Tuesday, June 08, 2010


There are lots of reasons—and good reasons—we are vigilant in our lives. We want to protect our families. We hope to protect ourselves. We watch our money. We notice where the dandelions spring up in our yards. We saw that look he gave you. We wonder whether our jobs will last. We watch for clues—continually—from our environment. When to laugh, when to look up, when to duck.

Some of us learn vigilance very early as a creative adjustment to a situation in which we needed to keep our eyes open and our wits about us. We were always watching, watching. Thinking, thinking. Preparing a mental plan. If he comes home drunk, I'll do this. If she doesn't come home at all tonight, I'll do that.

I've been thinking a lot about my own vigilance lately, about the gifts it's given me (it's a create tool for any writer, because it helps you notice absolutely everything), as well as the challenges, the straightjacket, it offers the way I look at the world. Sometimes my vigilance is exhausting because it wants me not only to notice everything but to anticipate everything and then to do exactly the right thing with the information popping up for my noticing. This is, of course, impossible.

Vigilance also doesn't really know the limits of her own powers—she's immature in that way. She promises perfect safety. She promises that we'll know what to do. But she doesn't see how her presence changes things that arise. Allowing and Breathing let whatever is emerging in the moment show up, unshaped, unmolded, reasonably—or relatively—uncontrolled. But Vigilance holds everything tightly in the name of keeping the person safe. This means a certain amount of shaping, controlling has to go on—there is a forced construct to protect.

I think it's possible to soften Vigilance into Noticing, which can then relax into the arms of Allowing. A certain amount of growth in safety has to happen to make that journey, and a supportive environment that can be trusted is certainly part of the mix.

Maybe there's enough distance now between the Us we were then and the Us we are now to allow our Vigilance to soften into Noticing. Many things we perceived as threats when we were small may now be annoyances or even less—just small things we now know how to manage. Let's soften where we can, and gradually, slowly, Allowing might just step into our pictures.