels like it's going to bust them open. Living open heartedly with a little caution round the edges is wisdom. Juggling those two balls in the air at the same time is a high-wire act.