Life Is Unfolding
by Chris de Serres
There’s a certain subtle truth about the highs and lows in life. Our happiest moments don’t always feel as happy as they are supposed to be. Reflecting back I would often wonder if there was something wrong with me and my ability to receive love. Maybe the past and our biological makeup somehow inhibits us. Maybe we just don’t feel like we deserve it.
It’s in all the movies we watch. That moment. That unattainable moment. I’m not sure we experience life with those really high highs even as it’s idealized and desperately sought after.
It could be that we fail to recognize our happiest moments. Our happiness radar is off by a few degrees and we always seem to be just a few moments away from it.
When my best friend died I couldn’t mourn him ‘properly.’ I clammed up and went away. I tried to emotionally ignore the realization. To this day I don’t feel like I honored him in the way that he deserved. There was this nagging feeling inside that I didn’t see what was happening and I missed it.
Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, Anthony Robbins and all the rest insist that life is made up of moments. Even many of the great spiritual schools such as Buddhism tells us our goal is just this moment. It is as if we need to envelope the present experience and process all of it properly in real time to truly succeed with it. Once the moment passes it is gone and it can’t be had back no matter how hard we try.
Yet I was reading a poem this morning which revealed a fundamental truth in experience. Things unfold so slowly and whether we like it or not we have to let it. It’s a coffee maker offering each drop slowly over time and space. So slowly. We process each individual drop. Someday we see the cup for what it is and we are ready to absorb it fully later on.
It made me think of my wedding day and the birth of my daughter. I was so anxious. Not really knowing what to do with myself. Those were my best moments, but my full happiness for them was spread out over time. As I was able to absorb how they truly affected me and my quality of life. These moments weren’t really moments. They unfold like layers and the meaning we attach to them keeps changing.
It may be that we put too much pressure on ourselves to honor our moments. To live up to them. To be acutely aware of every detail. To zero in on it’s profoundness. That may not come till much later.
If there is no spirit unfolding itself in history,
No gradual growth of consciousness
Beneath the land grabs and forced migrations,
The bought elections, the betrayal of trust
By party faction in the name of progress—
What about spirit in the personal realm
Unfolding slowly inside us, so slowly
That our best days seem like a holding action?
Seasons repeat themselves, but the tree
Shading the yard keeps growing.
Don’t be chagrined that the sadness you felt
This evening beside the bed of a friend
Who’s growing weaker wasn’t more profound
Than the sadness of yesterday, that you still
Can’t imagine a fraction of what he’s feeling
As the world he loves slips from his grasp,
No progress from your perspective,
But who’s to say what you might notice
If the scroll of the last few months were unrolled
On the table before you, how clear it might be
That your understanding of all you’re losing
In losing him has been slowly deepening?
Another day, you say to yourself, at dusk
As you climb your porch steps, which you notice
Could use some scraping and painting this weekend,
A fresh coat that with luck will last a year.