Thursday, March 3, 2011

FORTYNESS..... Helium and Stones

Helium and stones...What does this have to do with fortyness?

At this stage of life most of us have had a lot of life experience. Hopefully most of it has been good, but probably some of it has been not so good either. I have heard the "good stuff" referred to emotional currency deposit or filling the tank, and the bad stuff as withdrawals or emptying of the tank. Both the bank and fuel metaphors are fitting, but I look at it a bit differently. I prefer to think of it as helium and stones.

Our daily lives and travel along a plane. When good things happen, we feel good, happy, and uplifted. You know these things - coming home to a kitchen that was cleaned up by the kids without prompting, hitting every green light on the drive home, finding $20 in the pocket of the jeans you wore a month ago - that's helium. The more good, the higher we feel. The good stuff, like helium, rises us above the normalcy we exist in. It sort of makes us feel like we are floating above the plane of our everydayness. When bad things happen we feel weighed down, frustrated, and question ourselves. The struggles, kids fighting, the routineness of a job, even things that we once embraced can begin to weigh on us.

The helium and stones are contradictory to each other. One lifts us up, one pulls us down. Too much helium and we float out of reality in a constant state that can't be maintained. When we eventually fall back to normal, the thud into reality is pretty painful. When we are bogged down with too many stones we are pulled beneath the surface and suffocate. Weighted with stones climbing back up to normal is pretty tough.

With the perspective, we can keep a balance between the lift of the helium and the weight of the stones. When our feet start to lift, we should keep our eye on the ground so we remember that what we are feeling is good, but it is not what we should expect in every moment of life. When the bad happens, we should keep our gaze up to see that the stones will not always encumber us. We need to keep normal, reality, and real life in our sight. We can also change the perspective of what we define as helium and what we define as stones. Of course we will always have things that make us feel like a we are on a hot air balloon ride and things that feel like boulders crushing us. But, some of the small things in life can be a greater lift....if we let them be. Conversely, some of the stuff that seems so big and heavy can be more like a pebble than a stone if we let them be.

As fortyness sets in, I see I have a lot more control over the plane I am floating in than I realize. I can recognize those things that raise me up and those things that weight me down. I have learned when I need to let go of a balloon to keep sight of the ground, and when to empty stones out of my pockets to make my ascent easier. As the perspective of over 40 years of life experience influences how I look at things, I have learned how embrace and manage my helium and stones.

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