The first record I ever became obsessed with was the Beatles’ Let It Be. Music wasn’t a part of the house I grew up in—not that my parents were against it, they just weren’t interested. When my older brother got a record player, I’d sneak up to his attic room when he was out and listen to his collection of 45s. Let It Be was the one I played over and over and over.
At the time, the message escaped me. Like most kids, if I had a scab, I’d pick it. If there was a puddle, I’d jump into it. The song made me sad, though I wasn’t sure why. Or why, if it was sad, I continued to play it.
As an adult, I fear inaction—a particularly American anxiety. If I’m wondering whether or not to do something, my default position is that it’s always better to do than not to. I regret the things I haven’t done, rather than what I did, no matter how bad the outcome.
My fear of not doing has made do a number of fearsome things. Though afraid of heights, I’ve rappelled down a cliff, climbed barefoot to the top of a water tower, and parachuted out of a small plane. Though unadventurous, I’ve traveled to countries the U.S. State Department deemed unsafe to visit. Though cautious, I’ve occasionally spent the night with a stranger.
Mostly, the risks have delivered, but my tendency for stasis remains. There are moments when I believe that if I don’t, on the count of three, get up from the chair I’m sitting in, I never will. This morning, for instance, after coffee, I should have moved directly to the meditation cushion in the next room.
The challenge, per usual, was to stop what I was doing, even if that was nothing, and set myself in motion. I started to think, which is almost never helpful. I thought about quickly washing my hair, or meditating after lunch, or biking to the bakery to buy a sticky bun for breakfast. Please stop thinking, I thought.
The day had barely begun and already those well-matched wrestlers—stillness and action—were at it again. Let It Be vs. Just Do It, where the battle could be about anything—from scratching an itch to moving to another country.
I did make it to the cushion. There was pleasure in the moving, which seemed to begin of its own accord—legs pushing off the floor to lift my body—a slight sense of accomplishment in overcoming torpor. I walked the short distance and sat my ass down at a slightly different location, where the challenge reversed from moving to becoming still.