I stepped outside just before sunset, to add a little birdseed to an empty feeder because I have a raccoon who comes to visit for a late-night snack. As I turned to walk back into the house, I noticed something watching me from the edge of the yard. A small red fox curled up on the grass, lay hidden under a low-hanging branch. I stood very still, holding her gaze for a few minutes before she popped up and darted into the woods.
As soon as the fox disappeared, something strange happened – something that’s been happening for a few weeks now. Upon seeing the fox, I felt a kind of childlike joy immediately followed by a mild sense of dread as if a gray cloud slid in front of my bright, sunny view.
It was automatic.
A strange warning of some kind, triggered by happiness.
I’ve been thinking about this reaction for a while now because it keeps happening. Why isn’t it okay to be happy, I’ve wondered. Have I developed some kind of neural program that keeps cutting off my joy? What do I need to do to stop this negative reaction?
This morning, after writing about it, I realized that what’s happening to me is what’s happening to all of us: Evolution.
Evolution occurs when we’re forced to respond to changes in our environment. Forced being the operative word. The pandemic has created massive changes – the end of routines that defined our lives, the loss of physical connection with one another, the disappearance of jobs, dreams, and livelihoods that provided a sense of security and a future we could rely on.
Evolution is messy. It throws systems, tribes, families, and all kinds of structures into chaos. It causes regressed behavior where our inner children hijack our adult bodies and attempt to make choices and decisions that get us back to how things used to be.
But there’s no going back.
Ultimately evolution stretches us into new, improved versions of ourselves if we let it. If we don’t, we suffer.
The way I’m learning to navigate this new life is by remaining curious about my state of mind, my response to people, places, and things, and to my inner life. This morning I realized that my negative reaction to anything pleasant or enjoyable isn’t pathological, it’s more reflective of a fear of trusting life amidst a shifting worldview.
Hold on, I tell myself. Ride the waves of change carefully and use this journey to develop important skills. I don’t know about you, but I’m learning how to be patient and present to discomfort and suffering. I’m also choosing to be respectful of others and their choices without overreacting or judging because we all respond to evolution in different ways.
I’m getting better at accepting the unknown rather than fighting against it. I guess you could say that I’m kicking and screaming my way to a reluctant collaboration with uncertainty 😀.
Most of all, I’m developing a sense of trust – in myself, in the future, in a bigger plan for humanity.
And in the meantime, I’ll take every little bit of joy I can wrap my eyes around.