If This Were Your Last Moment

Hello, and happy Monday! Yeah, I know, I know, Mondays aren’t exactly happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed. I know.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, a reset of sorts, every single week. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“Stop, breathe, look around
and embrace the miracle of each day,
the miracle of life.”

// Jeffrey A. White

Sometimes I do this thing where I pretend that I was popped into existence just this moment and in seconds I am going to pop back out. This moment and whatever setting I am in, whatever people are around, and whatever thoughts and feeling I have are all I’m ever going to have. I look around and wonder if this was the last moment I was ever going to have, would it be enough?

It may sound like a strange or even morbid practice but forces me to be mindful and to take quick stock of my life and where I am at. Every time I have don’t this I have found that instead of being disappointed by wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I feel grateful and I see more beauty around me than I otherwise would.

In those moments I realize what is important to me, and it is always surprising. It doesn’t matter as much how many adventures I have had because if I were to pop out of existence just now, none of it would matter to me anymore. What matters is who and what I am leaving behind and who and what I will spend my last moments seeing. I thank the universe I got to be alive at all and hope the people who will live after know I loved them with every part of my being.

Then I pop back into being regular old me, feeling my regular old feelings about my life. I still feel guilt, and shame, and regret, and jealousy only now it’s a little less.

It’s a useful practice and gives me a bit of perspective, but it would probably be exhausting to live every moment of your life that way. For all the woo-woo talk of the “enlightened,” I don’t think the average person can or should. What I think this practice does is teaches your brain that it is okay not to spend so much time “elsewhere.” On what you wish you had, or what you hope you have, or what you shouldn’t have done, or what others think. None of this is now, and none of it is helping you.

None of this will matter when your last moment comes.

What matters, what I think and what I hope will matter in the last moments is the beauty and miracle and love of it all, and all of that surrounds you every day, you only have to get outside of yourself and the bullshit. Sometimes you have to see a patch of grass, or a cloud crossing the sky as the miracles they are. Hear your breath, feel your heartbeat, listen to the voices around you and remember how rare it all is. This world, you, and whatever you are doing, are some of the rarest things in the universe.

Of course, life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. This sink full of dirty dishes, this pile of work on my desk, and the complaints and critiques we hear in meetings and at home don’t feel much like miracles or wonders of the universe, but they are. You don’t have to love them, in fact, I encourage you to do what you can to change what you don’t like, but you still must acknowledge the beauty of every moment and the privilege you have to be there to experience it.

These unpleasant moments usually come and go either unnoticed or unwanted. I moan about my life too and wish it were something else until I force the realization that this is the only life I have and it is a very beautiful and special one, especially when you consider that there are so many who get no life at all.

There are vast stretches of the universe where no life exists. There are some who had life yesterday and don’t today, and there are many who aren’t alive today to see what you do but will be another day when you no longer are.

This week, just take a few moments from time to time, to look up from your screen and find some beauty and wonder around you. It is there, I promise, no matter how much you hate work, or your commute, or coming home to dirty houses, grouchy spouses, or demanding children or pets. I promise there is are wonder and beauty to be found, in this moment and throughout your life.

Take time to find the good, and work on making more of it, slowly, every day, every minute, when you can. Imagine what would matter, how would you feel, or what you would look to if this moment was all you had.

Maybe another day at the office isn’t the worst thing. Maybe a patch of grass is a miracle. Maybe the swirling dish water is beautiful. And maybe every human you know is the most important thing in the universe and you should feel grateful, special, honored, to be a witness to such marvelous and transient moments.

Attention must only be paid to what is around you, now.

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image via Unsplash

 

 

People are People, Just Like You

Hello, and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is a reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.”

— Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot

People are simple, and stupid, and complex, and feeling, and wise, and fallible, and beautiful, and dark, and ugly, and so much more than we can ever convey with words. We know this because we know ourselves and deep down we know other people feel and think and go through what do, even though we rarely act like it.

We know we have rich inner lives, profound thoughts and feelings, shades of emotions, wants, and needs that language can scratch the surface of. We know there are reasons behind everything we do that rarely ever fall fully to one side of good or bad, selfless or selfish. There are more shades of human motivation and reason than there are stars in the universe or grains of sand on every beach but humans aren’t good with subtle shades of being or thinking.

We know that our psyches are deep and varied and we know that because of this, because every thought and action and all that we are is a product of all we have been through and sometimes all that many generations before us have been through, we know we are deserving of understanding and patience. Somehow, we know this, but at the same time, we know that other people are simple beings with simple and often nefarious motivations for doing what they do.

We forget that people are people, all over the world and all throughout time, same as we are.

