This is not a sad post. Far from it.
On so many levels, I’m in better shape than I’ve been in 40 years. And I understand myself in a way that renders me at unease. I’m barraged and flooded with realizations and truths. Though some of them are sublime and labyrinth, most of them seem so obvious that they can only fall on deaf ears or hard hearts. One of the hallmarks for most people as they age is that they become cemented, too certain, and find themselves in a narrowing field of pleasures, tastes, and choices.
I’m an optimist. Or at least that’s my self-identifying delusion. It’s a good thing that our brains operate on an as-if protocol. It’s also sometimes undesirable because we filter out facts and reality and create stress and unhappiness in ourselves. Most of it stems from the fact that we believe things should be another way. The rest of it is because our bags are packed for today with all the things we’ve said and done throughout our life. It’s a rare person who can jettison that nonsense and start truly fresh.
One of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I value wit and creativity. But I think I might willingly trade all of it for mindless present-moment joy. Maybe that makes sense to you, and maybe it doesn’t. It’s a delicate balance to practice carpe diem but also to be practical. Most of us swing too far in one direction or the other, which robs us of a fuller life. There are so many details to attend to, a mountain of meaningless activity. It is so incredibly easy to spend our time and energy trying to self-delegate those things instead of ignoring them entirely.
Because I said a lot of the things that I know to be true will fall on deaf ears or hard hearts… I’m pretty sure we all need to collectively stop doing all those stupid things that don’t add anything to our happiness. I don’t need to make a list. I’m quite certain you have an idea of exactly what I’m talking about in your head already. For some people, it’s dusting or vacuuming. Or ironing their clothes. Or flossing every day. For others, it’s sharing time with people who don’t make them enthusiastic or seem to appreciate them. Or doing things that they once loved but no longer do. The list is endless, and you can fill in your own. The world won’t stop spinning if you just stop.
That’s really the lesson of it all, anyway. This globe will continue spinning whether you’re on it or not. Everyone says they appreciate how fast time flies and how short life is. But if you’re like me, I know damn well you can count on one hand how many people live enthusiastic, fulfilling, and joyful lives.
You probably have a lot of people around you who spend too much time being negative or complaining. This is weird, given that few of us really have horrendously significant problems that merit losing focus on the opportunity to thrive and be satisfied, if not joyous, that we’re still here at all. It’s a joy to witness someone with legitimate and terrifying obstacles who somehow still manages even a smile, much less a positive attitude.
It’s Sunday. So maybe you can pick one thing, activity, or belief that no longer serves you. And hurl it out the window, even if it hits your neighbor on the head.
I guess we could call it life decluttering.
Sometimes I catch myself standing somewhere with the overwhelming realization that I’ve been too busy majoring in minors. Knowing it’s true doesn’t translate to making it true. All the overthinkers out there understand this.
Most of us, by 40 years of age, had a pretty good idea of what makes us happy. Or distracted enough to be a suitable alternative for that.
And then we continue doing the things that didn’t get us there or keep us there.
And so, we dive into a routine that propels us ever faster away from who we’re supposed to be.
And then that one day comes, and we realize that we didn’t choose at all.
PS The picture is from somewhere around 1996. I like the picture because I look stupid. In other words, it’s perfectly accurate!