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“What Lights You Up?” ….She answered, smugly.

“What makes you light up?” my therapeutic healing yoga instructor asked as we melted into the mat, nothing more than fleeting thoughts and deep breathing. Semi-meditative, we welcomed flashes of feelings instead of the usual focus of a mantra.

Alistair exuberant, Alex laughing, my parents hugging, Weasley’s run in an open park. Susan’s arm link and brisk walk. Fi’s knowing smile on the top deck of a Lothian bus. Walking out to my sister standing in my living room and seeing a missing piece of myself staring back at me. 

These were all people; this was all love.

“Try not to think of relationships,” she’d urged previously. “Try to think of the feeling- the physical feeling of lighting up.”

The acceleration of a plane taking off, cold feet in hot water, walking into a classroom, the opening sequence of a film, the full-body vibration of live music, the initial crack and smell of a new hardback, hands in Alistair’s thick hair, hands on Alex’s rough cheek, being squeezed in a full embrace, the texture of a scone, the tapping flow of the keyboard, the rush of a roller coaster, the reverence of personal prayer. 

As the exercise ended, we took out our journals.What did our feelings tell us? What makes us light up?

I wrote with ease, with the assuredness of being self-aware. Upon reflection, almost smugness. Knowing oneself and knowing oneself well was something I was oh-so good at. I studied philosophy for fun. I’d taken that existentialism class through the Open University just because I’m the type of person who knows what I don’t know or what I’ll never know. You know.

Smug.

I wrote:

1- People with whom I share love — a short list, but whatever, suckers who don’t like me. ( I let them go; see past blog posts. )

2- Travel. Obviously. That’s my thing. Novelty, exploration, adventure, etc. Finding a good airfare- ding- that lights me up big time. Getting lost in big cities- almost as fun as finding the place.

3- Film. Obviously. That’s my other thing. Everyone knows I’m, like, obsessed. 

4- God (He is first, but came to mind fourth — keeping it real here) 

The rest- water, music, reading, writing, physical touch, adrenaline, contemplation. 

Yep, that was me. I wrote in my journal and listened as the instructor told us to seek the things that light us up. It would make us happy.

Doing things you like makes you happy. 

This class, held in a strip mall yoga studio in a new sub-division, sent me all of the good feelings a person likes. Assurance. Hope. Confidence. I even drove away with a certificate when the month was over- hey, I could teach this if I wanted to.

Half a year has passed.

I’m not as smug anymore. I know what lights me up…the same things that lit me up before. I haven’t changed. Because people don’t change, not really, not ever. I’m still working on the same things I started working on when I started blogging. I’ll probably work on them forever. I can make positive change in my circumstances, but changing me, and changing what makes me who I am, will never change. Probably not.

This new chapter, the one where I accept I don’t know it all, is scary. But since I love novelty, it’s also kind of fun.

The same platitudes pass over and over again through my life, on a loop. Maybe everyone hears them.

Changes begins with you.

You’re the only person responsible for your actions. 

You never know unless you try. 

The first step is the hardest.

People never change.

Change is possible, if you really want it. 

One small step in the right direction is better than no step at all.

I have an inkling they’re all true. Just like when my mom used to say to me, “These are the best years of your life but you just don’t know it yet,” when I was a carefree young adult. I dismissed it; my immediate needs outweighed thinking about adulthood. But now I see, it was the truth.  It’s all probably true. The things older people tell us on rotation.

And I…..I  don’t know shit. None of us really do.

We just need to know what lights us up, and keep at it.

We need to do the best we can. 

 

Nocturnal Reminders/ Existentialism

I’m a nocturnal being. I come alive at night once everyone else is asleep in their beds, or laying around looking at their phones in the dark. I come alive, but it just happens to be I’m usually sitting alone in my living room.

This can be a good and bad thing. Night is when I do most of my writing (even evidenced by the timing of my blog posts, which are, admittedly, unplanned rambles most of the time).  Night is when I act on whims (such as applying to graduate school and subsequently moving with my family to Scotland to study creative writing).*

*We didn’t move at night. I just apply for things at night.

The darkness also brings out nostalgia. This tendency is also well documented on my blog. But before this blog, there was another one. Some readers my age may remember…. LiveJournal. A good half-decade of my life is documented within its pages, the rambles and dramas of a teenager with a phone line and AOL.

I sometimes lurk back there in the wee hours, taking a look at what I was doing on this day in a certain year. Laughing at myself. Cringing. Struggling to remember what on earth I was going on about.

Tonight I looked at ten years ago, in 2005.

I worked at a daycare in Scotland and was taking an Open University course in Existentialism, which helped form my love of the particular branch of philosophy. Ten years ago, I was contemplating this passage from Nietzche in my journal:

“How, if some day or night a demon were to sneak after you into your loneliest and loneliness and say to you…..

‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything immeasurably small or great in life must return to you-all in the same succession and sequence…the eternal hourglass of existence is turned over and over, and you with it…how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life and to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?”

A decade ago, at 21, I thought I knew it all. My entry reads as smug in my recollection of life, as if two decades of breath brought with it the wisdom of the ages. I thought yes, I’d love to live my entire life over again, Nietzche. That’s how happy I am with it. Ha.

