“being ready” versus “being open”

When I was a new grad, I was learning and growing so much every single day that I had a hard time keeping up with myself.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a physical growth spurt in my life, but I imagine it feels a lot like how pubescent boys seem to be clumsy as their bodies grow exponentially in a day or two: tripping over themselves, sore knees, and awkwardly moving through the world. As I moved through my early and mid twenties, I eventually found my footing and became grounded and stable in who I was.

Lately, I feel like I’m in another one of those growth spurts. I thoroughly enjoy the sensation of exponential growth. But I feel, again, like I’m experiencing so many things that I’m having a challenging time integrating all of it. All the delicious goodness keeps piling on, and I LOVE it! But I also haven’t fully finished “processing” all the “older” goodness, so it can be a bit disorienting and overwhelming. Regardless, I’m grateful to be where I’m at and I’m taking it all in.

I’ve been exploring a handful of concepts during this season: expansion versus deepening. Teacher versus student. Masculine versus feminine. Head versus heart (a constant for me). Hunger versus gratitude. Presence versus “making” things happen. Hearing versus listening. Bold versus reckless. I think all of these concepts are vastly different… and yet… subtly similar. There is a very fine line between a strength and a weakness. A slight shift in perspective can turn one concept into its “opposite” and vice versa.

As I was journaling this morning, I realized a new pairing! I previously thought these two ideas were one and the same and, prior to this particular journal session, I would use them interchangeably. But I now believe that they are distinct, and the subtle difference is helping me approach the world in a new light. The concept pairing that I am referring to is being ready versus being open.

Ever since I was a kid, I have prided myself on being prepared, having a game plan, and having a general idea of what I was getting into. I thought it was a strength to practice due diligence. I still value it, and I think being ready is a very practical skill. But it can also be a form of self-protection and a way to avoid being vulnerable. In relationships, mentally imagining every possible scenario and preparing for it can be a weakness. But in the wild outdoors, it can be a strength. Like anything else, readiness is just a tool, and what matters most is how you wield it.

I used to think that being ready was the primary objective. But after giving it more reflection, I now think that being open is the ideal thing to pursue.

When are we ever REALLY ready for anything? I don’t have kids yet, but everyone I know who’s had them, says that you are never truly ready to have them. Nothing can prepare you for it. Being ready is just a concept, a thought in your head, a projection. No one can predict the future, so the sense of “feeling” ready is different from actually “BEING” ready. You can’t assess whether or not you were actually prepared until the event HAPPENS. You can’t judge your level of readiness moving forward, you can only judge it in hindsight. Readiness is a theory of relativity: your current state versus what you THINK you are going to face in the future. You can feel ready for an exam, but you won’t be able to assess that until you’re answering the questions on it. You can feel ready for a break up, but you won’t know until you’re experiencing it first hand. You can feel ready for backpacking, but you won’t know until you’re out on the trail and testing the kit/system you’ve built.

Openness, however, is a true, honest, authentic state of being. It takes into account and submits to the fact that we CANNOT predict the future. You can’t always be ready, but you can always be open. I have a lot more work to do in this area, but I can already sense that I will feel a lot more… joyful, grounded, content, and present… when I can allow myself to be more open to life, to the unknown, to the ever unfolding magic of the universe. You can be open to a tough exam and know that you gave it your all. You can be open to a break up and trust that you loved as deeply as you could for as long as you could. You can be open to the adventures and misadventures of backpacking.

Wanting to be ready can feel quite exhausting! I naturally crave a game plan and therefore try to predict what is coming my way so that I can prepare for it. But even if I do somehow manage to concoct the perfect plan… when does anything ever go to plan?! NEVER! The stress and worry are all for nothing. If I were instead to actively, mindfully, intentionally be OPEN to life, then I would be able to roll with the punches, ride the waves, and more fully enjoy the adventures along the way. Attempting to be ready feels like I need to brace myself for impact and stay vigilant all the time, like I am expecting Current Me to anticipate the needs of Future Me and to somehow meet them NOW. This will be a lifelong practice and I am far from a master at it, but I already am getting the sense that being open feels more like… Current Me can relax, because I fully trust that Future Me can handle whatever comes her way. There is no need to prepare, because I can rely on myself to live my life to the best of my abilities now and in the future.

I already feel more relaxed and at peace thinking about these concepts. Now, to go out there and put them into practice. How can you be more open with your life?

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