I've had a few conversations with people in the last week who have made me, once again, really think about living life to the fullest and enjoying myself. It made me think of my "motto" which is the title of this post.
Recently, I was engaged in a group conversation, answering a question on how my "sabbatical" has been. I gushed on about my new obsession, knitting, how I took a watercolor class and have been painting here and there, and just how I had changed my personal view on what I "had" to get done on a daily basis vs. what I "wanted" to get done. Those are two very different things that take some thought to distinguish. We sometimes mix the two and often make the mistake of putting the "wanted" things at the bottom of the list, and then quite frankly, we hardly ever get to them.
One woman in the group said, in a rather exasperated tone, "Who has time to do those things? I'm too busy all the time." When asked what she was busy doing she replied "Driving my kids around, keeping my house spotless, working, ironing...." I asked her what she does for herself and she looked taken aback...not that I had asked the question but more that she had never even thought to do something for herself. She never even thought to put herself on the list. "You don't understand, " she said "I have so much stuff I have to do." Have to do, huh? Believe me, I do understand. I was the person that walked through the door after work running 100 miles a minute, barking out orders, "helping" my kids with their homework while I made a stir fry and folded laundry. Often I was up until 11 at night putting my house in order so I could start the next day on the "right foot". Believe me, I understand better than anyone that life doesn't have to be that way. Life is only like that if you make it that way. My house did not disintegrate when I stopped spit polishing it. My husband did not divorce me when I delegated to-do items to him. In fact, my whole family is happier because I am happier. It's a domino effect. I stopped short of asking this woman to reflect on the last year...what did she have to show for herself? A clean house and starched shirts? Kids that got to sports on time 100% of the time? But, what did she actually DO? Could she look back and say "It was a great year because...." and then she could fill in the blank with any number of things? Unfortunately she couldn't. Don't get me wrong...her heart is in the right place...she is doing this stuff for her family but no one should look back on their life and think "I should have ironed more."
Last week at Book Group we were discussing our "calling". I can assure you that no one felt they were put on earth to iron. However, everyone did agree that figuring out what you were put here to do is challenging. Half of the group wished someone would just tell them what their calling was while the other half said it was hard to figure out how to turn your interests into a "calling".
Fast forward to last weekend where I attended my friend Michelle's first photography exhibit at the Norfolk Public Library. Two years ago she was riding that work merry go round and couldn't get off. She was working crazy hours, traveling a ton, and definitely did not have a good work/life balance. She had always had an interest in photography and decided to do something about it. She started out slow by taking some classes and meeting people with similar interests. Within a year she was volunteering at Make A Wish Foundation by taking pictures when they needed that done and she started taking more serious courses at Rhode Island School of Design. She started integrating work travel with pleasure by extending business trips by a few days and exploring the places she visited. She has a beautiful picture in her house of a close up of a flower she took at a Seattle Fish Market that I swear is a painting. Michelle definitely found her passion and she has undeniable talent. (Check out her website on the left!).
What struck me on the way home was that Michelle was doing what she loved to do, even if it wasn't full time. I know I have gotten caught up in the idea that what we were "meant to do" should be a full time "gig" but I now think differently after seeing Michelle's exhibit. Perhaps some day she will be able to make a living with her photography but the more important thing she has done is shift her balance in life. She doesn't live to work anymore, but rather she is working to live. Her job is a job and her life is fuller. She is doing exactly what she loves and is enjoying every minute of it. Who knows what opportunities will open up to her as a result!
Living your best life doesn't necessarily mean finding your true passion or calling. To me, it just means finding the joy in life. I was recently talking to Tim's uncle Johnny who was sharing stories of the experiences his twin boys have had the last few months while spending their semesters abroad in Australia and Italy. Not only have they both had amazing experiences, but he and his wife have taken advantage of this time as well. He said "I know we have been traveling a ton and it isn't something we planned or would ordinarily do, but we didn't want to look back in a few years and ask ourselves why we didn't visit the boys and experience this with them." Exactly! Why not take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to us? I think too often we put up roadblocks for ourselves and look for reasons not to do things rather than reasons why we should do them.
Typically at this time, we reflect on the past year and think about things we want to do better, differently, and/or more of. This year I think we should all put down our irons and put ourselves on the list. This year we should all explore at least one interest that we have on the "want to do" list. This year I think we should open our eyes to the opportunities all around us and take advantage of them. This year we should stop saying how busy we are and fill our time with the things that make us happy. This year you should make your life a good one.