Give yourself time

For some of us, now is a perfect time to, well, take our time. Perhaps rather than binging another show, and even in lieu of reading (but not all day – just for a bit), listen to an album. I’m a long way from my record player, but I have albums on my computer. There’s also YouTube, where you can find just about anything.

In The Artist’s Way, this was one of the tasks in a later chapter of the book. Julia Cameron recommended doodling while you listen. Let your mind wander. Listen, relax, and consume the album from start to finish.

As the days get longer

There’s magic in the coming spring. We can sense the Earth preparing for the warming weather; the ground softening, the ice thawing, and the foliage preparing to bloom.

There are experiences that a human can lose touch with. Not many tend to a garden anymore or spend enough time in nature. It’s all work, fifty weeks a year, with hopefully two for vacation. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but the average is about right there.

But right now, when life the Nation is facing a bit of a crisis, and nothing seems to make sense, it’s good to remember to make time. Make time for the experiences that we might miss if we just plow through the day.

The Search

“I hope you find what you’re looking for.” That’s what I was told several weeks ago while having brunch.

“I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

The sentiment keeps ringing in my ears, calling to my deeper instincts. It’s three parts:

  1. A wish for something, such as a favorable outcome.
  2. An acknowledgment of longing, of something that is missing.
  3. The promise of a search.

It’s my belief that we’re all looking for something. The ones who can put a name to it are more likely to find it. Yet, sometimes, a name isn’t to be had. If only a name was known, then the quest would be easy.

It’s not always easy. And it’s not always fruitful. But it’s always important.

Returning to simplicity

“On a basic level, there are three general methods to simplifying your life: stopping expansion, reining in your routine, and reducing clutter.”

– Rolf Potts, Vagabonding

Long before I discovered minimalism or the Kondo-method, there was a book I had read discussing the hows and whys of long-term travel. And I wasn’t ready for it when I first read it, back in 2003. The world was where I’d wanted to be, but I had a lot holding me back. It wasn’t until 2016 that I took significant steps toward making the dream of long-term world travel a reality.

Still, I combat the clutter and spending in my life. Having finished Strayed’s Wild, a portion of me wants to rid myself of nearly all my things, the bulk of which are already in a storage unit. She burned books after she read them, nightly, lightening the load of her pack to make walking just a tad easier.

We’ve all moved, and know that each time we lift that heavy piece of furniture we think that next time it’s not coming with us. But what about the smaller pieces, the things that don’t add value to our life anymore – things we just carry out of familiarity? Wouldn’t moving on be easier without them?

Maybe they’re not all material. Maybe some things we carry our internal – things that don’t serve us. Maybe those are the most important things to let go of…

Time is the commodity

“All real meaning accrued from duration.”

-Ken Burns

Most transactions now are momentary; fleeting. Real value is accrued through spending time with something. Learning, experiencing, taking time – this has how life is made worth living.

Don’t just rush through the day, checking things off a list. Spend time on them. Experience them, and feel the joy of life.

Not afraid to try

“Be broke or be wealthy, but never accept mediocrity.”

My friend and I used to discuss the problems with settling – that in so doing you’re effectively giving up on a portion of your dream. So he went out and started his own video production company. I’m not sure that he’s always doing exactly what he wants, but at least he’s in the ballpark.

I lost sight of my path about four years ago and since that time I’ve had some difficulty refinding my footing. I’ve jumped around from position to position, taking gigs here and there. Financially it’s been a lot of ups and downs. Personally, it has been mostly good, especially in the past three years. The year 2016 was the most tenuous.

Even still, I am constantly trying new things. I can’t seem to become satisfied in one specific area. I’ll enjoy the world of performance for a time, and then need to step back to make some money elsewhere. Work for a nonprofit a year, then switch to for-profit. Back and forth, in-and-out of projects – it’s a whirlwind.

