If This Doesn’t Scare You, You Aren’t Reading Close Enough

My goal this week has been to do things that scares me as often as possible. It was a goal brought about by an exchange with a virtual stranger on Facebook- I guess you can never tell where inspiration might strike. It started out innocently enough with my giving a cheer to a shared post from Upworthy that had a quote from Mark Twain in it; the quote goes like this:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw of the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade minds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

So a friend shared this post from Upworthy, who really shared it from another source, and then a friend of this friend commented on the post- you follow me?- and then my mind was reeling from the friend of the friend’s comment. Blew me away doesn’t cover it.

The quote by Mark Twain is one I had heard many years ago. It is a good one, and  great one to live your life by. I highly recommend it. I have discovered that not only is it entirely and utterly true, but it is unbelievably freeing and liberating to live life in this manner. So how does one improve upon that way of life? How does a single person -unknown to me- make a casual comment that blows this quote out of the water? What did someone say on Facebook that was actually useful and not negative? What indeed. I am still mulling over the comment and it has been two days. For the sake of privacy I will not call out her name -she probably knows who she is anyway- but this person said the following in response to the Mark Twain quote- I’m paraphrasing a touch for effect here:

Ask yourself this question: If you keep doing things in your life the same way as you are today, what will that look like in 5 years? and more importantly, are you okay with that?

Is your mind blown yet?? Seriously, think about it for a moment. We all have dreams and goals etc. that we are either truly working toward, think we are working toward, or just hope will miraculously happen without us working toward them, but honestly, if you kept doing exactly what you are doing, where would you be? Will you have obtained ANY of those goals? Will anything about you be different? Will anything about your life be different? I don’t know about  you, but I had never thought about life in quiet this way, and while I clearly have adopted the view that living in the NOW can lead to inner peace, clearly there is value in looking forward and realizing that your life may be exactly the same in 5 years as it is right now.

So unless you are Beyoncé, who probably wouldn’t mind a bit if she is still rich and relevant, happily married with a beautiful daughter in 5 years, YOU probably don’t want to be exactly where you are right now in 5 years. Even if you are happy. Even if you have a great job. Even if your family life is wonderful. I highly suspect we all can think of variations of our future we would enjoy more, variables we would like to change. Dreams we would like to chase. So I ask you, if you continue down the path you are on, doing what you have always done, will you be where you want to be in 5 years? I can give you a hint here, you know based in logic and all that silly nonsense… you will likely be almost exactly where you are now.

Okay, so you will be 5 years older, possibly fatter, maybe you will have lost some hair. You might have moved to a new home or your children will clearly get older and their interests will change- meaning trips to karate instead of soccer perhaps- but in the end you will still be you, working the same type of job most likely, living in generally the same area, with the same friends, just mindlessly stumbling through life because I guess it isn’t bad enough for you to do something different, or you don’t know what to do different, or you are convinced that no matter what you do things can’t be different.

I have discovered the secret to ensuring that my life in 5 years will look markedly different. When I ask myself if I continue doing what I am doing, will I like what I see in 5 years, the answer is unequivocally a no. I really don’t think so. I think that is the whole key behind intentional living. If you are living intentionally working toward your own identifiers you can’t possibly be unhappy with the you of tomorrow because you will have reached some of your goals by ding things differently than you are right now. Have I lost you yet? If you just plod along numbly doing what you have always done day in and day out then 5 years from now you are likely to be right where you are today. If you are living intentionally that is probably not good enough for you.

I think the best way to honor yourself and both quotes above is to do something that scares you. Because, if it scares you then you likely aren’t doing it already; and changing your routine in anyway will change the you of tomorrow. Plus, doing something that scares you usually means you are rising to a new challenge, sticking your neck out there, or are willing to take a leap of faith. All things if done regularly, usually, lead to a better life and increased opportunity. Why? Because they allow you to be primed and situated for the opportunities you are hoping for to come your way.  Even if you can’t create the opportunities, you can create an environment where the opportunities would want to live.

And all you have to do is take a risk, do something scary, and be true to yourself. If I continue doing what I am doing right now- my job, my daily life, my hectic pace, my limited time with my husband- I highly suspect I will not like what I see in 5 years. I will probably feel stifled and underappreciated at a job that isn’t my dream. I will probably resent my children because I have remained in this job because I am afraid of losing the good income and great health insurance that having children sort of necessitate (not their fault mind you, but resentment is usually not logical). I might resent my husband for never being home or having time to help with the daily crap of life. It isn’t a given, but if nothing changes in my life, I can easily see it.

I started this blog because I absolutely wanted to change my life. I wanted to find a better way to live. I suppose if scaring the crap out of myself will help me meet that goal, then so be it. I will do it and happily so. So this week I took a chance and applied for a job at Upworthy. It isn’t exactly my dream job, but it is a step in that direction, working for a company I know I would be excited about and proud to tell others about. Applying was scary enough, they didn’t exactly have a job opening for “Enthusiastic Chronic Underachiever”, but writing them an open letter here on the blog for all to see most certainly was scary. What if they didn’t like it? What if the readers didn’t like it? What if you didn’t like it? What if my husband asks me “What is Upworthy?” (true story) It was hard to put myself out there open to judgment and possibly ridicule. But I did it. because if I don’t ever do anything scary, then I will just continue to be a girl with a dream that never comes true. And the me of 5 years from now already judges her. And I can’t have that, now can I?