Much changes between 21 and 31. I don’t approach this proposition with the same confidence I did back then, on the cusp of adulthood and with zero responsibilities but my own daily happiness.

I love to reminiscence on those feelings, but the jolt I felt reading this tonight reminded me I should try to live my life with the same fervor I lived life ten years ago. So that if I were, as Nietzche proposed, forced to relive my entire life over and over again…I would have tried for my joy to outweigh any languishing, to seek laughter over tears, and to find happiness in the present.

Having this reminder laid on my soul tonight brought up many emotions, and most of them good.

We should all strive to live lives we can be proud of;  but those lives are made up of days, and those days are made up of moments.

And if we had to live those moments over and over again, wouldn’t we want to enjoy them?

You only get one shot.

Perception is Nearly Everything, Sometimes

Like memories of what cannot be

Within the reign of memory

That shake our mortal frames to dust

– Hugh MacDiarmid

——————————-

1. Truth is relative

2. Except when it’s not, and you’re just wrong.

As John Mayer once said,

“You can be wrong and swear you’re right…some people been known to do it all their lives.”

But if something is wrong, does that mean it doesn’t exist? No.

Sometimes existence can be relative, too.

If you asked Professor McGonagall what non-being is, she’d tell you…. “Everything.”  *

* (“Where do vanished objects go?” “Into non-being, which is to say, everything.” Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Here are some examples of times I’ve been wrong:

In a journal entry dated early 2008, I wrote:

I  am old. I am ancient. I am decrepit.

I am a 24 year old undergrad.

Ahhh, the humanity.

… I feel like I have been in college longer than that Stifler guy from American Pie must have been in high school. The fact that I am IN high school when American Pie came out shows how old I am.

Sooo, I went with my dear Lancaster-ians (my English friends from my English university) to the fall convocation and realized that the freshman class of CU this year was born in 1990!!

I wore my sunglasses and tried to hide my smile crinkles, and then was literally paraded with the freshman and study abroad students (oh, there may have been a few grad students and transfers in there but who can spot them with the blinding light of youth surrounding you) past a bunch of cheering, whooping, entirely too perfect looking sorority sisters.

Maybe I have some sort of mental issue going on here, but this campus is making me feel ancient….

Part of me wants to the join the mass of my fellow 2002 high school grads and start having babies. One precursory glance at myspace shows that a large portion of my high school cohorts have babies.

But then part of me wants to make the most of being (relatively) young and revel in my last year of college, even if I am the new Van Wilder (the mormon version lolol).”

Yes, I thought I was ancient at 24. Wrong.

Here is another time I was wrong, in 1997. I was 13:

Bad Idea
Bad Idea

I found this while doing all of my de-cluttering (see other posts). It was empty.

Making pro and con lists are always a sound choice, right?

No.

Again, from 1997:

Baaaad Idea
Baaaad Idea

It’s a bit hard to read, but it’s a list comparing two boys named John and Glynn (wherever they may be, I doubt they are readers of my blog). One ‘good’ thing about John is that he is a ‘ghetto wannabe.’  But then again, Glynn would ‘make a better father.’  What did they share on the Bad List? ‘Wears hats.’

Needless to say, making this list was the Bad Choice here.

All kidding aside, how we perceive reality at any given moment is what’s ‘right,’ most of the time. I don’t want to go around in circles about moral absolutes or a lack of them (like murder), as that’s a topic for another day, but this is more about those of us who are ‘normal’ (functioning in society) and live out our lives in our own perceived reality.

I am one of the those people who finds meaning in everything. I’ve been that way since I was a child. I loved looking for ‘signs’ that I was on the right path, and I still look for those ‘God Winks’, or as some would say, coincidences. I love finding affirmation that the thing I believe is correct. And due to confirmation bias, our brains are pretty adept at doing this.

But it also means we can convince ourselves of untruths.

I’m not talking about a particular person or group of people or a set of beliefs. Because I think this just applies to everyone, as human beings.

I’m writing about this because I’ve been addressing my own mea culpa  as of late. Maybe it’s just becoming an adult, I don’t know. But I am seeing places where I’ve been wrong, even if I would have bet my life I was right, at the time.

Part of my ever-progressing journey into Letting It Go is accepting the times and places where I was truly….wrong.

I had this one idea perpetuating in my head for years (well, I’ve had plenty of ideas perpetuating in my head for years) and then one day a friend of mine told me, bluntly:

“Just stop.”

How does one simply enter Mordor  turn off an idea? It’s not easy. But once you accept it’s wrong, in some cases you really can

Just. Stop.

And some perceptions simply fade with time.  When I was a teenager, I literally believed I could, if opportunity presented itself, marry JC Chasez from N Sync. My best and I manipulated our movements in certain ways at N Sync concerts (trying to get picked to dance on stage, waiting outside certain doors or hotels) , so utterly convinced we were that if we could just MEET THEM, Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez would love us. How could they not?!?!

My first year of college, at 18, I began realizing how silly this seemed as  I was studying  in my psychology class how the adolescent mind quite easily accepts grandiose ideas

I don’t ever want to lose my dreams, my ambitions, or most of all, my sense of self ,  which has been shaping itself ever since all of the quirky incidents I’ve mentioned.

But I want to remember that while perception is everything at the time, sometimes…there are times we are just plain wrong.

And I’m sorry.