This happened. My career changed overnight. My personal relationships mutated in shocking ways. My financial Plan B was revealed as unfeasible. My living arrangement became highly temporary and unstable. I had no family support, no fallbacks left. I was in the middle of an enormous bout of writer’s block. Moreover, I was beginning to experience health problems. The excrement had hit the air conditioning in every area of my life. The small things to which I had clung for a semblance of stability had dissolved completely. I felt extreme anxiety and began to entertain thoughts as dark as my situation. But it’s not in my nature to give up as long as there is something I can do to remedy a problem. I felt there must be a way forward, I just couldn’t see what it was.
Then, while giving advice to a former student on a slightly different subject (the role of writing in professional life), I had a moment of clarity about something I had never fully understood until that moment: everything is dynamic. Everything moves. Nothing stands still. It’s an easy concept to thoughtlessly embrace until we are forced to realize it firsthand by looking around at every aspect of our lives. Even though we may think we’ve built havens of stability in our lives, we’re deceiving ourselves. As soon as we say, “Well, at least I can rely on my job / house / spouse / skill set / religion / health,” we’re buying into an illusion of stability in order to feel better. All of these things can change radically at any moment. Maybe the only constant is change–even if this idea is trite, even if it’s become a self-help cliché. I think it’s painfully true nevertheless. At least, that was my experience. That is what I realized, which brought me a great deal of insight, and from insight came the relief I was seeking.
If everything is dynamic, if everything changes and we change with it, then is there a more accurate model for the good life? That was the next logical question I asked. I needed an answer fast if I was going to avoid being dragged into a highly uncomfortable state of personal and professional ruin. It seemed that if change is inevitable and omnipresent, the key to living well is not to fight it. That is impossible if change is the basis of everything. Instead, the good life may come from participating more mindfully in the transformations we care about. If our personal relationships are changing, how can we engage with and direct that change for the most fulfilling possible outcome? If our professional fields are changing, how can we adapt and position ourselves such that we can continue with the highest degree of personal satisfaction?
I found answering these questions difficult. In fact, I’m still trying to answer them. Maybe the answers, too, are dynamic, protean, constantly subject to revision. That made sense the more I thought about it. It could be that as we change, our range of personal truth–what constitutes our highest good–has to change as well. What will it be today? What do I want it to be? What new directions should I take? What new worlds are coming into being right now?
“Nothing stands still – everything is being born, growing, dying – the very instant a thing reaches its height, it begins to decline – the law of rhythm is in constant operations.” – Three Initiates, Kybalion: A Study of the Hermetic Philosophy of Ancient Egypt and Greece