Beware the barrenness of doing rather than being

Every once in awhile, I think about what I’d like to be when I grow up. Every once in awhile, I’ll see someone else doing something amazing and think, “That’s what I wanna do!” I’ll think that person really has their stuff together, because they are really living the life, and doing something fantastic with their life. Then I’ll think that person must have had a lot of opportunities that came their way to allow that sort of life to happen. And finally I’ll think that – y’know, that sort of thing’s not likely to happen to me.

But then again, why not? Why shouldn’t that happen to me? Perhaps it’s me holding myself back and me that’s in the way, at least partially. Have I been working away at the 9-to-5 so long that I’ve forgotten how to break the mold and live life the way I want to? Well that’s certainly an easy rut to fall into. We’re told all our lives that we need to work towards particular goals and to become responsible members of our community.

We’re told we need to save for a “good education” and provide for a family. We’re told to maintain a certain lifestyle, and for the most part, we believe what we’re told. Even when we find it unfulfilling, difficult or tedious, we still try to do what we were trained to do as children. We still do what our parents taught us to do, and what they showed us to do.

It gets to the point where we’ve been so conditioned to think of how things “should be” that we’re afraid to change anything for fear of failing or disappointing. So we continue along in our rut, defining it even further. Eventually the rut becomes so deep that we can no longer see our way out of it.

This is one of the reasons why I try so very hard to see things from different angles, even difficult points of view. I try hard to expose myself to all sorts of ideas and opinions, and try to figure out how people ended up seeing that as the way to be. It sure does make life interesting, to try and see things from another point of view without judgement.

In the process of trying hard to get the different and unusual into my life to keep things fresh, I find a lot of things get in the way, and not just myself. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day routines we have – getting up, getting ready, going to work, coming home, preparing meals, having a few hours to enjoy, and then heading to bed, only to start it all over again the next day.

Sometimes it seems like those few hours in the evening are never enough to get anything accomplished. This thought has crossed my mind many times over the last 50 years or so, but a few weeks ago it hit me in a new way.

Instead of always looking for the time to be or do something, I thought, what if I just decided to be or do it, right now? As I am doing all the other stuff that life demands of me, instead of waiting for those moments to come, living “as if” right now, in the present moment. Seems like a very subtle shift, but it made a big difference. Living as if I was already what I wanted to be.

I have always been a creative person. That has always been a part of me and just how my brain is wired, to constantly seek new ways of looking at things and new ways of doing things. It can’t be turned off, it’s always there. I’ve even solved problems in my dreams.

So, I thought, why not start living my life as an artist? Not just a creative, but an artist. Now, people who know me probably think I’ve already been doing this, because they might see art and creativity as the same thing. But it’s not.

I found myself one afternoon when I was just not happy with things, thinking – now if I were an artist, what would I be doing? Do artists sit around, fretting about the mundane things in life and letting it get them all muddled? Aren’t their lives much bigger than that? How would they be dealing with these situations? Better yet, would they be dealing with these situations?

I tried to imagine the people I find amazing, and think about what they might be doing on a Saturday afternoon. Would they be trying to figure out which bill to pay next, or would they be doing something… well, amazing? And that’s when I made the decision. The decision to be amazing.

I decided to live “as if” and see how it felt. At first I was just so delighted with the shift in attitude that I was almost giddy. It was freeing, empowering. I could do anything I wanted, anything at all. As long as I did it as an amazing artist, I was doing it differently, and better, and it felt really good.

It tickled me that I could do a lot of things differently and with a sense of literal re-creation. I found that it trickled into all corners of my life, this new sense of being. I found it easier and easier to find ways to apply it in ways I hadn’t before. I found myself thinking in larger and larger circles and possibilities, and further and further out in time. There was really no reason to restrict it in any way.

I found a lot of the limits I thought were there, self-imposed or not, were simply not there or easily ignored. It was fascinating. And then I noticed something really cool. This new way of being was contagious. My new perspective was something that others easily picked up on and were inspired by. Instead of just living my life, I was driving it forward, at a speed and direction that I was in control of, no longer simply reacting to what was happening, like a bobber on the surface of the water.

And now there are so many possibilities. I can have an adventure any day, and every day. I can make that happen. According to Alan Watts, life has nothing to do with what you are doing, and everything to do with what you are being. I was caught up in the “doingness” of my life. And now, I plan to be caught up in the “beingness.”

Originally published July 3, 2015

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