“If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live.” - Lyn Yutang
Why do you do what you do?
The past couple weeks I’ve been fighting a sinus cold. Despite my best attempts at positive thinking, healthy eating, vitamins, supplements and oil of oregano, I’m still not 100%. There is a lesson in this for me. I’m the type of person who likes to be busy. I have lots of things I want to do, and I feel guilty if I’m not doing something. I have problems just relaxing. In other words, I haven’t yet learned how to truly live.
A few weeks ago I came across a post by one of my favourite bloggers, The Soul Reporter. Nikki Di Virgilio wrote this incredibly honest and enlightening post called True Spirit-Gifts, and I have been reading it almost every day since I first came across it. I printed it. I have underlined certain parts. I have written notes all over it. I put it in my purse so that it’s always with me in case I feel the need to re-read it. It spoke to me so deeply and woke me up to thoughts I didn’t even realize I was thinking.
Reading it I realized that a great deal of what I do, I do with the hopes of recognition, admiration, validation and praise. For example, I check my blog stats a couple times of day as if I can somehow quantify or measure the impact my life is making by how many people read my blog. When on Twitter I can feel somewhat discouraged over how many “followers” other people have compared to me (I know this is crazy!).
At work, I hope my employer gives me recognition and compensation I feel I deserve. I admit to feeling slighted and offended if I think I haven’t been appropriately rewarded for my efforts.
Reading Nikki’s post made me realize that I am the type of person who is constantly looked for results such as more money, more recognition or more opportunities. If I don’t get these things, I can feel discouraged, bitter and/or resentful. Her article reminds me that when I was a young girl, none of this mattered. I didn’t look for results. I didn’t need external validation to experience joy.
I had a ball playing in the backyard with my sister, riding my bike with my friends, reading, writing stories, playing with my cat, dressing up in my mother’s clothes and pretending I was putting on a “show.” I absolutely loved listening to records and trying to tape my favourite songs off the radio. These were some of the things that brought me joy. I knew how to live back then.
Somehow I lost the true essence of myself. I learned to demand that what I do produce a result whether the result was recognition from my parents, good grades at school or praise for my abilities. I stopped creating and doing for the pure joy of it. My thoughts switched to, “I must be successful and make lots of money to be fulfilled,” or “I must be striving after the perfect body/career/relationship to be happy.” I forgot who I was. I forgot how to live.
Two people I think know how to live better than I do are my parents. They love watching sports, especially hockey. My father at 69 still bowls every week and plays hockey about four times a week. My mother loves doing puzzles, gardening and watching the birds. They don’t need to be constantly doing something to be fulfilled. They both adore playing with my niece.
In contrast, I need my body to physically stop me from getting out of bed so that I can learn to relax and slow down. I have to feel like all the life is sucked out of me before I will admit to myself that I won’t be able to attend my hot yoga class. I have to feel like I can barely stand before I will acknowledge I can’t teach my fitness class or go to work. I have to feel so exhausted and completely drained before I let myself be OK with doing nothing.
So last night, after reading Nikki’s post for the umpteenth time, I sat in my basement and put on some old records (Ronnie Milsap’s Greatest Hits and Whitney Houston’s first album). I have started doing this lately. The other week I sat and sang along to Lionel Ritchie’s first record. There is something about listening to music on a record player that reminds me of my childhood. It brings me back to another place in time, and a different state of mind. It reminds me who I really am.
On a post it note beside my bed, I’ve written “Why do I need everything to have a result? Why do I care if I’m recognized or admired?” I feel I need to constantly remind myself that I don’t need others to tell me I’m worthy. I don’t need to accomplish a lot at work or with my business to prove that I’m a success. I don’t need to be super strong or have six pack abs or be as flexible as a gymnast to prove that I’m good enough. I just need to remember the five year old me, the true essence of myself, and offer my gifts to the world with the purest of intentions: to be of service to others. And that is enough.
Someone who truly knows how to live...my cat, Lola