Friday, February 12, 2010

Don't push the river

I continue to love Gretchen Rubin's wonderful Happiness Project. After enjoying her blog for several weeks and following along with the weekly assignments, I went ahead and bought the book, which just hit #1 on the NYT bestsellers list. Well-deserved! And in it and on her blog she pretty regularly mentions one or another of her Twelve Personal Commandments, such as "Be Gretchen" and "There is only love." It's been making me think about my own "personal commandments," phrases that I find myself living by. So I thought I'd explore them individually here as a series of posts. I have no idea how many I'll come up with, but the first one definitely needs to be "Don't push the river."

To me "Don't push the river" is about not fighting how things just ARE. Not that we have to passively accept everything, but there are some things that are pretty much out of our control and it would and could be a constant source of frustration to ram one's head against them day after day. Traffic, weather, big changes in the workplace, these are all basically out of our control and for me it is much easier to just accept that that is the way the river flows. We can certainly figure out the best way to maneuver our way along the river and engage with the situation that way, but we can't ask it to stop flowing or to flow the other way. Or if we do, we can't be too disappointed when our wishes aren't granted.

Another aspect of this phrase for me is when I find myself trying to force a situation to be a certain way. This is about how I can come up with some kind of plan and then try to make it happen without the right sensitivity to what needs to happen or what "wants" to happen. I can get really into my ideas of how things "should" be, but I like to think I'm getting better about stepping outside of the situation a little and seeing how my plan relates to what's actually happening. And often when I'm getting kind of rigid in how I'm going to make it happen this phrase will pop into my mind as a kindly reminder.

Because I'm me, this commandment (and probably others) comes with a song. I'm really not sure what Van's getting at here and I'm fairly certain it has very little if anything to do with my Personal Commandment, but it's such an excellent tune that I have to share it with you. This is definitely one to enjoy!

A side note: The photo at the top is of the Harpeth River, which flows by the hill where we live. It is one lovely, twisty river. If we take our usual route to work we pass over it three times and I try to be conscious of each crossing and look over at the river just flowing along. I've fallen in love with it a little I think. And it has struck me that there is something of a fairy tale quality of passing over it three times, like getting three wishes.

I stopped on my way home this afternoon to try to catch a picture of the winter river, with its deep greenish water and some snow along the banks, but I knew my batteries were low and sure enough I wasn't able to take one. But I did have a magical moment when I saw a blue heron flying low over the river, traveling along with the flow of the river. Such a beautiful image. I'll remember that for some time. So graceful and seemingly effortless in flight, his big wings slowly beating: swoop...swoop...swoop. He wasn't pushing the river either.