Tag Archives: Change

Thinking in Bed

I recently celebrated a birthday and gifts from my family included three wonderful children’s books.  It is no secret that I love reading children’s literature (possibly more than I enjoy reading “grown-up” books) and these three books have been great additions to my collection.  Among them is a book of poetry for children entitled Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee.  While I usually enjoy the simplicity of lessons presented in children’s books, I found one poem in this collection to be particularly compelling as a lesson for people of all ages:

Thinking in Bed

I’m thinking in bed,
‘Cause I can’t get out
Till I learn how to think
What I’m thinking about;
What I’m thinking about
Is a person to be—
A sort of a person
Who feels like me.

I might still be Alice,
Excepting I’m not.
And Snoopy is super,
But not when it’s hot;
I couldn’t be Piglet,
I don’t think I’m Pooh,
I know I’m not Daddy
And I can’t be you.

My breakfast is waiting.
My clothes are all out,
But what was that thing
I was thinking about?
I’ll never get up
If I lie here all day;
But I still haven’t thought,
So I’ll just have to stay.

If I was a Grinch
I expect I would know.
I might have been Batman,
But I don’t think so.
There’s so many people
I don’t seem to be—
I guess I’ll just have to
Get up and be me.

Now, we all tend to take things from literature that we can most relate to in our own lives and we find comfort in words that describe our personal experiences in ways that we are unable to.  In the words of this poem, I find a powerful image of someone being stuck as a result of spending too much time thinking about where to start.  I sense feelings of wanting to have it all figured out and wanting to get it right.  And with that being said, I certainly understand why this poem has resonated so strongly with me.

It was not long ago that I wrote about graduating Teacher’s College and the uncertainty that was sure to follow.  A lot has changed since then, but the uncertainty is still there and it is sometimes easy to feel like I am running out of time to figure things out.  Anytime that I sarcastically comment that turning 26 somehow qualifies me for seniors discounts or that I should start considering my retirement options, my friends and family are quick to sweep in with reassuring narratives about their own lives that inevitably end with statements like “you have your whole life ahead of you” or “I had no idea what I was doing when I was your age”.  While I could sarcastically argue that it is impossible for a 26-year-old to have their whole life ahead of them, I certainly do not dispute their claims.  Deep down, I know that there is no external standard that should define the person that I am or the things that I do at any given point in my life.  I also know that I am not and never will be a completely finished person.

But, every once in a while, I let my own sarcasm get the best of me.  I know that I am not the only person who struggles with the challenge of defending myself against constant feelings that I am somehow supposed to have it all figured out by now.  We inadvertently create these narratives for ourselves in the way that we talk about the future.  If you had asked 13-year-old Nicole what she would be doing when she was 26, the answer would have involved some combination of being a journalist, researcher, philanthropist, wife, physiotherapist, police officer, teacher, and mother.  I grew up being told that I could be and would be the best at whatever I wanted to do.  It was great.  I had the world at my feet.  I felt empowered.

But with that empowerment and those big dreams comes a lot of pressure.  And it is sometimes easier to hide in the safety of doing nothing than walk out into the world and take a risk.  Personally, I tend to paralyze myself by feeling like I need to know exactly where I want to end up before trying something.  But, in the meantime, I stop taking chances because I fear that I may miss out on the one thing that I am supposed to be doing.  I realize that this may sound convoluted because, well, it is a pretty convoluted thought.  But simply put, it is sometimes just easier to stay in bed thinking about all of the people that I could be or the things that I could do than challenging myself to risk being or doing any of those things.

A friend once told me that the best way to deal with uncertainty is to embrace it and just allow your future to feel like a black hole.  And he was right.  But there is an important next step that is sometimes easy to forget about…

You eventually have to start moving.

Thinking in bed or staring at a black hole can only last for so long.  It is one thing to allow the future to be uncertain, but when that alarm goes off or you reach the edge of the black hole, it does not accomplish much to stare at the future in fear.  There comes a point when you need to take that next step.  And it might not be easy.  And you might go in the wrong direction for a while.  And you might just learn that there is more than one right answer.  But maybe focusing less on needing to have it all figured out is what allows us to open ourselves to learning from experience and discovering what it means to live meaningful lives surrounded by the people, places, and things that we care most about.

So, here is a challenge to myself and anyone else who might be feeling a little bit stuck in any aspect of life right now:  As childish as it may sound, listen to the words of this poem.  Take the time that you need to embrace the idea of uncertainty and think things through.  But don’t forget to get up, get out of bed, and put your feet on the ground.  You may not know exactly what you are doing or where you are going, but failing to start moving will only ensure that you never figure it out.  And you might just be missing out on a great adventure.

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Learning How to Land

There is something compelling me to write at the moment. I haven’t quite figured out what it is, but I simply feel like there is a story inside of me that needs to be told. I certainly do not feel this way because I believe that my thoughts are particularly important or that people need to read them. More than anything, I feel as though going through the process of telling my story is just another part of the story itself.

I am currently sitting in a coffee shop in downtown Toronto. I have spent every afternoon here after school for the past week. I spend my time here staring at my computer and typing without paying much attention to the words appearing on the screen. I have my headphones in and the same playlist of songs playing on repeat. As I let the words hit me, I find myself alternating between holding back tears and resisting the urge to walk outside and sprint down the street as fast as I possibly can.

In describing this scene, I realize that my behaviour may sound irrational or that I may appear to be rambling about nothing at all. Normally this would bother me, but I am going to go ahead and say that this is all just part of the story.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt incredibly and completely overwhelmed. However, in some strange way, I have also never been more aware of the things that are important to me. I may not know exactly what this means, but at this particular moment, I am open to trying to figure it out. I am also open to feeling without question and maybe even losing myself for a little while in the process. Regardless of why I am feeling this way, I am very aware of the fact that I need to allow myself to fully explore and experience my emotions, even when they are frustrating, uncomfortable, or heartbreaking.

It is very easy to run away from how we are feeling, but there is something to be said about allowing yourself to be completely overwhelmed in any given moment. As much as this can hurt, it is also a reminder that we are human. It is easy to be angry and it is easy to be scared when the world seems to be moving backwards, but I believe that true strength can be found by acknowledging that sometimes we need to crash so that we can eventually learn how to land.

By allowing myself to completely feel the way that I am feeling right now, I am beginning to realize that I cannot control the world around me. However, I can choose to focus on the things that make me happy and bring meaning into my life. I can also do my best to remember that life truly is about people. This means appreciating those who make each day brighter for others and challenge those around them to be better than they were the day before. It also means challenging myself to do the same.

As I alluded to earlier, there is something cathartic about narrating my experiences and allowing my thoughts to mean something. I know that learning how to land is not an easy process, but all I can do is take the time to try.