They have the same thoughts, the same questions, the same failings and triumphs, the same daily, grueling, inner struggle between who they are and who they ought to be. They share the same complex inner life and painfully vague understanding of why they do what they do. They are hurt and hoping and fucking up, and we should be working harder to understand their needs and motivations, the way we would ask them to do for us.

We are too quick categorize and condemn each other in ways that are radically different from how we think of ourselves. They are mean. They don’t care. They aren’t good enough. They are stupid. They are trying intentionally to sabotage and set me back. They are the enemy, but it isn’t so simple. They are human, and so are we, and they do all the things they do for the same reasons as us. Because they don’t know any better.

 

Of course, in all the ways we are the same, there are as many ways in which we are different, and that is where the work of understanding happens. Besides the fact that we all come from different places and were born in different times, besides the fact that each of our parents was raised in a time with different struggles and different values, besides the fact that no two perspectives can ever be the same, we all simply have very different brains. We have different thoughts, needs, motivations, wants, and ideas about right and wrong and every shade in between.

Even on our best days, when we are listening well and using language as precisely as we can, no human language is articulate or exact enough to ever explain who we are, what we feel, and what our motivations and reasons may be. Each of us no matter how we reach out and to how many is alone within our own minds. We can never be understood and we can never fully understand, but we can try harder, and do better, and stop treating each other like simple beings and react with simpler solutions and emotions.

This week, before you judge who is right and who is wrong, who is worth listening to, and who is worth compassionate understanding, or friendship, just know that each person you encounter is a complex mix of history, culture, experience, emotion, and wisdom that you will never fully comprehend.

We owe it to ourselves to treat one another better. To owe it to each other to understand each other better. To step into each other’s shoes isn’t so hard when you stop acting as if you are the only one who can be right, who can be hurt, who can have needs, or can make mistakes.

This week, try to understand that you have no right to presume to know who a person is, why they do what they do, how they ought to act, or what help they need or don’t. Get to know people and do the hard work of letting them exist on a spectrum rather than at the easy to categorize extremes.

This world has become far too black and white, I’d love to see some grays, and one day, when we are better people than we are now, we might even be comfortable with color and hue and brightness too.

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Remember What the Work is For

Hello, and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is a reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“I want to read and write and be very quiet.”

— Martha Gellhorn

Sometimes I forget what I am supposed to be working toward. I forget that it’s not the accomplishments or acknowledgments, those are simply a means to and end. The end is the life I dream of, a life where I can be free of societies norms and other people’s expectation.

My dream is to live a life where I am surrounded by ideas, with plenty of time to think them over and through, and then send them back out into the world with a little of myself in each one. My dream is to live a life of reading, writing, and quiet.

Sometimes I get caught up in reading all the marketing and productivity blogs and trying to do what they do. Sometimes I get caught up in networking and social media and blogging and promotion and hashtags and groups and fan pages and the photos and it never seems to be enough. I feel like I spend all my time doing a whole lot of things that at the end of the day don’t feel anything like what I wanted to be doing with my life.

What is it all for if I never feel happy? What is it all for when it’s all about other people and their posts and their pictures and whether or not they will please follow me or like this or share this? When is it about me? When does it start to feel good and right and meaningful? When do I stop chasing the means and finally get to the end?

I think the time is now. Or maybe, some of the time is now.

This week, I’m going to carve out time that is for living the life I want to live now. My wants aren’t too complicated or costly. I just want time to learn and think and share there is no reason I cannot have that today. There is no reason why any one of us can’t carve out just a little bit of our future dream and bring back here to the present reality.

This week, live a little of the life you always wanted to. Plan a small trip, take a small step, pretend you already are where you always wanted to be. Do it because tomorrow is never promised and you don’t want to spend what little life you have chasing a dream you might never get to see made real. Do it because you deserve a little of that happiness now dammit!

Of course, reality will fly back in and remind you that you need to be creating, selling, sharing, and marketing. It will remind you to get up early, post to this timeline or that, set your SMART goals, build good habits, and make progress every day, but never forget what it is all for.

It’s all so that you can be who you want to be and live the way you want to live, one day, some day, and for a little while, this day.

***

If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? 

Featured image via Unsplash

Perfection is not Attainable

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, every single week. Each Monday is our own personal reset button. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“For whatever it’s worth, I believe we’re born imperfect, and perfection, whatever that may be, is unattainable by us mere humans.”

— Liza M. Wiemer, Hello?

I’m not perfect, but I never thought I would be. I had been born too flawed and been too fucked up by my parents, and boys, and women, and love, and failure to ever be perfect. I felt sorry for myself, watching everyone on their way to being divine human beings while I am stuck with a life, a body, and a mind that will never be any better than it is now.

