I can’t wait for the new season to start

September 22nd, 2008

Have you ever noticed that right at the point life gets difficult, demanding more than you think you can give, there’s a nearly irresistible urge to change it? To change the channel, the mission, the purpose? From where I sit it sometimes seems that every mother of a minor child chooses the most full-on challenging time of life, with a newborn, say; or two kids under five; or a son in Iraq, a pregnant teen and a special needs infant; to strike out on a wild hair, try to write a book, start a new business, or otherwise engineer an amazing new life starring an incredible new you.

If you can swing it, hey, great. But most of us can’t. We just use that self-critical impulse – I should I wish I want – to beat ourselves up. I’m not who I want to be! I’m not creative enough, successful enough, and important enough! We’re desperate to fast-forward to a new season in our lives. Never mind the one we’re in.

We are an advanced society of channel changers, and the world, in its mess, shows us what happens when no one, absolutely no one can hold their attention steady for longer than 22 minutes.

Today I sat a daylong meditation retreat with a group of beginning students. A one-day meditation retreat is called a zazenkai. During one of these retreats we don’t do anything except keep company with ourselves. We’re not putting blinders on. We’re not imagining some future perfect world. We’re not sitting in caves. We see the world sinking into insanity; we see the chaos; we feel the fear and disappointment in our own lives and surrounding us. We just practice keeping company with it, for a change. We practice staying put, for a change. We practice noticing our uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, for a change, instead of just impulsively clicking a button to feed the ravenous demons of distraction. This takes utmost courage, perhaps the only courage there really is. The courage to face forward and see how things go.

There’s something you notice when you keep this kind of company, the company of things as they are.

The channel changes by itself. So does the season.

Happy autumn, everyone. Enjoy the show.


  1. I’ve worked for the same company for a long time. Longer than everyone else except for the housekeeper and the lawyer. I often feel that my other coworkers think there must be something wrong with me, that I lack drive or talent or something. Everyone else moves on after all.

    And I feel that I must justify staying. The owners don’t ask me this, of course. But every year I think I’ve got to explain myself and every year the reasons sound thinner and thinner.

    But I like the security and the work–and if I can’t afford to stay home and write, this is what I will do.

    Anyway, my point is–even if you feel like you don’t need to change the channel, someone will walk in and say, “Are you still watching that?”

    Comment by mapelba — September 22, 2008 @ 3:17 am

  2. This is maybe the third, fourth thing I’ve seen in the last few days that tells me I need to stop thinking about who I want to be and start giving a little more love to who I am. I wish I could attend your zazenkai but hey, I can’t! The me that I am is here. Doing this instead. And understanding that so many of the things I am/do that I don’t like, are in fact just ways to stop myself looking at her straight on.
    Thank you for adding your voice to the chorus that’s trying to wake me up!

    Comment by Jo — September 22, 2008 @ 10:05 am

  3. A wise woman once told me, “the grass grows by itself”…thank you for this mantra, wise woman!


    Comment by Wendy — September 22, 2008 @ 10:35 am

  4. Wonderful post. Reminds me of the feelings I had shortly after I gave birth to my son; how I wanted to be anywhere but here! But, there was no remote to fast forward or rewind, all I had was the present moment.


    Comment by Anna — September 22, 2008 @ 11:43 am

  5. If only I could sit all day today. But my son wants breakfast and the kids need to go off to school. Then we have things to return to the library and stuff to mail at the post office. And, of course, I have to work tonight. But I’ll make you a deal. At some point today I’ll sit down, turn my mind off, and knit for a spell. I have found that lateyI feel naked unless I knit – for me it is the equivalent of meditation.

    Comment by Shalet — September 22, 2008 @ 1:40 pm

  6. Thank you for a lovely reminder. I love the quote above “the grass grows by itself”.

    Comment by Tonia — September 22, 2008 @ 2:10 pm

  7. Thank you for another timely reminder.
    Hugs and blessings,

    Comment by storyteller — September 22, 2008 @ 2:15 pm

  8. Happy autumn to you too.

    What I”m feeling lately is that the channel changed quite quickly on me and it is a bit overwhelming. Seems we either want desperately for things to change or for things to stay the same!

    Comment by Mambinki — September 22, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  9. Firstly, I would like to say that the new season of Heroes starts tonight and I couldn’t be more excited.

    Secondly, I would like to say that I started a new novel when I was pregnant and the mother of a toddler, and then another when I had two under two, and now with a 3yo and an 18mo, I am about to attempt to start selling my art online (yes the flying girls [yikes!]) and sometimes I almost feel desperate to do these creative things so I can regain a piece of myself that seemed to have been missing.

