It’s never easy. But damn, is it ever worth it!

Image source: randomblahblahblahs

This quote by Paulo Coelho, visualized, is my current desktop background. I see it, smile, and silently agree – each and every day.

There are those times in life when something comes at us at just the right time, resonating so loud & clear that we can’t help but latch on. A friend had posted this to my Facebook wall on August 29. A clean, simple, innocent visual; an incredibly fitting representation of the lessons my life was teaching me at exactly that time. There was no way it would slip into faint memory (thanks, David!).

At the end of August, I was at a pivot point, struggling with thoughts & feelings of “I’m not doing anything”. Today, I’m on the flip side, struggling (and loving it!) to “keep all the balls in the air”, as it were.

Both states of being are incredibly difficult. Each has it’s own glory points, perks, pitfalls, dark days, and lurky gremlins.

And hell, am I ever thankful for all of it – the whole beautiful, ugly mess. It has brought me to where I am today, has made me as ‘strong of will’ as I like to think I am, has taught me how to deal with things I never even knew would be a challenge.

I feel like I’m finally growing up (“Mommy, wow! I’m a big kid now“). More and more, I find myself immersing in the uncomfortable, disquieting, uneasy parts of life – stewing in them, feeling whatever there is to feel, understanding myself through them – instead of running away by throwing myself into things I could control in one form or other. (Cue: perfectionism; pride in the self-proclaimed & publicly-supported ‘busy bee’ label; achievement addiction; title-chasing; …etc. Standing still slaps all of these things in the face.)

Life has many ways of testing a person’s will, either by having nothing happen at all or by having everything happen all at once.

Mr. Coelho: so poignant, so right. We will always be tested. In one form or other, in at least one of multiple given aspects of life we are striving to ‘attain’ or ‘master’ – we will always be tested. My thoughts and actions have finally synced in with the “so why not use challenges as sharpeners?” mentality.

My inner No. 2’s are being whipped into fine-tipped shape, one struggle at a time. Bring on the scantron, life.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

The “nothing happening” state is a quiet battle, every bit as difficult as its “everything happening” counterpart.
Facing both – living, breathing, feeling them – that’s what the big kids do.
Reveling in the struggle, not running from it, makes the most room for learning.

Which do you find more tests your will – the “nothing” or the “everything” scenario? What do you do to make it great for you regardless?

• A few weeks ago, I was feeling so guilty about falling off the “post regularly on Sundays” routine-wagon. It’s funny how things shift when I manage my expectations – the fact that I’m posting on a Monday instead this week barely bothers me (perfectionist H is still in here somewhere, after all). The difference? I made a very conscious decision about where my time was going this past week and weekend, and decided not to post on Sunday. It was an intentional, above the line choice. #happy

• I’m big on inputs. What you surround yourself with shapes you – some things obviously, others covertly (sometimes insidiously). Whatever the case, I think we’re fooling ourselves if we say that our environment does not have a very appreciable impact on who we are and what we do. (Try it yourself. If you usually hang around a low-key, home-body group of friends, get yourself into a high-energy, always-getting-out-there-and-doing-things crowd – or vice versa – for 3 weeks. Observe your behaviour, where your energy goes, etc. Changes? How so?) This quote is one of my daily visual inputs. What are yours?

• “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, it’s green where you water it.”


Success is: connecting.

Riding on last week’s ideas of letting go of entitlement & being inviting, I love this second line from Charlie’s post:

Making yourself inviting means enjoying the conversation, in and of itself. Even if that’s the only interaction you have with someone, that doesn’t mean that it didn’t go anywhere. Let go of the notion that success means anything other than a good connection.

(emphasis mine)

My mind  links it to the following “notes to self” that I visit often:

1. Be here now. Enjoy something for the sake of it. Don’t keep looking to “what this is going to get me” or “where is this going to go”. The “where” is here, and the “what” is now. Dive deep. Engage fully. That is enough.

2. “Producing, ergo worthy” can be a damaging belief. I’ve struggled – and still do at times – with “having something to show for” what I choose to spend my time on. It’s become second nature to tie my worth to roles, titles, products, achievements, awards… that’s a tough bond to break.

Connecting to self
Sometimes, though, the most important work – being alone, engaging with thoughts, reading to absorb ideas, diving in to meaningful conversation – doesn’t produce anything immediate & tangible to easily “signal success” to the whole wide world (or the world wide web).

It can be hard to live out that knowledge in our hyper-connected, achievement-driven present, where it seems almost ridiculous not to keep an interaction going, given all available channels. (Phone, text, email, Twitter, Facebook… “stay connected” is essentially the default expectation.) Add to that a layer of “entrepreneur culture”, and you’ve got a recipe that thrives on FOMO – where every conversation & connection needs to be followed up on, lest we miss out of something that might come of it.

A recent story
Last  Wednesday, I took part in the SFU Public Square event “Our Voices: Creating a Connected Community”. The day-long conference was extremely well-run (hat tip to all involved in organizing!), and lunchtime was a fantastic conversation with a great woman and fellow attendee. She came up and sat beside me; we proceeded to bond over common beliefs, ideas, and experiences (and thoughts on the great food  – here’s a plug for Potluck Café Society, a non-profit social enterprise & registered charity doing great things in the DTES since 2001).

Our chat touched on issues of feeling isolated & lonely in a crowd, of culture clashes in connection, of how Vancouverites seem to glib past each other like ships passing in the night – in broad daylight. I fully enjoyed the conversation, in and of itself.

Wrapping up at the end of lunch, we both seemed to choose not asking for / offering any contact information. It was a very deliberate and somewhat difficult (in)action on my part – one I had to actively think about not doing, as the definition of “connection” was probed throughout the day.

Maybe she and I will cross paths again. Maybe we won’t. What I do know is that I wish her well, that I think she has a kind heart, that I hope she and her husband keep enjoying life in Vancouver as it sounds like they do, and that she continues being involved in the things that make her heart beat. Choosing to leave our interaction where and when it happened, pristine & impactful, was me living the knowledge that respect for the already-shared connection is not negated by the choice not to pursue further connection.

I spend hours and hours in conversations – challenging, stimulating, illuminating, terrifying, humbling, uplifting, uncomfortable… most with those I know, some with strangers passing through my life. These conversations are incredible, and they are my inputs: what I have to show for them is who I am. That connection to myself through others – that’s my measure of success; that’s my “enough”.

Sometimes “then & there” is where the value of an interaction is seeded; the continued value lives in us, and how we were shaped by that connection. Keeping that in mind, I find it easier to live “the beauty of letting go”.

Humbly, ~ H

The big dots of the post

Sometimes connecting demands letting go.
There’s a certain joy in fully experiencing the moment, with no ulterior motives or further expectations.
Defining our experiences as “success” or “failure” based on something other than future outcome can be extremely liberating.
“Connecting” can mean many things; the notion of “staying connected” is but one definition.
We don’t always “have something to show” for what we’ve done; this doesn’t negate the worth of what we’ve done, nor our worth as the do-ers.

Do you struggle with leaving a moment or connection behind? Can you see success in letting go, do you think that is a missed opportunity and that I’m jabbering non-sense?

JOMO! A favorite blog post that flips FOMO on its head.
Achievement addiction – which I think has trickled right down through to childhood.
• Feelings of social isolation are prevalent in Metro Vancouver. The Vancouver Foundation has done some community-based research to back this up with data. So no, we’re not imagining it, and yes, it’s a big issue. You can read the results here.