 

What I’m reading: Seconds by David Ely. I just finished it. I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t recommend I, but I am curious about the movie made from it in 1966 with Rock Hudson. Hm…

What I’m listening to: Frank Turner, If I Ever Stray. I highly suspect if he didn’t have an accent I wouldn’t like being yelled at so much. I wonder if British people think they’d like him better if he only had that Yankee accent?

Now Moment of the week: Riding the water slides at the indoor water park with my son. As I went all to fast down the big one he isn’t allowed on- because daddy forced me too to show my sons how easy it was- I actually experienced this moment of irrational fear. The slide is not that long, steep, or fast, so why was I actually scared? It felt great to get to the bottom. Was that because I was alive? Vindicated? or it was over? I must ride the slide again until I stop having an involuntary adrenaline rush- or for the rush- why can’t I understand this? Grrr…

Inspirations from the ether: 5 Regrets of the Dying. Don’t wait until you are dying to solve these. Make your regrets upon dying that you have no more life to live, period.

My Shameless, Yet Unapologetic, Love Letter to Upworthy

Dear Upworthy,

For a long time now I have felt that the world was a rather negative space and I had growing concerns for my own happiness and the future wellbeing and happiness of my two children. I had fallen into the trap of negative worthless images, news, and social media; feeling trapped and helpless I decided there had to be something else out there in the ether than the usual craptastic offerings. So one night, while unable to sleep yet again, I opened the internet browser on my cell phone and searched for “happiness” “optimism” and “change”. I felt certain there had to be a better way to live, a better outlook to adopt, a better way to be part of this world, and a better way to use my mind and creativity to impact those around me. The world couldn’t possibly be the dark, dreary, and shallow place I was so used to seeing, and I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way.

I stumbled upon many things that night; blogs, books, businesses and other web sites that were taking a stand to improve lives and the world with their optimism and actions. I instantly felt motivated and energized to make myself part of this movement and to incorporate positivity into my life, daily, consistently, and unapologetically. I wanted this, I wanted it badly; not just for myself, but my husband, my boys, my dogs, heck for everyone.

I started my blog and this journey in July, when I truly felt I had hit a bottom of sorts, maybe not the rock bottom, but frankly as far as I wanted to go down. I had a voracious appetite for all things that frankly were “upworthy”. And then I saw you, across a crowded internet, unassuming, beautifully presented, conscientious, sincere, and caring.

It was love at first read. I ditched my CNN addiction and Huffington Post flirtations for you and your beautiful quick wit, moments of genius, and videos that made me think, smile, and *gasp* sometimes both. I became informed, engaged, excited, and giddy as a school girl at all the possibilities and wonder of life. It wasn’t just what you were doing, it was what you weren’t doing that kept me fascinated and enthralled. You weren’t just bringing interesting, thought provoking topics to the masses in a way they could accept, digest, and consider, you also weren’t telling me about the tragedies of the world, all the things that are wrong, and all the ways we have failed as a species (unless of course it included a way to change that). Frankly, I soaked in your upworthiness like a toddler in a kiddie pool, all splashes and laughter until I was pruny and shivering from exposure but still reluctant to get out of the water (darn you real life and responsibilities).

I started my blog as a journey, nay a quest, to find a better life, an uplifting, motivating, take charge, make a difference, and find peace endeavor. You Upworthy, have been a welcome addition to my world, my daily activities, and I am thankful for your continued dedication at making me fall in love with you again a little more each day. Our relationship has grown in the last few months to one I would happily introduce to my parents, or invite on the town with friends hoping they’d approve of you. I feel confident I wouldn’t be embarrassed by your negativity or a sense of humor that was too brash or oddly inappropriate. I feel like we are kindred spirits walking along the beach of life as the musical accompaniment swells in the background and the sun sets beautifully over the water not unlike an 80s movie music montage showing us falling head over heels in love in under 3 minutes to a trendy pop song. You Upworthy, complete me. (Ok, if not complete, you certainly contribute :))

So feeling like I couldn’t get enough of you, I found myself drawn to your “We’re hiring” sign in the upper right hand corner of my screen- and it wasn’t just because you used the ‘ correctly in “we’re”. I mean wouldn’t the next logical step in any true romance be moving in together? or at least spending more time with one another? So I clicked, with a flutter in my tummy and adrenaline in my veins, hoping against hope that at least one job opening would be something I would excel at.

I want to make a difference. I want to have an impact. I want a better quality of life not just for myself, but my family, and the rest of mankind. I believe Upworthy is a great venue to do this. I believe I would make a great member of your team. I believe our relationship has just begun and if you give it a little bit of time and trust, you will find that we are compatible.

So dear sweet Upworthy, I kneel before you on bended knee and ask, will you give me the honor and pleasure of spending the rest of our days together as one? Will you take the risk of hiring a woman who has fallen madly in love with your goals and intentions and believes she can contribute and add to your world? -Please say yes.

xoxo,
Wendy

PS if you’d like to know more about me please click here.
PPS I work really well unsupervised as most of my adult life has been either owning my own business or telecommuting.

