Slack in the System
Wildey and I were sitting by the river again, aimlessly tossing stones in the water. He picked up a little stick and started drawing little patterns in the sand. I leaned back on my hands and felt the welcome heat of the sun coming over the ridge. The morning had had a bite to it, and we were sitting in the place we figured the sun would hit first.
We had judged it pretty close. A sandbar to our right had been the first to catch the sun, but we were a close second. Not bad. I’ll take it.
“So let’s talk about slack, Wildey. I’ve been thinking about this, the more we talk. About how important rest is. I mean, we haven’t talked about rest, per se, but I just realized yesterday that it’s kind of an undercurrent to everything we ARE talking about. Behind it all. It seems like one of the more basic questions. What is rest, how do I know when to rest and when to push, how much is enough, how much is too much, is there such a thing as just right?”
“And then I thought, you know, rest is a lot like slack. Except different. But in one way, I can think of rest as slack in the system. Space. So I started to wonder, how much slack do I actually need in the system? And then I started to wonder, well, am I talking about MY system, or your system? And I started to wonder, am I giving you slack, or me slack, or is the system that needs slack?”
He looked at me.
“You know, kid, I love you and all but I am SERIOUSLY glad that I do not live in your head. Talk about slack – do you EVER quit wondering about things?”
And then sobered, and had to say, “Well, no, I don’t think I do, Wildey. I don’t think I ever, ever do. At least, I never ever don’t NOTICE things. Lots of things. Sometimes it seems like EVERYTHING. I notice every single thing. Seems like I’m most always wondering. But that feels way different than thinking.”
I thought for a sec.
“But you know what’s different now, that I’ve been talking to you? Somehow, it’s gotten really different that it’s not all stuck inside me. We talk about it, and it’s out of my system, it’s been noticed, and that’s OK. It’s been noticed.”
“It’s really different.”
He nodded. Encouraging. Listening.
“Wow. I just saw something. Wow.”
I was kind of reeling. I felt like I was looking into a hall of mirrors again, that I had gone down so many times in my life. And for once, for the first time at this level of noticing, I was able to just look at it, and not fall in.
“Oh, my God, Wildey. I don’t know if I can put this into words. Oh, my God.”
He just kept doodling patterns in the sand. Somehow watching him do that for a minute helped me to find my footing, quit feeling like if I didn’t get this all out right now I might fall into that hall of mirrors. Lose the lucid moment. Because this was feeling like a world class lucid moment.
“Wildey, it’s so simple. But it’s so big. But it’s so flipping simple.”
His eyebrows raised, but he didn’t look up. It felt like he was really honoring the space in some cool way, giving me the stage, giving me all the room I needed to do whatever the heck I was doing right now.
Inside, it felt like a cascade of realizations and connections – at one and the same time, it felt like a house of cards was collapsing and a new pattern was emerging that held everything together, inside me and out, in a whole new way. A pattern that could hold everything. No exceptions. It could all be alright. Everything could be OK. It could all be part of the pattern. EVERYTHING could be part of the system. Because everything is.
I felt like I was watching the pretense collapse. The pretense that if I pretended hard enough, if I went along with the rules that had been set up for me, or that I had set up, I should be able to build a house of cards that could stand on its own and be strong and safe, something my children could count on, something we could all count on – but which I knew, with every fiber of my being, was impossible. That this house of cards was susceptible to collapse – destined to collapse – was in the process of collapsing, no matter how hard I tried to follow the human-designed rules, to try to make it stronger than the wind.
I looked up. Wildey was looking at me now. Clearly, he saw something of what was going on inside me, and was doing his best, just with his gaze, to support whatever that level of chaos was.
“Wildey, I just saw it. A way in. A key to the new game. Maybe THE key. Tell me, am I getting close?”
He just listened, and gave a little nod, asking, inviting, encouraging.
“I think the difference between the levels of the game is me being able to notice, instead of judge. I never, ever saw how much I was ALWAYS judging everything. EVERY. SINGLE. THOUGHT. Every single impulse.”
I was starting to cry now.
“Oh, my God, Wildey. I can see it. How I have judged every breath I have taken. Every thought I have thought, every feeling I have felt.”
The pain in my chest was squeezing the breath out of me.
“Oh, my God. And finally I get what you’re saying. I am an animal. A living, breathing, animal. And my animal – how hard I have been on my poor animal.”
He reached out and put his paw on my hand.
And I noticed. Through my tears, I saw that this time it was a paw, not a hand. How interesting, part of me thought.
Another part of me, a deep animal part, felt the paw and responded to the sensation. And I felt the pads on my own hand get rougher as I watched with wonder, as it turned into a small paw of its own.