I am not my schedule!

Yesterday, a deer strutted across my street. She stopped to gaze at me with the look of a creature who has never paid rent and never known shame. She had a saucy attitude and held my gaze for longer than was comfortable. “I don’t own the street,” she seemed to proclaim, “but neither do you.”

Yesterday, a deer strutted across my street. She stopped to gaze at me with the look of a creature who has never paid rent and never known shame. She had a saucy attitude and held my gaze for longer than was comfortable.

by Scott Kalechstein — 

Hi, I’m Scott and I am a recovering workaholic. For the past three months, I have had a fairly quiet calendar. It is not easy, having time and space on my hands. It shines a light on all those places where I do not yet love myself just for being me. It spotlights my tendency to derive my self-esteem from meaningful work and a constantly busy schedule.

Newly transplanted to Marin from a more contained city landscape, I am hiking the trails, hugging the mountains, taking in great gobs of oxygen with every breath. There are more trees and green things around me than anywhere I have ever lived before. I have never felt so surrounded and embraced by nature.

Yesterday, a deer strutted across my street. She stopped to gaze at me with the look of a creature who has never paid rent and never known shame. She had a saucy attitude and held my gaze for longer than was comfortable. “I don’t own the street,” she seemed to proclaim, “but neither do you.” I agreed, put my hands together, and bowed to her in solidarity and respect.

Who owns the street? The land? Me and you? Ownership was an utterly alien concept to the Native Americans when they sold the island of Manhattan to some shrewd Europeans for $24 worth of beads.

What about you and me? Do I have ownership of myself, or do I rent? Does someone or something else own me? And if so, when did I sign the deed that completed that sale? These questions are up close and personal right now, at a time when I seem to have been granted a bit of a reprieve. I am off duty, at rest, hibernating with the bears, so to speak. What a gift of renewal, this time. I can relax and do nothing, enjoying the simplicity of being alive without an inner voice telling me that it’s not enough, I’m not enough.

Yet, at times, I still feel owned and possessed by a foot permanently pressed on the accelerator, locked in a vehicle with no brakes, no neutral, no park. Can I really turn off the juice at will and simply relax?

So, it seems I am a student back in driving school again, taking lessons at the Slow Down and Follow Your Bliss Driving Academy. The instructor keeps telling me to turn off the engine and recline my seat for a while. Roll down a window or, better yet, get out of the car and stretch.

I am learning a lot lately about what has been driving me and the madness of always moving.

And life is supporting me in this. Business has slowed so I can slow down as well. I have plenty of savings in the bank, though my nervous inner accountant likes to “anal-eyes” my finances and pretend I am going to run out of cash and become homeless if I don not keep the money machine going at all times. He advises me to stay within my financial comfort zone and not be too generous, especially with myself. His mantra of many years (repeated ad nauseam): “You can not afford it!”

Ridiculous, I say. It is in my best interest to lighten up my uptight little accountant and introduce him to the abundance, majesty, benevolence and grace that are running this universe. I am finished giving my energy to scarcity and lack. Now, I am stretching to spend significantly more money on myself than my comfort zone is comfortable with. And lately, that is translated into many fun, new pursuits, amongst them, horseback riding lessons.

Down the block from me is a stable. I went over to pet a horse the other day, Cupcake, and she recoiled, trotting as far away from me as she could. Despite my semi-occasional success in not taking things personally, this time I went straight to rejection hell. “What’s wrong with me? I’m too needy for even a horse?”

The next day I visited Cupcake again, determined to get back in the saddle, as it were. Instead of trying to pet her, I asked Cupcake to listen to my story and I poured my heart out about the changes and challenges I am experiencing. She gave me eye contact for nearly five minutes — still, close and present in a way that most of us in this ADD-rampant culture find nearly impossible to sustain. I felt supported and walked away feeling significantly better. Cupcake and I shared some quality moments.

That is when I realized that riding a horse gently down a trail with no pressing destination would be good for my soul right now. Born and raised in New York City, where most of nature’s creatures were behind bars or in cans, I sometimes felt like a packed human sardine, bumping up against other people but feeling totally separate from them. Everybody seemed to have a clearly private, personal agenda, frantic to get somewhere, embroiled in an adrenaline rush hour most of the day and night.

Today, there are deer crossing my street. A family of wild turkeys sometimes hangs out, in full view, right outside my window. The area is protected, natural, green and wild. Like my life, currently. My to-do list these days has been short and sweet, making room for a growing to-be list. Free time and free will — God’s greatest gift — to do and be what I want.

I want an open heart. I want to be a creature that can sustain eye contact with a deer, a horse, a person, and not shy away in fear or busy-ness. I want my movement to come from the center of stillness, my words from the heart of silence. I want what I do to flow from a deep wellspring of pure being-ness. I want to be at peace with what is and be present enough to enjoy it.

This ability to know and be stillness is what most animals on our planet experience as their ordinary state. It’s a state that many people would describe as enlightenment. Isn’t it  funny how we humans romanticize and make special what’s meant to be normal and natural?

Seasons change. The spring has brought hibernating bears and troubadours out of their caves. My schedule is about to get insane again in a few weeks.

I am thankful as I begin to realize that I do not have to …

 

Scott Kalechstein is a modern-day troubadour and inspirational speaker. He makes his home in Marin County, Calif., and travels through the United States, Canada and Europe giving concerts, talks and workshops, as well as presenting at conferences. www.scottsongs.com or scott@scottsongs.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 3, June/July 2005.

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