February 28, 2013

A Letter to All Who Aspire.


Source: Uploaded by user via Elaine on Pinterest

(Maybe it’s actually just a letter to myself.)

We make great plans for all the things we’d like to do.

We write our lists and manifestos and offer up lots of advice. We send out inspiration over bits of wire like little paper boats on the water, hoping someone will unfold them and read our messages. But when does that moment arrive for us? When do we decide to actually dive in and be fully present?

I’ve been busy lately. So busy, that though this has been on my mind, it’s only shown up as snatches of thoughts mumbled in the shower and undecipherable scribbles made in my Moleskine at stoplights. I kept thinking, “I should write this. I should take some time and think about this.” But the thing about “should” is that the time for it never shows up. Those things we think we ought to do, we’d like to do…someday…never happen.

People make wish lists, bucket lists and boards on Pinterest full of things they’d like to do “someday.”

The sad thing in all of that aspiration is that someday doesn’t exist; there’s only right now.

I can’t make some brilliant manifesto of who I want to be someday or where I think you should go or what we could do. I can only make a manifesto of now.

Right now, here’s what I know:

It’s not the tales we tell—it’s the details. The broad strokes and big deals we worry about aren’t what make our lives beautiful. It’s the rainy afternoon conversation over a cup of tea. It’s being with people who make your heart swell, who make it so full of laughter that you can’t keep it in. It’s sitting at the end of a long day, in silence, and letting the satisfaction of being physically spent wash over you. It’s cold toes touching under the blanket at night, or a cat curled up behind your knees. It’s bare feet in wet grass. It’s crying—crying so hard that you think it will never stop. It’s the spaces in between all the big things that transform our lives from noise to music. The moments make the melody. Don’t miss out on noticing them in pursuit of the broad strokes that seem so important.

When we aren’t present, we end up in the wrong place. I learn this over and over. Maybe I’ve finally learned it. I was driving earlier, mindlessly, and ended up somewhere I often go, but not where I intended. If we just go through the motions in life, we end up in the same place again and again, and usually not where we need to be. Take a breath. Open your eyes. Wake up a little more than you were a few minutes ago. Walk backwards a bit and shake some sense into yourself. And if, like me, you find you’ve wandered into where you don’t belong, it’s never to late to choose a different road.

It’s never the right time for anything. The best stuff, the most essential stuff, seems to happen at the most inconvenient time possible. We fight it. We want to feel settled. Settled is an illusion. The truth is that things are never all settled. Even when life is on an even keel, it’s the things that interrupt us, that disrupt us and challenge us that are the most important. We think that it would be easier if we knew how everything was going to turn out and had both feet planted on the ground. If it weren’t for those times where we get tossed up in midair, we’d never learn how to fly.

Good enough is the enemy of great. There are times we get tired. There are times when all the busyness and all the battles wear us down. And if we aren’t careful, complacency will sneak up on us. When we aren’t looking, it can devour us. I have a secret: the people I talk with the most, trust the most and take delight in? They aren’t the people who tell me to take it easy. They aren’t the people who tell me I’m “good enough.” They are the ones who fire me up. They are the ones who inspire me to be great, who whet my appetite to be more, to do more. They are the ones with lust for life. If you are happy punching a clock and rolling along through a “good enough” life, you don’t want friends like that. But if there’s that thing inside you, that fire, that part that wants more—you need friends like that.

All we have is now. I don’t mean we should embrace the idiot YOLO attitude and throw out personal responsibilities. I mean that the list of things for someday needs to happen a lot sooner, or it will never happen at all. And all the time we’re wasting in this moment thinking about someday—we’re missing it! We’re missing now. What if this was it? What would you do right now? I’ve realized lately that I’ve been so stuck in the before and the not yet, that I’ve speeding right through now, sometimes missing things that I really need. Slow down. Look at all of it another way. For me, I decided it was time to take a little trip. Five days—to wander, to visit some people I love—but most of all to remind myself of some things I’ve almost forgotten. I’ve forgotten, in my busyness, how to love right now.

When we were children, we knew it. We knew that bliss wasn’t something we had to chase. We just enjoyed everything. We didn’t have to think about being present or seizing the moment. Children don’t have to be told to stop and pick a strawberry and pop it into their mouth; they just do it. We used to know, instinctively, how to fall in love with now, without even realizing it. We used to believe that we could do—anything.

Skip the bucket list. Go. Do. Stretch your heart. Use it all, and then some. Don’t be afraid. You’ll survive. You’ll have some new scars and a few new songs.

We should always know, we can do anything.


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