Human Stuff is a free weekly newsletter. If you’d like to support my work and also access my monthly reflection guides, I invite you to become a paid subscriber. This is a reader-supported offering and I’m so grateful for your presence here.
Please feel free to share parts of this newsletter that connect with you on social media or send to someone you love.
A song I’m loving:
Some unrelated (yet probably related) excerpts/wonderings/learnings/questions from recent days, from my current self, from a lifetime.
1.// I want to practice being myself where I am, even when I’m waiting. On Thursday, I shared a question box on Instagram asking folks what keeps them grounded when they’re in a period of waiting — for news, for change, for what’s next, for an answer… waiting for anything. The responses were beautiful: drink heaps of tea, throw myself into the middle of a forest, re-read favorites books, phone calls with friends, I could go on. Thousands of answers — thousands of ways we collectively face the space between waiting and receiving whatever may be on the side.
I asked this because I am in a particular period of waiting and I’ve found myself wildly impatient, almost bursting and just wanting to know what’s next already — like, the “obsessively researching things that might lead to me feeling an inkling more certainty (but don’t actually change anything at all)”, desperate kind of impatient. But upon reading answers and sitting with it further, I came to the (somewhat obvious) realization that I will never not be in a period of waiting. There will always be something dangling over there: the next birthday, the next big unexpected news none of us knows is coming, the next massive life change that shakes up my entire world, the next milestone my daughter reaches, the next deep breathe… when am I not waiting for something, whether or not I’m aware of it? The answer is never. So, when should I know how to be in the waiting, which is really just the unknown? Probably as often as possible.
What this ultimately reminded me of is something I’ve been saying for years — decades, really — as I’ve tried to find my way back to aliveness after annihilation, to presence amid discomfort, to the place I find myself — wherever it may be — again and again: everything is practice. It’s all practice. All of it. Staying grounded is a practice. Staying in the waiting period is a practice. Learning to tune into what we need and finding the capacity to actually meet that need is a practice. There will be some moments/days/seasons where practicing is easier, where I’m doing great at it, where I’m feeling super supported. There will be others where practicing feels impossible, like a slog, like a drag, like something I’ll never figure out — days where I forget all the wisdom I’ve gleaned and instead slouch on the couch, wondering why my life is so blah (does anyone else have these days?). And all of this is simply part of the process of being a person, rather than something to figure out. Thank goodness.
Questions I’m exploring related to practice:
What am I practicing that is aligned with what I want? How can I continue that?
What am I practicing that I don’t actually want? How can I limit that?
How might the approach of ongoing practice over getting somewhere support me?
How might practice as a personal philosophy change the way I think about failure, about success, about momentum, about opportunity, about what’s possible?
2.// I want to practice really being here. Like, REALLY being here. As much as I say presence is a value of mine, it’s a lot harder to embody when my brain is often 13 other places and trying to figure out what’s for dinner that night. I went to the woods with my daughter a few days ago and felt an itch of irritation at how long she stopped while walking to pause and look at moss growing on the fence, or her desire to tiptoe through the same gigantic pit of mud on the trail 27 times in a row, or her capacity to go what felt like nowhere in 10 minutes because there was so much to see right where she was. She was content with waiting until she felt ready to move on; I was thinking, Can we just keep going already? Again… impatient in the waiting.
When I recognized my irritation, I felt a sharp flush of familiar shame. Aren’t I always talking about paying attention, and the teachings of nature, and what a gift it is to get to commune with trees and flowers? Aren’t I always going on and on about being present, being where we are? And there I was, frustrated that our time was slow, that the details were what stood out most to her, that just being there absorbing every tiny bit of it was all there was to do. She was doing it right — I watched her and learned.
Again… everything is practice. Which means when I inevitably forget to live my values, to do what I say matters to me, to pay deep attention in the places that feel most majestic and magical, the next best move isn’t to berate myself until I’m a weeping mess to make sure it never happens again and I’m forever present from here on out; it’s to say, “oh yes — how human of me — forgetting to pay attention to this sacred gift right in front of me. I’ll try practicing that again now,”… and then practicing again. And again. And again. And then forgetting again. When I remembered this, I was able to turn toward the awe of being right beside her, to return to being right there in the mud pit, to not need to get anywhere else.
