Dani Shapiro
November 14, 2008

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

I think one of the hardest things to accept in life is that nothing remains the same. I remember, last year, when we were in Positano, Italy for the Sirenland Conference, we were staying in the most magnificent room with a bathtub overlooking the Tirreno Sea, and our first night there, I found myself melancholy: a week from now, we will have to leave this room, was my thought. I will never be in a room this beautiful, ever again. Instead of simply living in the moment, I was already mourning the moment passing. I knew I was doing it–but I couldn’t stop myself. Watching my son Jacob grow and change is a big part of the process of understanding that life speeds by. Just yesterday, I stood and watched him on the monkey bars after school. While he swung easily from bar to bar, I was aware that even six months ago, he couldn’t have navigated the monkey bars. What will he be doing six months from now? Six years? In the area of Connecticut where we live, this year’s crop of Eighth Grade boys are looking at boarding schools for next year. When we moved to Connecticut, those boys were all younger than Jacob is today.

Everything changes. It all whizzes by so fast. As I work on Devotion, I’m increasingly aware of this, because the process of writing Devotion is one of slowing down. Of opening myself to the truth of what is. But slowing down is not the same thing as freezing time. There is no freeze-frame in this life of ours. Just a constant adaptation. We begin again. We re-invent. We plow forward, two steps forward, one step back. In the words of the great Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfeld: this too, this too, this too. It’s a journey that is changing me in good ways–but also in painful ones. At times, I feel like the Velveteen Rabbit. Rubbed raw.