Pictured: A church I visited in Vieux-Montréal yesterday. The interior was stunning, but unfortunately my little Nikon camera couldn't cope with the low-light conditions. Trust me when I say it was a spiritual experience.
Autumn has broken here in Montréal in a real way. I awoke this morning delightfully chilly, pulling the sheets and blankets up over me and snuggling in for a few more minutes of rest before springing up to make the morning coffee.
The sky is clear and blue, and Montréalers are bundled in hats and scarves and jackets.
The past weeks have been incredible for my personal growth, in spite of (and probably because of) a spell of depression. Here's why:
Throughout most of my adult life, I've been a hopeless romantic. I don't mean this only in the sense of yearning for romantic love, although that has been a component. I mean that I'm hopelessly addicted to the promise of salvation that allegedly waits for me on the other side of some effort.
This year, that effort was my 25-hour drive to Quebec. I was so sure that when I arrived, I would be greeted with perpetual elation and bliss. Instead, I found ... myself, here, in Quebec, away from all my friends and family, in a city where I know nobody.
At first, this was an exciting prospect. I love that feeling of arriving in a new city and feeling the energy and potential of the place. But, as the days go on, it becomes familiar, and that novel feeling wears off. What once was new becomes routine. And it happens quickly.
I found it difficult to cope with this, until I asked myself what the experience could teach me. And the lesson, found through weeks of daily journaling, wasn't what I expected to find on this trip. But it is what I've truly needed.
For most of my life I've struggled with remaining grounded. Sometimes I feel like a bee flitting from place to place, trying to pollinate as many flowers as he can. I try to view this as a part of my nature and nothing to be overly concerned with.
And I think, to a point, it's true. I'm so grateful for having the privilege to have lived more life by my mid-thirties than most people live in their entire lives. Sometimes, if I'm tuned into the divinity of the present moment, I feel the need to pinch myself just to see if I'm dreaming, because I've been so goddamn blessed in this life. I wouldn't trade my adventurousness, my creativity, or my appetite for romance for anything.
But the insidious side of all of this shows itself when I'm not tuned into the present moment and I'm not viewing my current circumstance as the existential perfection that it is. I become bitter. Anxious. Depressed. I expect so much more than life can offer, and when it doesn't deliver, I can't cope with the dissonance.
We all know that attachment is the root of all suffering. But it requires constant effort and practice to make use of this beyond uttering it as a feel-good platitude. It requires noticing when your expectations exceed reality, and bringing your expectations back down to earth. And most of all, it requires observation of our present circumstance—no matter how vile or unfit as it may seem—as perfect and divine.
The curious thing is, as much as my solitude on this trip has recovered this wisdom from the bowels of my intellect, I find myself constantly forgetting and returning to my patterns of control and the anxiety and depression they produce.
Perhaps that's what people mean when they say that solitude can help us find ourselves. Perhaps it is out of necessity, in our darkest and most lonely moments, that we uncover wisdom we've always known in our minds but seldom practiced in our hearts.
So today, I'm basking in the tranquility of this perfect present moment. I hope you find the courage to do the same.