The Birthday Post: Taking Stock

In one of those perfect confluences of circumstances, my 43rd birthday today falls on a “Life” day. The day itself doesn’t have much significance – I’m spending most of the day working, and teaching a workshop in Baltimore this evening – I had mentioned to a friend that after this tour is over I will have time to “rest and take stock of things.”

I wasn’t especially positive about that last part; there have been a lot of changes in my life over the past year, and I’ve honestly been so busy that I can’t say whether they were positive or negative. My friend was quite emphatic in her response:

As long as you’ve made decisions that you honestly believe are best for you there’s no reason to dread taking stock.

You see what you’ve done. What you would like to continue doing. What you’d like to do differently.

Not so scary.

It’s not the first time she and I have disagreed as to the relative simplicity (or scariness) of things. It’s that “As long as…” clause that gets me. As I’ve written in other posts, it’s quite difficult for me to get past the shoulds, woulds, could’ves & why didn’ts.

All Things Being Equal..

"Wine List" by Hugh McLeod

I’m a master of reframing. I can take the events of the past year and paint you a picture of triumph, self-realization, creative success and social value in the things I did. At the same time, I can play devil’s advocate, and go down the list of failure, tragedy, misfortune and just plain “UR DOIN IT WRONG” that permeates the year – sometimes in the very same actions that were in the first frame.

What does this tell me? Well, the same thing that Buddhism has taught me for decades: that it’s not the things themselves that make the difference, it’s the attachments we choose to put on them. Much like the Gaping Void cartoon to the left, it’s about choosing the version of events that brings you the most joy.

That’s not necessarily the happy view. There’s a lot to be said for wallowing in grief, for maundering and brooding and letting yourself be sad about things. In fact, that may be more useful than trying to put a positive spin on life; either way, you’re not going to be able to sustain the mood for long, and at least you can get the depressing one over with.

The Real Stock

One thing I can look at is the other meaning of the word “stock” – as in, the stuff that all the pieces of the soup of life float around in. Regardless of the individual ingredients of my life – the tasty morsels and the not-so-tasty that are there more for health or for spice (beware the bay leaf!) there is a larger presence that these events are contained within. This “stock” of my life is something that I can at least look at with some pride and integrity.

I act with the intention of bringing more beauty, grace, and passion into the world. I am not always successful, and there are times when it seems the best-laid plans are agleying all over the place. But I am fortunate that from that base of intention I am connected to a vast network of friends, allies, family of blood and choice, and loved ones who support me in my work and my intent.

After four decades and then some, I can’t think of a better place to be.

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