To know bliss.

As I have mentioned here and there in previous blog posts, I have spent the last several months working to better myself. I’ve been reevaluating and reworking the way I eat, sleep, study, think–everything I can to be able to live my life as fully and as happily as I can.

I am extremely lucky. I ventured onto this path of my own free-will–of my own, gradual accord; I was not forced into making dramatic, life-changing decisions by some horrendous or intolerable happenstances of unfortunate fate. I was not depressed (besides an altogether lack of sun exposure), I was not ill, I was not failing; my life, to be honest, was actually already moving along in quite an agreeable direction. I simply decided to take advantage of the time I have at this age and at this stage in my life, with little more than just a couple of new stretchmarks and my persistent arthritis to coerce me.

Truthfully, now that I think about it, I can honestly say that I’m almost fond of these two little stretchmarks–the ones I discovered that January night, bright and red and angry, punctuating my ventral surface like a pair of parentheses around my belly button. Shallow as it makes me seem, I recall discovering them and deciding then that enough is enough, and that it’s time to change. (Grateful as I am for that, though, I won’t be at all upset to be rid of them someday, if they do decide to fade as some others have done!)

Anyway, back in January I decided that it was time for some active modification, and began a process that ended up blooming into this big, beautiful project I’ve now pretty much been entirely sucked into. (Just picture some big, beautiful non-stinky corpse flower or something, and imagine me snuggled up all nice in it. Because that’s totally what I just envisioned when I spewed out that sentence. Don’t ask me why, because I’m not really sure.)

Since January, I’ve changed so much of how I live my life and so much about me. I’ve already lost more than 30 pounds! And hell, I’ve even changed the way I wash my hair. (..but we’ll discuss that some other day. Maybe.) I’ve found recently that this drastic revision of myself has not only changed the way I do things, but it’s had a massive impact on how I think and how I feel, as well.

Have you ever plopped down in the grass and found perfect bliss, right then and there? Do you remember the faint tickle of grass on your ankles; the scent of the air being drawn to your lungs; the faithful stability of the vertebrae of your spine and the ribs of your trunk, interlocking one after another in a beautiful, living cradle?

I remember feeling this way. I remember it from those special moments that came every once in a while as I was growing up. They’d come as presents–as offerings from life itself–in the form of a warming, sunny day; those charged minutes of sacred silence just before the rains; the earthy serenity that accompanies getting thoroughly drenched while watching the dance of a summer thunderstorm. These moments are the ultimate invitation to be entirely in oneself and to be held by the earth, simultaneously, if only just for a few, precious breaths.

In recent years, I’ve mourned the scarcity of such times. With the increasing demands of piling work, crammed schedules, haunting anxieties, and lofty existential concerns (not to mention aching bones and creaking–or more recently, squishing–joints), the precious opportunities to sit and simply relish inhaling and exhaling in a moment of perfectness all but vanished.

Until now.

In these past few weeks, I have found myself in a new place, or in a new way of being, to risk sounding like I’m full of it. But really, I can’t count on one hand how many times just this week I’ve caught myself completely and delightfully attuned to the sound of my breath, the vigor of the Scottish gust, or the bolster of the earth under my feet.

I find these days that I can turn my attention to the cadence of my own pulse, and with it, return to a special haven, over and over again.

I don’t know what it’s called, and I don’t really know how I learned it, whatever it is I’ve gotten into the habit of doing these days. Maybe it’s a form of mindfulness, or meditation, or both, and I’ve just finally figured out for myself how it works. Maybe the yoga I’ve been doing for the past month has helped me get here. Maybe it’s the confidence I’ve developed in this new me I’ve been building since January.

Maybe it’s all of those.

Regardless of its name, this new means of experiencing that bliss which I’ve treasured since I was an awkward little girl is perhaps the most valuable feature I’ve found for myself on this path of change, however unintentional an acquisition it may have been. With this new ability comes the habit of noting that which is beautiful, that which is stable, and that which is trusted; with this new tendency, optimism (a jewel which I have fought long and hard to earn and keep).

I find these days that I am happier now, and that I can consciously acknowledge this state. Life is not perfect–it’s never meant to be: my joints still ache, the Atlantic is still vast, and the world still hungers. But today, that birdsong which delighted me this morning is still enchanting me tonight, and that chocolate I just indulged in an hour ago is still just as rich and decadent in my memory. Sure, my spine hurts and will likely have me hobbling a bit like an old crone when I finally decide to head to bed for the night, but it still holds my weight, and it’ll still be there in one, fully-articulated piece in the morning. I’m sure that, under the skin, it’s just as profoundly lovely as any other specimen of that labyrinth of bone, sinew, and nerve–a natural masterpiece just as striking, just as wondrous. (..though perhaps not quite as anatomically sound.) My knees are likely a biomechanical wreck down there, but what’s nature without imperfections? A little give in the wrong direction shouldn’t topple the tree.

You know, when I write these blog posts, I often get a little lost as to how I should be finishing them off. (Sorry.) A conclusion, I’ve been taught, should be effective: it should settle and it should resolve. A particularly effective conclusion should, however, accomplish this without being an ending; a book which you can simply return to a shelf and be done with may not have been worth the read in the first place. The cessation of a line of text shouldn’t signal the end of consideration of its written contents, no matter to what extent the conclusion is agreeable or satisfying. The same principle applies to where I am in my life, now. I am a dramatically happier and healthier person than I was about eight months ago when I began this ambitious string of changes, and in just a handful of days, I will be drawing up the end of a particular chapter by finally returning for a visit home after my first year of being a vet student. I feel like I’m going home a much-improved version of the girl who left last year, and I’m really proud of it. I’ve had a few people ask me where the end-goal of all of this life-changing stuff is, and to be honest, I don’t think there is one. It sounds nuts, but I’ve grown really fond of this self-improvement thing. Maybe that’s half the point of learning to tune in to that happy place somewhere inside your head. Maybe the idea of it all is to be able to consistently remind oneself of and build that foundation of inner strength and peace, so that one can always have the confidence to look ahead and explore further for more to learn and develop. Sure, I could probably be perfectly content for the rest of my life if I stopped and simply maintained the stage I am at today; I’m in a good place, physically and mentally. But I think that we are all born with an ingrained potential to grow and improve, and it would be an awful waste to sit back and accept a stagnant finish. The sun, in all its glory, will continue to rise and fall and rise again–I think I’ll just keep chasing it.

..Even from here, in cloudy Scotland. ;)

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