Life seems longer, the more chapters of it I can experience.
-James Altucher, Reinvent Yourself
I’ve been reading some James Altucher lately.
Good writers all have a distinct style. You knew that. I find myself turned on by the direct style a lot of male writers have, like Altucher, or Austin Kleon, or Seth Godin. Go read some of his stuff if you’re one of the three people in the world who hasn’t read Seth Godin.
As you read this, you can probably tell that Altucher is influencing my writing style.
Input, output. What goes in is what comes out.
In our media-saturated world, we need to be aware of this quirk of human psychology. Our little filter bubbles skew our perception, making us see more of the people like us and less of the people who aren’t like us.
Being increasingly disconnected from one another is a weird side effect of an increasingly connected world.
It means that it really, really matters how the media portrays different groups. Because if we see more people not like us on TV, we are more empathetic to them. And if we read headlines that scream of the dangers of terrorism, we’re more inclined to think it’s a bigger problem than it is.
What goes in is what comes out. Input, output.
Of course terrorism is a problem. Climate change is too, but it gets less sexy headlines. And climate change is like the White Walker Zombies in Game of Thrones: they’re going to wipe out everyone, but no one wants believe they exist, so they’re not prepared.
“You’re not chasing the goal itself–you’re chasing the feelings that you hope attaining those goals will give you.”–Danielle LaPorte, The Desire Map
Why do we want the things we want in life? Danielle LaPorte says what we really want is to FEEL a certain way, and our goals and dreams are our assumptions of what will make us feel that way.
Me? I want to feel freedom.
Years ago, I made a tough decision. I think about it often: it’s had a continuing impact on me and on those I love.
I always felt it was the right decision. Hard, disappointing, full of promise and loss, and right.
Yesterday, as I pondered it again, I called it a good decision instead of the right one, and the implication of that wording struck me.
If I call it a “right” decision, then any other path would necessarily have been “wrong.” I don’t think it’s that black and white, though.
It’s fascinating how the choices we make play out. Sometimes, I envy those who chose differently when faced with a similar situation. If I had gone in another direction, things probably would have turned out fine…just differently. Or maybe in that alternate universe I would have regretted my choice, then again, maybe I would never have thought about it again. Who knows?
At the time, I didn’t feel like I had a choice. But, truly, we always have options, even if they’re limited, even if the only option is in your attitude toward something out of your control.
Is one decision right or wrong? Since we can’t peer into the alternate universe where we went the other way, we simply can’t say. “Right” and “wrong” aren’t helpful. Thinking of our lives that way puts too much stress and pressure on a moment in which we can see, feel, and know only incompletely. We are freer to give ourselves and others some grace if “a” good choice implies that there are many good choices; there is not “the” only right one in a circumstance. Allowing for that makes us less judgmental toward others who choose differently than we would.
So, my decision was a good one. It was made in love. The consequences have been tough at times, but acting out of love will always be a good thing.
Today, I sat down and knitted.
Today, the windows were open to a crisp and clear morning. My candle burned a coffee aroma into my house. I was trying to dissipate the smell of the trash I’d taken out. I wasn’t trying to make my home feel romantic and peaceful. That was a happy accident.
Usually, I read while I knit, unless I’m knitting lace. That requires full attention, so I don’t knit lace much.
Today, I worked on a wide, long cowl made in a simple stockinette stitch with wispy thread-like yarn. It is tedious, boring knitting: just how I like it. It lends itself to doing other things while I knit it. But today, I watched the colors of the thin thread-yarn shift and felt its cobwebby softness under my fingers. My cat found a comfy spot next to me and we listened to the sounds of our neighborhood together.
Today, I have a million things to do.
But for that moment, I just knitted. Knitted, and nothing else.
“Gratitude means believing you have enough. Purpose means believing you are enough….Cultivating gratitude and purpose is no easy feat, which means I have less and less time these days to be consumed with pursuing money.” —Liz Forkin Bohannon, “To want what we can’t have,” Darling Magazine, Winter 2015
Cultivation is such a wonderful word. It evokes images of gardens, of hard work rewarded with bounty and beauty.
Cultivation requires attention, which Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls our “psychic energy.” He writes in his book, Flow, that attention is our most powerful tool for crafting a quality life experience.
“The quality of life is in proportion, always, to the capacity for delight. The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
Paying attention helps us avoid the distractions around us every day. The distractions that tell us we aren’t enough if we don’t follow the agendas of popular culture.
Cultivating gratitude and purpose require labor and attention. We can control this. And in doing, we delight in our lives.
That creativity is the ultimate assertion of existence. It’s how we learn, impact, and grow.
That individually and collectively, our relationship with our food matters: it impacts our health, environment, culture, and economy on both large and local scales.
That handmade is love made. When we take the time and expend the effort to make instead of consume, we shower love on everyone we share with (including ourselves!)
That Nature already has things worked out for us and it’s usually better to work with her system than impose an artificial one we don’t fully understand.
That there is deep power in knowing ourselves. Living in high fidelity with our truth makes us more powerful agents of good in the world.
There is magic and meaning to be found in the everyday.
That a full and healthy life is a holistic endeavor.
That we are part of this world and the world is part of us. We need to preserve the natural spaces we still can.
That when we nourish our health & spirit with grace, we can fully honor our gifts & dreams.
That we’re all trying our best, but that we get distracted. None of us has it figured out, and when we honestly share our stories, we realize we’re all in this together.
The title of my blog is a little silly, I know. I’ve long enjoyed this quote (which may or may not have been said by Mother Theresa) — I have “life is a song, sing it” etched on my iPod:
“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
One day, the phrase “life is an orange, savor it” popped into my head. (I had been eating lots of oranges at the time–they were in season and so sweet…) I loved the way that phrase cleverly captured what I want in life: to savor each drop and get the most out of its deliciousness. Truly appreciating an orange takes time and presence. It nourishes you. It’s a little messy and difficult, and that makes it all the more satisfying.
“Life is an Orange” is quirky. So am I. So are you; the whole world is, for that matter, and I think that’s great.
If you take the time to savor your orange, it will be sweet, tart, satisfying, and nutritious. It will be bursting. Life is all these things, too, especially if you give it your attention. Nourish yourself, body & spirit, so that you can be the best version of yourself. Honor your gifts and dreams so that you can help make the world the best version of itself.