Tuesday, January 18, 2011

simply hanging on

Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center

This poem hit me today.

the climbing gym

The mats below the wall are three inches thick, at least.

I could fall if I had to and nothing would break. Still, I dig fingertips

into the handholds, trying to fight gravity. I'm at my freest

letting go, but surrender is never casual. My heart flops and slips

each time, bruised and shaken. Even here, with such ample cushioning below,

I resist the drop. And it takes everything as each tendon and muscle strains,

the skin of my hands rubbing raw, the ascension slow

and shaky, my toes at the slimmest ledges, and blood hammering my veins.

This is what is being asked: move up or come down.

There’s no reward for simply hanging on.

It’s written by Maya Stein, a woman I met in Mondo Beyondo. Maya writes a 10-lined poem every Tuesday, and this is the one I received today. The last line just kills me. “There’s no reward for simply hanging on.”

That is what I feel like I’ve been doing since my father died; hanging on. I’ve not moved forward. I’ve felt paralyzed.

There is so much I want to do. Currently, I’m taking Susannah Conway’s Unravelling course, and today in one of my writing assignments, I wrote down what I wanted to be:

dancer/photographer/interpreter(sign language)/Francophile

Well, guess what else I discovered? All four of these require a lifetime of learning and devotion. Which leads me back to Maya’s poem: “…move up or come down. There’s no reward for simply hanging on.”

I’ve just been hanging on. I’ve been imprisoned by the grief; felt safer in my home than going after the things I desire.

Last week, I had dinner at Girl and The Goat (trip #3!) with Laura (another friend from Mondo Beyondo), and she made 2010 her best year ever, and I’m pretty sure every year after will just get better and better. She has a fantastic plan for 2012, and I want to do it too. But that means I’ll have to leave my safe home, and go out into the world.

I’ve been excited about 2011; I wake up every morning looking forward to making some things happen. But inevitably, I don’t accomplish much. It’s like there is so much to do, I don’t know where to start. It’s kind of like the same feeling I get with decluttering my home or office, there’s just so much to do, that I don’t know where to begin.

All four of the things I want to become require a lot of work, but they are things I enjoy doing. I just need a plan and a schedule (and to follow that sucker). They require me to ‘move up or come down’. Because there is no doubt “there’s no reward for simply hanging on.”


  1. A wise friend once said, "Start where you are."

    Wherever that is. However insurmountable it seems. Just pick one thing and do it. Then pick another. Sort through one drawer, don't worry about the whole office.

    Hugs to you, friend. Grief lasts a long time. But time always helps.

  2. I completely understand your grief, as we have similar stories. I've decided to make 2011 my year to break out. The hard part is indecision. Once you decide, then small steps in that direction will eventually take you there. Much love, Beth T.

  3. Nat:

    To echo Beth - once that one drawer is sorted, the momentum will carry you to the next drawer, and then the desk, and then the filing cabinet and eventually, before you know it - the whole office. Soon, you'll be looking for more clutter to slay.

    I am, as usual, touched and moved by your revelations and ability to share them with us out here in the space between. I'm saddened that your grief still has a hold on you, but if it weren't important (and necessary and real), it wouldn't be here.

    If there's anyone who's going to jump forward (and jump so far that you have nothing to 'hang on' to), it's you and we're all fortunate to be along for the ride.

    Be juicy, Nat. I can't wait to hear what 2011 has in store for you.

  4. I have to agree, just take one tiny baby step every day and you will get there. I will send you my full plan, it is overwhelming, so I break it into tiny chunks.

    I love that idea... there can be nothing achieved by just hanging on.

  5. In case anyone needs more justification, on the cap of my Honest Tea (Peach Oo-la-long, in case anyone's interested...) the quote reads:

    To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself. - Soren Kierkegaard

    I think that says it all.


  6. Natalie,

    Once you decide to work on you "wanna be list" you will find it is not hard work but true enjoyment. And you know your Dad would not be happy with you hiding at home. Get out and enjoy.

  7. Boy that was a good blog. For me, hanging on is probably my safe mode (I don't like changes). When I have an unpleasant task to do (declutter), I set my "timer" for 1 hr. and feel good even if it's 1 drawer cleaned out. I know -- it is so overwhelming! xox

  8. I hope 2011 is your best year ever -- and I know where she's going, but I don't always agree with Maya... We ARE always being asked to move up or down, or to lead or follow, or just to get out of the way. But I don't believe that that "There's no reward for just hanging on..." Maybe on a rock wall, but this is about life...

    Sometimes "just hanging on" lets you gather your thoughts, your emotions, and your strength... There was a time when I could do nothing but wait, and hang on -- and not let go, and not give up -- but just hang there, in neutral, and hope... It's a time to get in touch with yourself -- and a time to realize what's worth hanging on for...

    Of course, there's also a time to get off your a$$ and get to work...

    xoxox Steve

  9. +1 for Steve's post. There's something to be said for just hanging on for a bit when things get rough.

    As to getting started...remember that old (OLD) joke? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. It works so well that the Japanese have come up with a name for it: Kaizen.

    I recommend a book called, "One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way" by Robert Maurer. I read it a few years ago, and when I start to feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and remember Kaizen. When you narrow your focus down to one small, seemingly insignificant step, it's much easier than looking at the whole elephant.

    Good luck, Natalie! May 2011 be your breakout year!