I have low self-esteem, obviously, and like all things in our minds, knowing it doesn’t change a thing. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the ways I don’t measure up. I think about how clumsy I am, and all the wildly imperfect things I say and the incredibly wrong decisions I make. I think about all the people who don’t like me, don’t care about me, or who are burdened by me. I think about how much I will never measure up, and I feel so small and so stupid, and I feel it nearly all of the time.

I know I measure myself against an impossible standard, against accomplishment no one has achieved. I measure myself against what people show, say, or post online without letting myself believe that they too have work to do toward becoming a better version of them too. I want to be perfect but I’m learning perfection is not attainable, not for me, but maybe not for anyone?

How can it be when we are set up so perfectly to fail against the standard?

Not one of us is born with a road map. We aren’t told what the right path to take is or how to deal with the flawed parts of ourselves that persist even after education, reward, punishment, and culture and the law. OF course, our parents tell us they know the way, and our teachers say they know the way, and TV and blogs say what we should do, but o one really knows, and no path will work for every person or geographic or economic location and level.

So we each waste a whole lot of life making a whole lot of mistakes on our way to somewhere we get never get to. You wouldn’t even recognize it if you did anyway since none of us can agree quite what perfection looks like anyway. Think of every contradiction you have ever heard from your parents, your friends, your teachers, your spouse, and your idols. Think of all the ways you have been told to live and all the ways you have hurt yourself trying to do it all. It just can’t be done.

There simply is no such thing as a perfect human. We haven’t even been able to accept being basic human. We spend all of our time repressing and suppressing who we are that we move further away rather than towards perfection. We can’t be our best selves when we don’t even know who we are. I would argue we’ve done nothing but be our worst selves in our misguided efforts.

So, I’ll say it again: Perfection is not attainable! It is something you can never achieve, and therefore you should stop trying so damn hard and feeling so damn sorry for yourself. We should let go of the dream human being and start working on being the most us, the most human, we can be.

You can only ever be a better you and only in some ways, not in all. There is always a give and take because there are only so many hours in a day and neurons in the brain. You gain something you lose something, and you can only hope that what you become makes you happier with yourself and your life than what you were before.

Perfection has gotten us into a whole lot of trouble and kept us from a whole lot of love. We hold so tight to it, we do anything for it, we give up anything for it, and we miss out on what makes us great and wonderful. We forget how good it feels to be comfortable with you are vs. how soul crushing it is to spend your life trying to be something you aren’t.

This week, take a moment to let go of perfection and get to know and accept yourself as you are now. Meditation and mindfulness can help with this. Mindfulness reminds us to live in the now, not in a past or a future that can’t be changed or may never come. Meditation teaches us to accept and gently direct our thought and wants. Take 10 minutes a day to sit and breath, be gentle and aware, or just forgive yourself for you next shortcoming and remind yourself that it’s normal and beautiful to be who you are now, flaws and all.

Don’t give up on improving yourself. Don’t give up on learning more about who you are and what this thing called life is. Don’t give up on working hard and finding your happiness. Just change your idea of what “perfect” is. Let go of it completely and focus on being a better you.

Start with just being a human. Feel your feelings fully and explore who you are. That in itself is a life long journey! Don’t waste time comparing yourself and trying to be something you can’t. You can be good. You can be a you that is open and aware of the world. You can be wise, and compassionate, and successful too. You can be loved, and admired, and remembered, but you can never be perfect.

You can only be you, imperfect, boring, beautiful you.

***

If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps? 

Featured image via Unsplash

Give Compliments That Matter

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know I know, Mondays aren’t happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting nothing more than to crawl back into bed and escaping the world.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s imagine that Mondays are the days when we get to start all over again. Let’s imagine all the bad things that happened last week don’t matter anymore and that we’ve been given a second chance to do it all again, and this time, we might even get it right.

From now on Monday’s are for making the changes we want to see in ourselves, and for thinking about the changes we want to see in the world. Monday’s are our new favorite days!

As for me, this Monday has been off to a rough start. I went to bed late last night and failed to get anything ready for this morning, so I struggled. I lost important papers, I had to wait for clothes to dry, and I forgot to set my “5-minute” warning alarm and left the house a little late too. I’m doing my best to remember that the day is far from over and that it’s never too late to reset my mind and mood. I plan to take a walk, then eat lunch, and forget all about the shitty morning.

caroline1_1280v2
Caroline Caldwell

I came across the above image on Tumblr last night, and I fell in love with it. It took a while but I finally the source, the artist, and an Upworthy story to elaborate on the artist’s motivations.

Apparently, Caroline Caldwell “decided that people needed some ideas for how to compliment each other on things besides looks and physical appearance.” So, in collaboration with Van Nguyen, she created a public art piece to remind us all that there is more that can be, good about a person that what is on the outside.

