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by Christine Cavalier

a picture looking up a big flight of metal stairs at night, empty but for one woman walking up them

I don’t know what to do with myself in this climate. Hate seems to be all around me.

Facebook is an infrequent visit, Twitter I’ve all but abandoned. Instagram and Pinterest I try daily to interact with, faithfully adding a picture to Insta and a tech culture development to my Cyberpunk board. Look toward the future while staying firmly in the present, I tell myself. It isn’t possible, of course. I do know this: The past needs to stay there. (It never does.)

My own present cave of mind is relatively peaceful. This week has been kind enough to provide me with comparisons between me now and me then. I wish I could tell you the exact steps I took in this journey of growth but I cannot. It’s terribly hard to give someone directions when one is still wandering. Some things stick out though: One must read a lot, I suspect, to get any insight into being human; Stories, not web articles or social media essays (like this one), are the keys to brighter minds; You must awaken your brighter mind, that forgotten thing hiding in the corners of your existence, and you must do that by (almost) any means necessary.

Behavioral economics books pique my analytical side. Self-help-with-a-twist books give my spirit the idea to soar. Fiction settles and puts me firmly in the place of the gods of my imaginings.

One’s body must move to be able to read. For the intellect to absorb, the body must move. For the hands to produce, the intellect must be fed. I once saw a doctor speak* and he said the hip, glutes and legs must move daily, preferably vigorously, for anxiety to stay at bay. We must internally know (like an ancient instinct all animals have) that we can “outrun the lion.” A smart therapist I saw once told me anxiety is the result when we (think we) have fewer skills than the current challenge requires. We will have less anxiety if our primate brains think we can get out of a bad situation quickly. We will have better lives if we have more faith in our abilities. I walk and walk and walk. I do yoga. I stretch, and not only metaphorically.

a silhouette of a woman meditating against a sunset over an oceanStillness and presence I’ve learned to adopt as my own, and not as oppression from a religious order that could barely be bothered with my young (i.e. yet non-childbearing) female existence. I have no evidence to share other than my suspicions: Stillness is an ability that is part of outrunning the lion. Meditation changed my neuromap, methinks. How can daily sitting and breathing and not judging the vicious traffic of thoughts rushing by change one’s brain structure? It seems silly. But I can feel a difference I won’t be bothered with explaining. Try it yourself.

Might and wonder must be managed. I can manage none but one: myself. Myself is a wild, bold thing, though, and has always been such. Resolute on undignified habits and unsightly ideas. “Manage” being a euphemism here for “mudwrestling my soul into submission,” a more apt description. You’re probably right when you say such a pursuit is futile. I know many people who would say all pursuits are futile, from laundry to orbiting the earth. My child will still call for his favorite Star Wars shirt come Tuesday.

Yesterday I was navigating an errant garbage bin lid and it occurred to me that all that lama-la-la bullshit about “the journey is the destination” is probably, devastatingly, true. The lid, laying there in the walk, sprouted a soul and wailed, “What if this is it? This is all there is, this is the best it gets?” And I thought of airports and trains and stations afar, the places for which “destination” was coined, and the sidewalk in front of me bent and swayed as the traffic chugged by, steam coming from my face and clouding my polarized lenses. I’m here. Mary Bailey wished to simply exist, in that Wonderful Life house, with that existential bum of a husband George, and she got her wish. She finished a leg of her journey and started another. The movie really doesn’t hold up, all these years away from the imposed stillness of my childhood (for the love of cranberries, go on a trip already, George. Work/life balance, FFS), but Mary knew the skinny. The steps are the goal, not the landing at the top.

So yay! We’re on the steps. We’ve gotten to the steps. We’re here. Let the fun begin.

Resolve to do the steps. Walk. Move, literally, your ass and legs. Start small. Slow. Short. Increments are just steps by another name. Each step, whether up or down, is going in the right direction. Did you know as the number of quitting attempts go up, the likelihood of the smoking stoppage goes up? It’s as if smokers must log about 8-10 attempts before one sticks**. This is life. This is why you should resolve to do many things in the new year. Again and again. Resolve on revolve. One will stick.

Since some of you asked, here are 3 books I enjoyed in the last few years of me on my particular flight of stairs. See my goodreads lists for some others. No epiphanies guaranteed, but at least one is probable, if you’ve been walking enough. https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1726198-christine-cavalier


Resolve not to be better this year. Resolve to be.



*Kenneth Ginsburg 

**Stats on quitting, Public Health Law Center 



Roma Street Steps by Andrew Sutherland on Flickr

“Stillness” by Varia on Flickr