Different words speak to us at different times in our lives. In 7th grade language arts our teacher Mrs. Ostrander had us create a scrapbook based on writings out ourselves — in retrospect it was the beginning of my reflective nonfiction habit. We imagined our lives in 20 years, wrote about a fear, meditated on our name, and wrote a poem about a word that that summarized our self. Mine was befuddled.
I imagine that I liked the sound of this hybrid word – muddled and bewildered; but it also sums up so well that state of being 12, betwixt and between childhood and adulthood. (With a 12-year old in my house now, I’m amazed by how much of an adult she is, how already distant her child self often seems.) Befuddled also spoke to a state of being that I would carry with me into my college and 20-something years of searching for answers in a muddled and bewildering world.
Coming out of the blue sky clarity of my recent California trip – the crystalline ocean air, the piney smells of Point Reyes – I have been re-experiencing that lifelong befuddlement. At the grocery store on Sunday, looking at grocery carts filled with every form of flour and corn syrup imaginable and shopper’s drawn faces, wondering “Why do we live this way?” Bombarded with ads for big screen TVs and cheap clothes, feeding our compulsion to have more and more, I experience a pang of lost opportunity for us all.
In short, befuddlement is an easy place for me to live. Not pleasant, but easy. It’s where my dial naturally turns.
So I have been challenging myself to hold on to other words, to hold them by the ankles as they take flight. I started with authentic and balance and life’s work (ok, a phrase). I am drawn also to spacious and effortless, to expansion and dare. I am inviting these words to fill me with light and air – just as I invite my yoga classes to do that the end of each class – “Breathe light and air into your core – expand that light and air into your limbs as you come alive.” Because coming alive is the most essential life’s work there is. Alive is perhaps the most essential of all words.