And it is all in pursuit of some goal that won’t let me settle into something. That keeps me moving. We can’t always be doing exactly what we want. But if we’re playing the wrong game, it’s up to us to find the stadium.

The benefits of wilderness

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”

– John Muir

The wild places are where we found the heart of humanity. Man was not born of the city, but rather of woods, and plains, and mountains. We expect so much from our modern life that it’s easy to overlook the simple pleasures of walking through the woods or tending your own garden.

As children, we knew the woods just up the street to be wilderness. We played in those trees, rummaged through the low underbrush, and identified insects, reptiles, and amphibians best we could. As we grow older, we stray off the sidewalk less and less.

This isn’t universal. In fact, there is a push for reentering nature the likes of which probably haven’t been seen since the sixties. People are in need of more wilderness if merely to combat that rampant modernization.

So it’s important to be outside. To forest bathe, or sit under the stars. Away from light pollution, and outside of walls. It’s where we found our heart once, and it can show us the way again.

Making decisions

Choice can be the most difficult thing sometimes. When faced with two options, it’s usually easy to see the cost and benefits associated with each. When more options are piled on, the results can become muddied.

Picking and choosing when faced with a bevy of possibilities can lead not only to indecision but stagnation. That’s why many of the most successful producers attempt to limit not only their focus but the things that may come their way to detract from their focus.

It’s not easy. I constantly struggle with over-extension. And I routinely try to reduce the amount of commitments I have. There are times when it’s not received well.

But being honest in those situations, with yourself and with others, is the best way forward. Don’t be cruel, but don’t be misled into giving of yourself when it will cause your work, and your mental health, to suffer. Again, it’s about taking that time for yourself.

How to decide what’s important

I’ve been asked many times, in many different ways, when will I find what I’m looking for? I’m asked this because I’ve jumped from job to job, picking up gigs along the way. I’ve traveled overseas and down south. I’ve acquired a couple of degrees (along with some debt), and I’m still looking at getting my Ph.D.

I have a half-dozen or so irons in the fire, so to speak. There’s a radio program I put together; some film & video work I still do; this blog; three gigs right now, which I’ll have reduced to one for the summer; and a couple of creative projects in the pipeline.

And I know it’s too much.

In one of the Weekly Roundups, I mentioned this blog post on working Smarter, Not Harder. I’ve taken some of the advice I gleaned from the posting, including trying to flesh out my goals. These are have proven enormously elusive to me, at least over the past four years.

I’ve seen what can happen when you have a singular focus and move methodically towards the goal. I’ve experienced it, and I know it works. Only when it happened, it wasn’t how I’d imagined it, and I now select goals with a bit more reluctance.

So as I take my time to list out my goals, for the short-term and the long-term, I think it’s important to (as I often say) be mindful and honest about what it is you’re searching for – what it is you want in life.

Once that’s done, the next step will be pulling the top three to focus on, which may yet be more of a challenge.

Attempting an upgrade

If nothing you’re doing seems to be working in the fight to regain your energy, maybe it’s time to take extreme measures.

I’ve tried several over the years. Once when I was fighting a severe bought of depression, I quit my job, moved out of my house, and was planning a move far away. I wasn’t sure where, but anywhere would have sufficed. For a month or two, I stayed with a friend on an air mattress. He didn’t mind, though his wife might have. Anyway, good friends will stick with you when shit hits the fan.

Deciding to take this trip to Alaska would be another opportunity to upgrade, even if only for the summer. But I foresee the time away allowing me to dissect my life in a way that I haven’t been able to do in Florida. Honest observations on what’s working and what’s not.

So it seems that upgrades are decisions that can either succeed or fail, whereby you remove yourself from one or more aspects of your life that are constantly draining energy. It’s why people seek better jobs, better housing, better communities. The hunt for better is about trying to upgrade ourselves.

But we must make sure that we’re doing it conscientiously, and not just throwing money at a problem or, worse, going into debt to be seen as “keeping up with the Joneses”.