I’m not very good about giving compliments. I didn’t exactly grow up in an environment where people said nice things about each other. Giving and receiving compliments makes me feel very anxious, uncomfortable, and sometimes, pretty panicky. Looking around and listening to the way people talk to each other and interact I get the feeling I’m not alone in this.

Complimenting someone makes us emotionally vulnerable. We fear either our compliment will fall flat or be rejected, or that it will be misinterpreted. We are afraid to give away our feelings for another person when we aren’t sure that the other person feels something of equal value for us. We don’t want to care too much. We don’t want to get attached. We don’t want to open our hearts, not even the tiny bit it takes to show someone we see something good in them and to thank them for bringing that good into our lives.

It’s a shame we’ve all become so bottled up and afraid. Life shouldn’t be like this. I should be able to say nice things and have nice things said about me without it being a big deal. None of us should ever feel unsure about what it is our loved ones love about us, and no one we love should feel insecure or unsure how much or why we love them too.

This goes for everyone in your life. Tell your mom why she’s great. Tell your sister what she means to you. Tell your wife what she does that keeps you coming back. Tell your kids why you are proud of them. Tell your friends why you choose them. Tell your coworkers how they brighten your day. Tell everyone you think something good about what that good thing is.

The catch? Do your best to make those compliments about something much, much more than looks and appearance.

Yeah we all like to look good, and we want people to notice and tell us when we do, but I’ve noticed that when people are comfortable giving or receiving compliments it is nearly always about what we look like on the outside. Those compliments are too easy. Let’s dig a little deeper this week okay?

If complimenting doesn’t come easily to you, give yourself permission to fudge it up a few times in the name of practice and progress. It will benefit you in the end, yes. Your relationships will become stronger, and people will feel comfortable to open themselves up to you too but remember you aren’t really doing this for yourself. You are doing this so to make others feel better. You are doing it because it makes this world a happier and healthier place to live in.

If enough of us resolve to be a little nicer and let ourselves be a little more vulnerable every week, we could get very far in a very short time.

***

 

If you like this post, consider signing up for my newsletter :)

Featured image via Unsplash

I Quit, but I’m Starting Again Now!

At first I told myself I was just taking a break. I had family in town and I was working and trying to blog, and write, and draw everyday and it all just got to be too much. I didn’t take a break, I quit. By the time I was honest with myself and admitted that I had quit I was already carrying a heavy load of guilt and disappointment. I had gone weeks without writing or drawing anything and it felt like it was too late to try again.

Then I told myself I needed to figure out what went wrong so that I could get back on the horse and start again without getting overwhelmed. I didn’t do that either. I just kept on quitting. I knew I just needed to keep trying but everything felt so difficult. Every time I would sit down to write I would just browse Facebook or Pinterest instead. I read other blogs and thought about how I could never write as well as them. I looked at other people’s artwork and wished I was talented and motived too.

Then a few things changed.

The first thing was a more gradual change. Slowly, then all at once, I realized me and my girlfriend are happy. If you read my past post on the history of our relationship you know that we haven’t always been happy together. We were always in love, that never changed, but we didn’t know how to be in a relationship. I feel like in this past year, and more so in the past six months or so, we have really found our flow together. Communication has been wonderful, we have been closer and more intimate than ever, and we just feel this glow, this bubble, of love and acceptance around us. Basically everything has just felt….good! It’s like we are teenagers in love again but this time we are doing it right!

Then my girlfriend got a big promotion. She has worked so hard over the years and they finally recognized her for it. I am very proud of her and I know she will do great in her new position. It will be a lot of responsibility but I know she can do it! This also means we will have more money coming in and that could mean I might not have to work as hard. It could mean I could set aside more time for art and writing. Not that I want to work a whole lot less, just maybe I don’t have to sacrifice all of my time and energy for my job. Maybe I could have a bit more time for the things I love.

The last thing thing that changed were my goals. I started this blog with the intention of expressing myself but other than that I had no idea where I was going with this. Now I think I need to be more useful to the world. I need to be able to teach something. I’m not entirely sure what that is yet but I think the direction I’m heading for is more of a philosophical one with a bit of life hacking and self improvement thrown on top. I want to be a better person but I don’t know exactly what that better person looks like yet but instead of just sitting around and thinking about being a better person, I want to actually do some experimenting and figuring out what being a better person means.

I also want to make life easier and more enjoyable. I want to cut out all of the crap and actually really start being happier and healthier. I want to manage my money better. I want to stop procrastinating and being fearful. I want to get things done and go on adventures. I want to get involved with social issues and volunteer and protest. I want to leave something behind when I die. I really think that now is the time when me and my girlfriend can really start figuring out what we want out of life instead of just doing the same old work, home, sleep routine.

So I am back. I am writing and I am coming up with ways to make some big changes in my life. I feel good, I feel happy, and I feel hopeful. Good vibes everyone!