A woman I know who reads what I write asked me at lunch yesterday, “When are you going to write another article?”
Oh yes, that. I had forgotten all about it. She woke me from what felt like a deep sleep.
I have been so busy with the slog of daily life that I had forgotten about writing, an activity that brings much pleasure and meaning to my life whether anyone reads it or not. I love to write.
What does this have to do with you?
And you? My three-month off-trail missing in-action diversion from writing symbolizes a universal dilemma we all face. How do each one of us fit into the endless to-do list activities that matter most in life? For you that might be spending time with friends, gardening, playing music, listening to music, making art, playing card games, fixing gadgets, inventing gadgets, cooking, walking at the beach, hiking in the mountains, acting, singing, riding your bike, running, or lying in the grass and watching the clouds float by.
I could tell you a fairy tale to follow your dreams, do what you love, and the rest will work out. Or visualize the life you want and the universe will make it happen for you. But that’s hogwash and you know it.
I could pass along the advice most parents give their idealistic children: get a real job, have a back-up plan, a day job, and do what you love as a hobby. In other words give up or sell out. I know. I did not like hearing that either.
But the reality is that life in our lifetime is tough. Reality means paying bills, which means doing some form of work that brings in money, or having enough investments to not have to work that way. For most of us, it’s the first. We need money to live and we have to work to earn it.
We need food to eat. We need a place to live. We need clothes to wear. We need to pay for health insurance. Oh yes, and here in SoCal we need a car. Just the basics cost $$$$ megabucks.
Then if we spend more than we take in because life is so very expensive, our credit score suffers. Questionable credit scores trigger all kinds of problems, not least of which prevents “offenders” from getting hired at a job that brings in money to pay for the basics.
I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to feel overwhelmed.
I’m taking a class in Self-Compassion through UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC). Can you believe that is where we are? We have to learn how to be compassionate towards ourselves. But yes, that is where we are. Teresa, a fellow student, asked if self-compassion was another item on an already long should and to-do list. She made a good point.
Including some of what she entertained us with…the whole class was laughing…and some of my own observations, we have to:
- Find an affordable and safe place to live (good luck in SoCal)
- Buy and prepare food (make sure it’s healthy 🙂
- Take care of grooming ourselves so that we don’t offend others
- Get teeth, eyes, and the rest of the body checked for early warning signs of gingivitis, glaucoma, hypertension, high cholesterol, cancer, heart disease…you get the idea
- Exercise to keep the body healthy and toned and as young as possible for as long as possible
- Commute to wherever we’re going…a very big consideration here
- Walk the dog; clean the cat box
- Take care of children; help them do their homework; take them to soccer practice
- Clean the house? Really?
- Oh and finally, do that something that brings meaning to your life
You can see how that last item drops off the bottom.
The have-to to-do list grows in proportion with progress. Life has become too much, which, by the way, defines stress. Life is just too much for human beings to deal with.
LIFE GETS IN THE WAY OF LIVING
What I mean by life gets in the way of living is that life has gotten so complicated, so busy, so hurried, so stressful that many times it feels more like surviving than living.
What’s the difference, you ask?
We can use the swimming metaphor from a previous article.
Surviving feels like you’re paddling arms and legs as fast as you can to keep your head (and nose and mouth) above the surface. Your effort feels not good enough. You feel water touch your nostrils. You might even go under now and then. Very unpleasant.
Living feels like skillfully swimming to the water’s edge, climbing the nearest ledge and jumping off. Kupaianaha! (Hawaiian for fantastic, wonderful urbandictionary.com and possibly the origin of cowabunga). Or Cannonball! Splash! Swim. Repeat. Very pleasant.
Did you know? Swimmingly means smoothly and satisfactorily.
Can you feel the difference? There’s a sense of overwhelm with surviving and a WOW quality with living. You tingle all over.
Life of course is not always kupaianaha. Life tests our ability to navigate the inevitable ups and downs.
Navigating life’s transitions
I gave a talk yesterday on Navigating Life’s Transitions at the Santa Monica YMCA. We started with introductions followed by a couple of minutes of relaxation meditation to give everyone time to come into the room. For most of us, the body arrives before the mind does.
I expected to teach the women in the audience something about resilience, courage, determination, putting one foot in front of the other even when the going gets so difficult you just want to stay in bed all day.
Halfway in, I realized that they already know how to navigate transitions. Marriage, divorce, immigration, children, stroke, cancer, depression, anxiety, job loss, moving…the list was long.
So I changed my talk midstream and validated their strengths. Close your eyes, take a few breaths and savor your resilience, your courage, your determination, I said.
They’ve asked me to come back to do another talk. Now there’s another activity that I would do even if I didn’t get paid for it. I don’t. 🙂
I’m writing again. So, when are you going to ______ again?
Life is a slog when you don’t make time for people and activities that are meaningful to you.
Motto of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center:
Don’t believe everything you think.
–Diana Winston, Director of Mindfulness Education
We writing geeks enjoy moving words around, contemplating the use of the Oxford comma, and expressing thoughts and feelings between the lines. Ha! And you thought it was the words!