I hate to break it to you, but I haven’t got it figured out. I know you come to this blog to read pearls of wisdom to help you find your way to happiness and contentedness and better, whiter, teeth or at least wider smiles, but I’m afraid there’s very little of that here.
You may be making the same mistake I almost made yesterday as I sat across from my Middle Daughter at the coffee shop. At the time I was writing a blog post for a client, against a deadline. I’d already tuned up my bike and ridden a few miles; the day before I’d laid out a book, ridden several miles, had a meeting with an app developer, and more, and yet by the end of the day I felt that I hadn’t really accomplished anything. It wasn’t FOMO – Fear of Missing Out – it was FOSO: Fear of Slacking Off.
I realize, on a rational level, that I had been extremely productive. That in fact I was likely doing more than I should, that simplifying my life would probably benefit everyone. But I couldn’t internalize it; I couldn’t actually believe my rational self when it said “OK, enough! Take a break!”
And I was about to ask my daughter her opinion on it. Maybe she had some idea for how to not push yourself beyond reasonable limits. Yes, that’s it – I would ask my daughter – my cross-fit enthusiastic studying-for-her-medical-boards daughter what the secret to personal leisure might be.
Then again, maybe not. And it was equally unlikely that my oldest daughter, whose son boasts of her three jobs, could help me. Or my youngest daughter, with two jobs (and four new job offers, apparently) and another of my grandsons to deal with day-to-day. Her twin, living and building a career as a performer in dance and the fire arts in Atlanta was also unlikely to really get the idea of “taking it easy.” Of “you’ve done enough.”
It occurred to me that maybe I owed those young women an apology for how I raised them. Well, as the Constable of Penzance would put it, too late now!
Maybe, instead, James Kavanaugh understands the issue – and lets us know it’s not, actually, a problem:
“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains,, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter.
Because my partners and I are conscientious of each others’ moods, one of the common questions that we have for each other is “Are you alright?” That, or some other variation on the theme, because we want to be both aware of our states of mind and also not miss any opportunities to help each other work through the hard times.
Sometimes, though, that question might be asked a little too much. For example, one day I was especially concerned with finances, and Natasha knew it. The next morning I got a text from her: How are you feeling?
My response was good coffee, bike tuning, and cereal.
Her response was, of course, ??? . Because she’d been asking about my mood from the previous day. But that question hadn’t made sense to me, because nothing had changed in my financial situation overnight. Why would my mood be different?
Here’s the secret, though – I’m pretty sure my mood would have been the same if I was making a six-figure salary, worrying about whether to sink money into a new house in that other neighborhood or not. It’s not the amounts of money, it’s the attitude around it.
That’s money, and I’m very aware I have issues with it. But the same thing applies to the rest of life.
“Are You Done with Work?“
There’s another question that just doesn’t make sense to me. How could I ever be done? There’s outlines of books to write, stacks of books to read, songs to learn, new income streams to generate, friends to re-connect with, dances to perform, grandsons to spoil, lovers to nibble, videos to stream, cigars to enjoy, and so much to do. How can I say that I am done?
I can’t. What’s more is that I can be ok with that. Back to you, James:
We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.
For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.”