I woke up today thinking of Goldilocks. She seems like a random innocent little girl in a fairy tale story, but if you think about it, she’s a spiritual seeker. She enters the dangerous forest and dares to walk into the home of the three bears. From the beginning, the story is fraught with tension. When will they return? Is she aware how precarious her situation is? But nonplussed, off she goes to investigate.
First there’s the porridge that’s too hot or too cold. We know what that feels like, when life throws us into situations too hot to handle and we burn ourselves seeking nourishment. We read a book or go to a workshop or meet someone at a party and suddenly, our head is on fire, our old life is called to account and we’re faced with more change than we can handle. At the other end, we’re served up some old used dogma that’s passed through too many unthinking hands and heads, sit in the church service with everyone dutifully going through the motions, but it all feels lumpy and cold. And then we have the good fortune to sit down at the bowl just right. And so we eat.
Then come the chairs, too big or too small. That sense of looking for the life, the job, the person, that fits us. David Whyte has a good line, “Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.” (I think of this often walking through the tiny halls of my old familiar school after having traveled halfway around this big world to teach in China or Brazil or South Africa. But still, inside the classes with the kids and their large imaginations and boundless spirits and sometimes at the lunch counter with some intriguing spirited conversation with staff, the school size still fits.) Other things may be too large, demanding an aliveness from us that we’re not prepared to give in that moment. And so we go from chair to chair until we find the one just right.
Finally come the beds, too soft or too hard. The first is too comfortable, we sink down too deeply, no resistance and nothing to push up against (remember the fantasies about making love in waterbeds? It was ridiculous!), we find it hard to get out and going in the morning, covered in big fluffy pillows and down comforters and all pastel colors with pleasant landscape paintings on the wall. The next bed is too austere, our back hurts, we feel like monks in hairshirts with no conviction that pain is the path to salvation. And finally, the bed just right. Ah!
So on my 61st birthday, my mild vow is to stop complaining that I have only this and not that and come to terms with the truth of the life I’ve landed in being just right. Of course, I’ll keep tasting the porridge I’m served, try out the chair sizes and bed firmness, but crank up the gratitude for what comes my way and tone down the thwarted ambitions. I might as well enjoy it all while I can, knowing that the three bears are going to come home someday and chase me back screaming into the forest.