The Freedom Of Temporary

Friday, February 4th, 2011
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I met Rusty Croft on Navarre Beach when he was competing with other sand sculptors in a contest designed to promote tourism in the area.  It was like an exhibition game for sand sculptors that involved two days of creating before the final “judging”.

The night before the judging, it rained on Navarre Beach.  Hard.

I went onto the beach with my camera the morning after the storm, intent on capturing a few more shots of the fishing pier before being whisked off on another day of scheduled sightseeing.  That’s how I came to be standing in front of Rusty Croft as he carefully tried to rebuild two days of work that had been washed out by Mother Nature overnight.

“Isn’t this frustrating?” I asked him.

Rusty looked around at the now faceless sculptures he’d created.  He shrugged and grinned at me. “What can you do?”

“True… ” It occurred to me that he worked in the medium of temporary. “Is it hard to make these things that you know can’t last?”

He shrugged again, grinned wider as if he was deciding whether or not to share a delicious secret. “It’s all temporary.”

I must have looked startled.  I was a little, truth be told.  He’d just uttered a simple truth that’s easy to read on a slip of paper that comes out of a stale cookie at a Chinese restaurant, but harder to dismiss as trite when you can feel the proof between your toes.

It’s all temporary.

Rusty started talking about a tradition among Tibetan Buddhists that involves making elaborate sand mandalas out of colored sand with the express purpose of destroying it as soon as it’s done. “Some of them take years to make”, Rusty said.  “And when they’re done,” he made a wiping motion, “gone.  It’s supposed to remind them that everything is temporary.”

I thanked Rusty for his time and let him get back to the work of rebuilding his temporary sand sculptures.  I made my way back to the group of writers and PR guides and finished my trip without event, my brief encounter with Rusty Croft a seemingly insignificant moment amidst a busy few days away.

Except, of course, that it wasn’t.

I’ve replayed that conversation over and over again in my mind over the last few months.  I’ve learned more about the sand mandala.  I’ve obsessed about the lesson they’re designed to teach.

It’s all temporary.

More than that, it seems that there is joy to be found in the temporary.

I’m used to the idea of using inevitable change to soothe.  “This too shall pass” is something we say when this hurts.  It’s something we try to forget when this is good.  But I can’t seem to be able to forget it anymore.  I haven’t been able to unsee the undeniable passage of time and impermanence of material things ever since standing in the sand with Rusty Croft.

It’s kind of scared the hell out of me.

I think it has also given me freedom.

I don’t feel like I have to know what I’m meant to do or what I’ll be when I grow up.  Those phrases are heavy with the assumption of a finality that just doesn’t exist.  I don’t have to pretend to figure out what will come next, because the things I know and make decisions based on will change.  I can, instead, just focus on sucking everything I can from this moment.

I no longer feel this enormous pressure to figure out What Will Make Me Happy Forever.

I only have to worry about what makes me happy right now.

And I can do that.  I bet you can, too.

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  1. Cheryl says:

    “I can, instead, just focus on sucking everything I can from this moment.”

    I just love that line! It’s all about the experiences in life. I get you.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this post and the perspective it puts things in. Thank you.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Miss Britt, allisonsreading. allisonsreading said: Miss Britt: The Freedom Of Temporary http://bit.ly/fLsYd0 [...]

  4. Lisa says:

    You hit the nail on the the head when you talked about impermanence going both ways – nothing is immune to change. We don’t want to think about it when things are happy because we want the good times to last forever. Remembering that change will eventually come also helps you to roll with it when it does. Excellent post!

  5. Everything is temporary = what a challenging thought!

    When you wrote about the Tibetan monks and the mandala, I wanted to share my blog post with you: http://communicationtransformationblog.com/passion/how-committed-are-you-to-your-message/

    The monks came to my very small town in suburban Chicago and I was amazed at the work they did and how they knew all along they were going to destroy it and dump most of the sand into the river. Really amazing perspective.

  6. fuck yes. i so get this.

    after the flood back in 2004 destroyed my place i had lots of folks helping me drag sewer water soaked things to the garbage pile…garbage heap…massive area where all of my stuff was going to wait to be hauled away. couch, tv, stereo, clothing, hundreds of dollars worth of dog toys & items, crock pot & kitchen stuff, bedding…just about anything you could think of. my friends and family kept asking if i was ok. truth was that yes, i was ok. when they asked how i was doing it the only thing that flew out of my mouth was “it is just stuff. my dogs are ok, i am ok. everything else is just stuff.”

    my mudder took me to see monks make a sand mandala when i was in my late teens / early twenties. i really, really wish you could have met my mom. she would have loved you.

  7. Mo says:

    Do you know how much relief I just got reading this? I know it sounds stupid, I’ve been struggling with the whole “what do I want to be when I grow up” thing and for whatever reason I’ve put so much pressure on myself to know that NOW.

  8. The thought of What I Want to Do for the Rest of My Life has been weighing me down a lot lately. I’ve started trying to focus on what makes me happy now. Your blog has had a lot to do with that; I’ve always loved your blog, but it’s such an inspiring read these days! Go, Britt, go!

  9. Connie says:

    Wow, Rusty sure gets it! Actually, when I did my meditation retreat in India last year, the teaching was pretty much the same. I left the retreat with a profound sense of peace and calm. Unfortunately, that feeling didn’t stay with me. It’s hard to remember that when life takes hold but I think this post and Rusty’s attitude is supposed to serve as a reminder that we can take it easy and still lead very fulfilling and happy lives. Thank you so much for this post! It’s exactly what I needed!

  10. Lisa Adams says:

    So funny… as soon as you started talking about temporary, I thought of the mandalas– and then that’s what he said! I’ve seen them made, marched to a river, and poured in. It’s amazing. Thanks for this post.

  11. racheal says:

    “I only have to worry about what makes me happy right now.”

    FUCK. YES. (!!!)

  12. Sunny says:

    I hardly ever comment on your posts but this one deserved me to delurk. This is really, really good. I can’t really elaborate without feeling the need to write a book, but THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Maybe I’ll post about it myself.

  13. Mandi Bone says:

    YES!!!! YES!!!! YES!!!!
    I am bogged down with if I chose this then I am stuck with it forever but I am won’t be.

  14. Toni Powell says:

    Wow, wonderful. This should be posted out to everyone once a month or something! It does put things back in perspective so well. Thank you.

  15. [...] I also try to remind myself that this is probably the best answer I have for right now. I strive to embrace the freedom of temporary. [...]

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