    Thirdly, the only way I was actually able to achieve these things was to also begin to take stock of where I was in the very moment. Pay attention to the daily happinesses. Remember to care for myself, physically and spiritually. Use the creative practice AS a spiritual practice. Breathe deeply and release anxiety. Trust in the process. Take one step at a time and stop and feel the sun on my face.

    Comment by Rowena — September 22, 2008 @ 6:02 pm

  10. Always great to be reminded to stop and appreciate the life I have and not continuously distract myself from it.

    Nightmares and snuggles, kitten scratches and purring fluffballs, rain and rainbows. It is a happy glorious beautiful life – no need for anything more.

    It is a good day for smiling.

    Comment by Mrs. B. Roth — September 22, 2008 @ 6:09 pm

  11. Autumn is my favorite season – this was a great post I am printing it out and sticking it on my freezer to remind me to stay in the moment. Cat

    Comment by Cat — September 22, 2008 @ 7:21 pm

  12. I wish I was there practicing with you, in that very beginner’s class. I, unlike successful people, decided to do less after Anise was born. Maybe I will regret that. My career seems to be getting farther and farther away from me. I wish I had the energy to do more…

    Comment by Mika — September 22, 2008 @ 11:52 pm

  13. i seem to be caught up in life’s current these days…
    so out of touch, i was certain i’d missed almost all of fall.
    imagine my delight when today i stopped.
    took a deep breathe.
    and realized it’s only just begun.

    happy autumn, karen.
    i’ve missed you while i’ve been away πŸ˜‰

    Comment by Kirsten Michelle — September 23, 2008 @ 12:15 am

  14. This is a post I want to print out and sit and read with my breakfast cereal – instead of in the 22-minute rush of blog-reading after a twelve hour trip home from Seattle today.

    And then, just to sit. Without the reading or the breakfast or the tripping.

    It’s good to be back in a new season.

    Comment by Jena Strong — September 23, 2008 @ 1:39 am

  15. Oh, I wish I could come sit with you, and be amused at my wild mind. That would be just what the proverbial doctor ordered.

    Comment by Kyran — September 23, 2008 @ 2:48 am

  16. Thank you for your comments.
    In fact, I have been so emotional. Living in a kind of darkness really. I left a job, in May, happy to be shifting and able to focus more on the children. What I really need is some time to figure out who I am. When I worked I felt okay, but the kids were stressed and my husband struggled with doing half the “stuff”. Control freak that I am, I did not see what he could possibly be doing right. Now, while I have been home, I feel I have given and served so much that I am an empty vessel, when I hoped that giving and nurturing would fill my heart with joy. My children are thriving, my husband’s career is thriving, yet I feel lost and alienated. I then begin to think finding a job would break my funk, but I know on a deeper level that it is working through these feelings that will work in the long run. I ache in my bones for balance and the ability to forego guilt for being.
    I do believe that I am affected by the ADHD of society in general. I do believe that I embrace the role of martyr and then resent everyone for all the cool shit I should be doing. The expensive shoes I wish I had, the vacation or retreat I wish I could afford and so forth…
    Well for today, the only thing I could do was pack the kids and hike this first day of Fall, to where the air was crisp, the clouds were huge, the Aspens yellow and my heart at peace.

    Comment by Bridge — September 23, 2008 @ 3:11 am

  17. teach me all you know.

    Comment by jessamyn — September 23, 2008 @ 3:38 am

  18. I don’t want to re-engineer a new life. Just want to find the broken little pieces of me that I dropped along the way. Like, where did I put that creativity? πŸ˜‰

    I hurt my back (again) and think I missed that I’m supposed to slow down. Or just sit.

    Comment by denise — September 23, 2008 @ 4:27 am

  19. ABBA is my new Zen teacher. My daughter loves the ABBA song “Slipping through my fingers” which is about a Mom looking back wistfully at her daughter’s life, now that the girl is grown up and on her own. So here we are, driving to school, my girl is still here in my care, and I am crying over this song because I am glad that we are still together. I am grateful to appreciate this moment while I still have her hand in mine.

    Comment by MojoMom — September 23, 2008 @ 3:13 pm

  20. Oh, Karen, I often wonder how you get in my head the way that you do!

    Comment by Mama Zen — September 23, 2008 @ 5:59 pm

  21. This is one of the best posts ever. Happy autumn.

    Comment by Mary Ann — September 23, 2008 @ 6:13 pm

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