“Don’t push the river, it flows by itself”
At first glance, the idiom “up a creek without a paddle” can convey you’re in serious trouble.
Imagine being on a strange river in a boat without an oar. Depending on the circumstances, you might be in an awkward position with no easy way out.
No way of escaping the river’s current. No means of taking life into your own hands.
Wait, maybe that’s not so bad.
That might be how our lives are meant to be lived.
For most of my life, I’ve had both hands tightly gripped on the oars straining to survive successfully.
It may have been the Puritan work ethic I learned in childhood–anything worth doing takes tremendous effort. If it wasn’t hard then it wasn’t worth doing. Hard work is a virtue.
To me, it feels uncomfortable, risky, unnatural to go with the flow of the river.
Pushing the river to increase the flow– or pushing against the flow to create my own countercurrent seems to be the accepted way of making progress in life.
Work hard to make something out of your life.
In the first half of my life, I was always pushing, pushing, pushing. I was an overachiever.
My fragile ego-self needed something to push against. Feeling the strain of life made me feel worthy of appreciation and affirmation. I felt guilty for not giving 110%, all the time.
Today, I find myself entering the second half of life. I’ve hung up my shingle. When people ask me what I do, it feels like I’m at an AA meeting. It feels like I’m coming clean to avoid denying my status in life.
“Hi, I am Paul. I’m retired.”
My identity and schedule reflect a seismic shift in my search for a purpose and engaging life. I’m noticing obituaries of my former patients in the paper and I’m invited to more funerals than weddings.
I’m no longer trying to figure out the meaning of life but to discover a meaningful way ofliving life.
Pushing the river no longer makes sense. Learning to let go and consent with the current of life does.
Trusting the flow is not taking it easy nor is it a leisure cruise. It’s looking beyond the limited horizon of myself, work, and a dream of some ideal life. I’m pursuing my calling in an ever-changing way right up until the end.
The soul flourishes with surrender and saying ‘Yes’ to life as it is. However, ‘Yes’ is terrifying to my ego which thirsts for security and control.
A meaningful life is not found in the safety of an easy chair or a self-righteous ivory tower.
As I affirm reality as it is, my soul is finding a way into greater fulfillment and peace.
It seems the rowboat has been gradually transformed into a sailboat. The wind provides the power and direction and I’m learning how to sail uncharted waters.
I guess sailboats don’t need a paddle if they have the wind at their backs.