Questions I’m exploring related to being where I am:
When I inevitably stray from here, what helps me return?
How can I pay attention with my whole body instead of over-relying on my brain?
What am I missing out on when I think there’s a rush, a non-existent timeframe?
What do I gain when I tether myself back to the here and now, over and over?
3.// I want to hold the behind-the-scenes as largely as I hold what is seen. Because what happens behind the scenes, in the day to day moments of our lives no one else is witness to, is everything — it’s what propels us, it’s where our work lies, it’s where we access new ways of being, new ways of doing — it’s where we practice, where we fumble and get back up, where we decide to keep going or stop — it’s where we notice showing up for ourselves in ways we might not have a year ago — it’s where we tap into the grief instead of ignoring it — it’s where we turn toward the sunshine through the window — it’s where we let the perfect plate of pasta enrich our sense of presence — it’s where we admit our fragility, our delicate heart — it’s where we choose not to do the thing that might look cool but won’t bring us any closer to what we’re really after.
I’m not discounting what happens that others may get a peek into, but what happens that only we see, that only we know is happening, that only we experience… those may be the most important moments to pay attention to, to notice, to celebrate and honor, to hold sacred. And they’re often moments that get ignored, bypassed, or unseen by us in favor of the bigger ones, the results, the outcome, the wisdom we can suck from all the mundane bits of life in order for other people to see it. I’m working on re-orienting the behind-the-scenes stuff at the top of what matters, of what’s worth noting, of what’s worth celebrating, of what’s worth my attention.
Questions I’m exploring related to honoring what goes unseen:
Can I value my own gaze as much as I value that of others?
Can my own validation and acknowledgement mean more?
What would it look like to pay closer attention to what goes unseen by others?
What might shift if all the quiet, subtle moments were held more highly?
4.// A note I hung on the wall in my office: You are not a Before and After story. You are fluid. Multilayered. Ever-changing. You don't need to prove you've made it to some "other side." You can just be you, now. In a world that so desperately wants to pin us down, keep us squished and narrow, make us believe change is something to fear instead of something to open up our arms wide to, I want to remember what an act of compassion it is to trust our inklings and move toward them — to trust our process and stop proving it to anyone — to trust what we know and let that be enough — to trust all we don’t know and let that be okay — to stop using our stories and experiences against our current selves — to stop using some idealized image of our future self against who we are right now — to quit all the performing and remember to practice just living, which is the whole entire point of all of this, isn’t it?
Questions I’m exploring related to being ever-changing:
Where am I putting doors on my own expansion, my own growth?
How is fear weaving its way into what I choose to go (and not go) after?
If I’m ever-changing and I trust that truth, what becomes more possible?
What is asking to be shed, shaken off, parted ways with? Am I willing?
May we find groundedness in the waiting.
May we return to the here and now after straying a bit.
May we celebrate and acknowledge all that goes unseen.
May we embrace our ever-changing selves.
May we stop trying to do all of this perfectly.
And may we notice all the tiny, momentary ways we’re already doing it.
Thanks for being here, as always. There are so many places to put your attention these days and it truly means a lot that you choose to put it here sometimes.
△ This piece from the incredible
△ So grateful for this episode of Hurry Slowly
△ Procrastinating Ourselves to Death
△ Stop Treating Adolescent Girls as Emotionally Abnormal
△ Terry Tempest Williams at her best
△ Creative work as a space for new possibilities
△on needing help
△on how to be lost
△ This book/guide/inspiration/mirror I’ve been returning to:
Human Stuff from Lisa Olivera is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Lisa, I read your newsletter every week. It’s one of the rituals I look forward to every Sunday. This week’s newsletter made me cry, seeing my own reflection in your words. It’s often that way for me. Today, several parts really struck me, but the thing that brought me tears of joy was the middle picture of your daughter, with her hands raised into the air in joy, wonder, and awe. To see the world through those pure eyes and experiences. To try to remember to be open to having a young, curious heart towards these simple moments in our daily lives. Thank you for sharing parts of yourself and your life with us, and also constantly leading us back to ourselves as students of our own lives and experiences and knowing. Your work in the world, reminding us all that we are humans having a human experience, is so powerful and so needed. Sending you love! ❤️
Thank you! As a chronic look-forwarder instead of present-enjoyer, I really needed to see this