It is okay not to finish a book
Every so often I find myself in the midst of more than one book at a time. Someone said to me the other day that they are learning that it is ok to not finish a book, to take what you came for and leave when you are no longer interested, instead of having to finish to the end because you started.
I loved the liberation living in her words……and the testament they gave to the softening wisdom that is the recompense on offer for the inexorable, wrinkly sagging of our skin.
I have a client at the moment who frequently says, “I don’t quit.”
These “identity statements” that we carry around with us can, I think, sometimes prevent us from yielding ourselves to the fine, fine wind that takes its course through our chaotic world.
In one of the three books I have on the go at the moment, a simply stunning gift from my dear friend and colleague, Maryse Barak, who often bequeaths me heart-opening words either in her speaking or in books and poems she shares with me, I read these words this morning:
In the last month I have found myself traveling through the territories created in the human landscape by conflict. And so, I have been thinking afresh about the life-long journey I have taken with this topic. It’s been a pilgrimage, sometimes tortuous, a tricky navigation, with the occasional waterfall pool hidden in a crevice along the way.
Maybe conflict is a signpost every time: an invitation from our minds to shatter. For conflict, it seems to me, is held in place by our minds being made up about each other, or about the situation we find ourselves in.
Dissolution is built in. Things fall apart, not together. Humans bind things together and expend energy on keeping them there. Tending to relationships and things is part and parcel of our daily life, weeding, plastering over the cracks that appear as the things we have built succumb to the inevitable trajectory of disintegration.
One of the most insightful models I have ever encountered in the last 32 years of my work is the Adult Cycle of Renewal from Frederic Hudson. In my reading of his insight, he seemed to be saying that it is in our nature to want to skip winter. We try and avoid what the natural world yields itself to annually. We shore ourselves up. Build barriers against. Hunker down. Prevail. And there is beauty and courage in our efforts.
But, maybe, things need to fall apart? So that they can renew. In the last two months, here in the smallest but most generously inhabited of the world's nine Floral Kingdoms, we have been treated to spring. Pincushions, Amaryllis, Karoo violets, hundreds of different Proteas, all of them spectacular and my absolute favourites, the Bokbaaivygies – their colours so brilliant and jewel-like that you’d swear someone had been out in the night with a box of enamel paints.
None of this display would be possible without winter. That permission that life gives itself to let go, to die, to rest, to lie fallow.
In February, during her annual visit to South Africa, I loved what Nancy Kline said about being wrong about each other. From her words I took this learning: whatever I think about someone else, I am almost certain to be more wrong than right! In the minute gaps between the decisions my mind makes itself up about, moment by moment, on people and things, lies a territory of not-knowing. Not knowing, for us humans, could seem like the winter. Herein lies uncertainty, confusion, discomfort, feeling lost, lonely, rudderless.
As I journey again and again through the jurisdiction of conflict, I see a light beckoning: let your mind shatter itself, yield to the fine wind, let go, let come, things fall apart. And then, they renew.