Tag Archives: Perspective

Live Simply in 2019, March Mantra: Re-Examine The Familiar

Friday, March 1, 2019

Live Simply in 2019. March Mantra.

Most of us yearn for familiarity. All we want is the safety and security that comes after routines have been established, relationships have been solidified, and the terrifying phase of the unknown has transformed into the familiar.

Our brains, in attempts to conserve energy, begin to ignore what has been deemed non-threatening to survival. It’s smart, really. Makes plenty of sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

But this kind of autopilot familiarity can be a breeding ground for complacency, for lost perspective, and for lingering unhappiness.

The shift from being tuned in–a mode in which we’re aware of how we feel, how a space or relationship or job makes us feel–to tuned out–a mode in which we lose our ability to actually see the reality and decipher what it conjures in us emotionally–happens in an instant. Without our knowing it’s happened, we’ve shifted from aware, perceptive, and insightful to resigned, in denial, or numb.

This is why people live among clutter for years. Why individuals stay with unhealthy partners. Why dutiful employees continue to punch in to thankless jobs day after day after day.

We forget that we have to continually turn our eyes back on.

Take a step back. Take three steps back. Blink a bunch of times. Admit that the version of reality you’ve been governed by all this time might just be one limited snapshot. There might be an almost-unlimited number of alternative perspectives from which to consider the scene.

Then the feelings start flooding in. Don’t send them away. Listen. Listen to the annoyance that comes up when you look at the crack in the ceiling–the one you’ve looked at every night for the past 2 years–and actually see that crack. Recognize the anger and overwhelm that comes when you analyze the true state of the closet you’ve gotten dressed in for the past 5 years and realize nothing about it makes you feel good. Acknowledge the exhaustion you’ve denied for years that’s the result of an inefficient, inauthentic routine.

Maybe there’s a better way to do things. Maybe there’s a smarter way, a kinder way, an easier way. Maybe your couch doesn’t have to go on that side of the room. Maybe there is a way to fit exercise into your weekly calendar. Maybe you actually can pursue your purpose. Maybe the solution to the problem is so much Simpler than you’ve made it out to be. Maybe all that’s needed to reinvigorate, correct, and release is to re-examine your familiar.

Dismiss all your preconceived notions. Shut out all your assumptions. Close your eyes and open them as if for the first time. Tell me, what do you see? 

Monday’s Meditation: On The Question Of What Comes Next

Monday, October 1, 2018

No one likes the stress-inducing question "what's next?" Here's what to say in response, and a reminder to stop asking other people the same thing.

When you date someone, everyone in your life eventually starts to bug you about whether or not you’re going to get married.

When you get married, everyone wants to know when you’re going to have kids.

When you have the first kid, everyone asks if you’re going to have another.

When you have the second kid, everyone asks where you’re going to send the first to preschool.

When they reach the eleventh grade, everyone starts asking where they’re going to go to college.

When they’re nearing the end of college, everyone asks what they’re doing to do for a job.

When they write their first book, people ask if and when they’ll write a second.

And on and on the cycle goes. 

We love to rush each other through life.

We have an unexamined compulsion to know: What’s Next?

Most of us have felt pressured, annoyed, or misunderstood when people asked us what was next for us. (I know I’m not the only one who has had to reply with various iterations of, “What about what I have going on now; chopped liver?”) But despite that, most of us still can’t bite our tongues hard or long enough to refrain from asking the same question of others.

What’s next? Are you going to do another? Have another? How will you do it? Where will they go? What are your plans?

After a certain point (600 years) of being married-without-being-married to David, well-meaning people started in with their What’s Nexts. And not only What’s Nexts, but also Why Not Yet’s and When’s and on. We have always been secure in our partnership. Had that not been the case, those questions, I imagine, would have felt antagonizing, inflammatory, and generally anxiety-producing.

As it was, the future-focused questions bummed me out. “Can’t you just see that I’m so happy with where I’m at right now?” I wanted to say. “Why do you have to come in and try to dictate the pace at which my relationship should proceed?” Instead I replied with the ultimate answer to anything ever, which is, for the record, “Yeah, I’m all set with that.”

I’m not sure we’re conscious enough of how often we do this to each other, or how it tends to cast a shadow over the present.

The good news is that this line of questioning is meant harmlessly (we hope). We (fingers crossed) don’t mean to belittle the significance of others’ present circumstances. We just want to know what’s coming–that’s the real motivation. 

We want to know what’s coming next for others, because we want to be prepared. We want as much information in as far advance as possible so that we have time to realign around the people in our lives, to readjust how we conceptualize and relate to them.

The What’s Next questions are, at their root, more about us than they are about another. Steeped in ‘self,’ they can lack the dynamic (and diplomatic!) perspective needed to respect that a person is at where they’re at in life not by accident, but by their own prerogative. The sign of smallness of character, if ever there was one, is an inability to transcend ourselves and our egos while in conversation with another person. We’re all much bigger than that.  

Instead of asking What’s Next, we can ask: How’s it going? How are you feeling about it? and: What’s on your mind? We can respect the fact that when there is news to share, others will share it. And we can remember that in some cases, asking preemptively robs another person of their chance to share big news.

Monday’s Meditation: On Privilege & Perspective

Monday, August 6, 2018

There are families that have refrigerators with built-in water and ice spouts and there are those that don’t.

Mine was (is) the latter.

Years ago, we did have an insta-hot faucet. It was brilliant and made making tea about as easy as blinking. It would break in time and subsequently be abandoned/uninstalled.

But a refrigerator water spout was on another level, a level for which my family was certainly not fancy enough. We weren’t hauling water from the local well, but were also not the type of family that updated their appliances with any sort of regularity. By “any sort of regularity” I mean “ever,” because as far as I can recall, the fridge currently in my parent’s house is the one that’s been there for as long as I’ve been alive. Its exterior is white and pebbly-textured and its special features include creating a cold food vortex wherein you can never find anything and when things finally resurface, they resemble a science experiment. You know the kind.

You can only imagine my bated elation, then, when I opened the brand new refrigerator in my brand new, newly purchased home and discovered that there, surreptitiously placed just inside the door, was a small button and spout.

“What’s this do?” I pressed, eliciting a stream of water to pour forth from the spout. “Oh my gosh.” I gasped.

It’s astonishingly easy to become unaffected by one’s privileges. Our egos are programmed to greedily flit from shiny thing to shinier thing, the former (now less shiny thing) always waning in importance subsequently.

We need to find something to hold on to, something that serves as a constant reminder of our progress and our privilege.

It is being attuned to the blessings of the smallest, Simplest things in our lives that most effectively grounds us in gratitude, I find. So, I remind myself constantly what a beautiful thing that damn water spout is.

I drink a ton of water; I spend whole minutes of every day pressing on that little button. I fill my glass and gulp down as much of the cold liquid as I can, and then I say out loud, “I love water. Water’s my favorite.” It’s all a bit dramatic and overdone, and City just laughs and shakes his head at my ridiculous ways. 

But I figure that if I can continue to celebrate the glorious blessing that is an in-fridge filtered water spout, I will never stray too far from a place of gratitude. The day I go to fill my water bottle from that spout and don’t realize how gloriously fortunate I am to have pure, clean, cold water available to me at the press of a button will be a troubling day, indeed. 

Each of us needs a daily touchstone of gratitude. Something that we give thanks for every single day of our lives. Something that instantly reminds us what matters most, reminds us that we are breathing rarified air, and reminds us that that which we might overlook may be, for someone else, just a dream. 

For me, it’s the fridge water spout. What is it for you?