the process is the reward
I didn't want to write this week. I thought about skipping it. I felt that old familiar part of me rebel against my own commitment just so I could feel in control and let myself know that I'm free to do whatever I want... I knew this moment would come when I put it out there that I would write again. Riding the high wave of starting something new, the energy from the honeymoon phase and then... dopamine crash. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, that chemical feel good messenger that acts as a reward center in the brain, giving us satisfaction and motivation when we get a reward, a like, a thumbs up, positive feedback. I know all too well (and I'm sure you do, too) if we are doing things just for the reward of what we will get, the incentive to keep going will wear off once we acclimate to the reward and then we will most likely give up, do something else, move on, talk ourselves out of it and/or look for greater, shinier, better rewards to motivate us.
I remember taking this photo 5+ years ago on the way through Bedrock, Colorado back to our tiny glorified house/shed/schoolie bus-combo living quarters in La Sal, Utah. We had a one year old beautiful girl and a baby on the way. I very much remember the feeling I had in the moment of this snapshot... "Here I am... a dream come true.. this is what it looks like right now... this is it... I am free and rich in love just going down the road of life... I am so grateful." It was a beautiful moment.
Probably somewhere later that day there was a diaper blowout or 2, a fair bit of nausea, a tantrum and me cursing about how I had to go to the school bus to use the "bathroom"... again. Moments come and moments go... and, thank god, they come again. The miracle of those divine moments, both easy and stormy, only happen in the present.. not in the past or the future.. but in the present when you're paying attention and can remember to embrace the full spectrum.
I heard a yoga saying recently that "strength without flexibility is rigidity and flexibility without strength is instability." What a fantastic thing to remember about life! If we are too flexible without a backbone or a vision for who we want to be in our lives then we would be totally unstable, unhinged, yielding, without root. If we push the river with our strength, wrestle our way through, force, remain overly structured and rule bound, we become inflexible, overbearing, and we lack spontaneity, play and the joy for existence.
Once when I was telling a mentor of mine about how I rebel and sabatoge just so I can feel free, he looked me in the eyes with that smile of his and said "yes, but there's freedom in structure." Like everything, there's a balance, and usually our bodies act as a barometer for when that balance is pushing the boundary one way or the other. We feel the tension build, the rigidity, the furrow in our brow or maybe we feel the spaciness, the lack of commitment, the unsteadiness of our step.
So it's the journey, isn't it then? The road. The trip. The adventure.. THAT is the reward. The vulnerability of asking for help, the imperfections. Not having it all together and then showing up anyway, taking another step, picking up the pen. Asking ourselves, well what if I allow myself to feel all of this and then do it anyway? or not? How will I do it differently if I get to have another go?
Every moment the universe begins again. And that dopamine is released, the chemical messenger that is responsible for learning, attention and pleasure, every time I remember that. That I don't need to quit one thing and start something new, because every moment is new. Every moment is a chance to start again, to apologize or to say thank you, to catch a breath, to have a cry or a laugh, to get yourself out of the ditch and back on the road. The process, the journey of going down the road of life at all, is the reward in and of itself.