I was eighteen years old and tripping balls on LSD when, curled up in the deep Oregon woods with moss so bright it sang green a cappella, a friend and I came up with this:
“There’s a time to go deep and a time just to look at things.”
It’s embarrassing how profound we thought we were. I still have my journal from that day. No, I’m not going to show it to you.
That’s the line that comes into my brain every time I find myself feeling all pressured to perfection. Someone references Shakespeare and I realize that I could have been reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare instead of spending hours engrossed in Ron Swanson’s mustache on Parks and Recreation. How can I possibly be spending a minute of the day not learning deep and important things?
Mustache, learning, mustache, learning…
Then I think of that line. Because there is time for all of it. And especially time to soften, relax, and release.
Does everything have to be such a necessity?
Is it crucial that we are saving the world ALL THE GODDAMNED TIME?
Seriously. If the world needs anything right now, it might just need you to chill.
Of course having an ongoing relationship with the state of affairs that affect our collective well-being is crucial, but we are not all going to do that in one certain prescribed way.
Consider this scenario:
“I have a nine to five,” you say apologetically at the freelancer’s party, knowing full well you should be curing cancer from the beaches of Botswana – so you’re failing at life.
You haven’t cured cancer yet, sloth? No Nobel Prize for you!
What if saving the world starts with your own ability to inhabit your own, peacefully and with deep satisfaction and appreciation, no matter what you’re doing?
Perhaps it’s from this place, and this place only that your mind is finally quiet enough to hear, really hear, the suffering of others so you can act with actual generosity versus the deep need to be good enough through charity.
And that satisfaction doesn’t come with the ability to look like an athlete, eat organic/local/artisanal/farmer-market/seasonal, invent a unique and utterly satisfying career that earns all the figures, take charge of your kid’s school so they can pursue their quote-unquote passions, enter all the CAPTCHA, answer the emails immediately because how long is too long to respond to instant communication, keep the pets and plants alive, (and somehow) be nice to the grocery store cashier who demands to know what you are doing this weekend all at the same time.
Since when is just going to work, being nice, moving around, and coming home to eat food with a mustache that is, in my humble opinion, a national treasure, a covert, and criminal act? Or a reason to feel ashamed?
It sort of makes me long for the days of Feudalism. People’s stations in the world were SET BY GOD. If you were born a peasant you just did peasant things. If you were born a Lord, you did dandy Lordly things. I mean, at least you knew the extent of what was possible and didn’t have to relentlessly question every single one of your choices and the outcomes. No peasant sat around thinking, “I could be a Lord if only I worked hard and had enough positive thoughts. Maybe if I blog…!”
No. I’m joking. I don’t long for Feudalism at all. That’s absurd. I wasn’t alive then. And I like options.
I am not a Feudalist. Unless I get to be a Lord.
No. Still just joking. Sort of.
That’s only relevant because I am saying that your options for action can and should be couched around very real acceptance and understanding of your particular limitations.
That’s the sweet spot where you will find actual success and satisfaction, and it’s pretty unique to you. It does require you stay awake, but it doesn’t require you to set outrageous standards for what’s normal.
You may have the same amount of hours in the day as Beyoncé, but you probably don’t have a record contract, a management team, or entourage, right?
You can do a lot of things, but it’s unlikely you will ever be Beyoncé.
(If you haven’t yet, watch Lemonade immediately.)
This whole idea that there are zero limits to what you can accomplish in your life is getting super tiresome. The fact is that there are limits. There are limits on your time and energy. There are limits on what you can afford and how much is enough and there are limits on how much bullshit you really do have to put up with. You are not all going to cure cancer. Some of you will go to work every day and be kind and patient and hold down your own orbit in a way that can be not only completely fulfilling, but will also allow the people around you to see a shining example of what needing less really looks like.
Some of you will cure the cancers or be the Beyoncés. That’s awesome. Do whatever you want. But only if they are the things you are actually doing and are capable of doing – not the things that you just think you should be doing that become a source of your spiritual poverty.
I am not suggesting you stop trying or reward underachievement or mediocrity.
I am suggesting we all get off the progressive speed boat for a sec and be where we are so we can actually allocate our energy in a way that allows us to do great work. At whatever we do. Even if it’s tuna casserole.
I want you to do the great things you are capable of and they aren’t going to happen if you’re a giant ball of stress chasing an unrealistic ideal of infinity.
I’m suggesting that there is a time to delve deep and work hard, and there is a time just to look at things and be where you are.
I’m suggesting you try a little tenderness.
Because you can’t get anywhere at all if you’re already gone.
*Turns out I’m not 100% sure I didn’t publish this already. I found it fully formed in my blog post folder but couldn’t find it in a search on my site. So, in the event that you’ve read it already… meh. Not sorry. I’m rolling with it.
The image in this post is my own.