Insurmountable Obstacles

Let me be honest for a moment, I made a goal this week, just like every other week since I started this journey in July. But by Tuesday it was clear the goal wasn’t going to happen. By Wednesday I had given up the dream of even writing about the goal, and this morning I gave up entirely and realized if I did manage to write about the goal then it would be like lying because I didn’t do it, I didn’t even start it, and I actually can’t even remember what it was. Ever have weeks like that?

The road to happiness or finding a more Zen like state is certainly one that is bound to be riddled with obstacles. Some of those obstacles we provide ourselves and others just happen. Those we provide ourselves fall under the intentional living I’ve been talking about all this time. They are part of our failure at choosing our own path and choosing how we define ourselves and how we interact with the world. If you fail to make those choices the path will always be filled with obstacles that are arbitrarily placed there as a result of your lack of choice. Trust me, not choosing your path is the same as saying I chose a path someone else wants me to have. This isn’t a wise move because no one knows you like you, and others will either make false assumptions about your journey or they will selfishly want your journey to coincide with theirs. No matter what the world has in store for  you, you will always be far better off making your own choices, living intentionally, and following your passion regardless of what the world thinks of this or you.

Then there are the obstacles that just happen. Things we really have little control over and more or less come out of the blue; a traffic accident, a health issue, a money crisis. It is hard to plan for or choose the unexpected. It is hard to “know” what will just happen so you can prepare and make alternate plans. These obstacles can lead you down a path you don’t want to follow and one that strays ridiculously far form the path you were intentionally trying to stay on. It is sort of like hiking through the forest on a path you choose, only to stumble on a giant tree across your path. In order to get around this tree you have to veer off to the side and sometimes that can mean a detour far beyond what you originally thought or could plan for, and before  you know it you are lost and can’t even see the tree you were trying to get around much less the path you wanted to be on.

I have one of those such obstacles in my life, and thus far I have been unsuccessful at figuring out how to avoid it, and I have been unsuccessful at finding or choosing the path that results in it not reoccurring. These kinds of obstacles are the most trying and the most annoying because it can feel like no matter what your efforts are, no matter how well-intentioned you are, it will be for nothing and you will feel defeated once again (I swear the feeling of defeat can sometimes be worse than the stupid obstacle itself). I think there are all kinds of examples of this, and if you have been following my journey, and making it your own all these months, you have no doubt found yourself faced with an obstacle you just couldn’t get around. Something bound and determined to make sure your choices in life had little value and your intentional identity could just  suck it- for lack of a nicer way to say it.

This week my obstacle told me loud and clear in a very definitive manner that I could just SUCK IT. Whatever my plans were, my goals, my dreams for the week, whatever intentional mindful, now moments I was certain would happen, could all just go take a flying leap off the nearest cliff- and I don’t mean in the fun adrenaline rush kind of way. This obstacle has me thinking about my belief that intentionally choosing a life and path, as well as an identity, that I can find the better life I am looking for. This obstacle makes me wonder if there is a limit to self-help, a limit to positive thinking, a limit to making changes and taking action. Maybe there are just some obstacles that you can never get over, around, or through?

I haven’t made up my mind about all of this yet. I imagine, knowing me, it will be a work in progress because I hate the idea of not being in control. I dislike the thought that I can’t just make something right with hard work and determination. I’m not asking for a magic wand, or a super drug. I have no problem working hard to achieve results, but that’s just it, I have been working hard to overcome my obstacle. I haven’t been sitting around whining about it or begging for the little pill; most people who know me probably have never heard me even talk about it. I have been actively searching for answers, I have dramatically changed my life and my habits. I have adopted new methods of living and eating and moving, and still the damn thing won’t go away. It is exhausting trying to out run this obstacle, it is exhausting hiding this from the people I love, it is even more exhausting to tell them and be unable to explain it sufficiently for them to truly understand it, it is exhausting to feel like I have run out of options. There are no more changes or choices for me to make. There are no more brushes with genius to be had, I have exhausted all the possibilities and tools in my personal tool box and I have come up empty.

No doubt I am a better person for this journey. No doubt I am healthier and my family will be healthier as a result of my intentional choices derived from this obstacle. No doubt I am living a richer more purposeful life because of the thing I can’t move past. I won’t say it has been a blessing, it hasn’t and I’d happily remove it if I could, but it has influenced my journey in a way that I would not have gone otherwise. A way that likely led me to my husband, my children and everything else that is good in my life. Maybe I would have gotten here anyway, maybe not. But I can go back in time and see, with pristine clarity, how my obstacle led to my choices that put me on the path I was on when I met Jay. I may not have known it at the time, and it all clings together loosely with a general appearance of being unrelated, but in the end I can easily tie it all back to the same damn thing, the same damn problem I have had for 16 years. But this week was different.

This is the first week that I finally realized the impact this obstacle has on my every day life and how much it has changed me and how little credit I gave it as I tried to be brave and fight it, hide it, or ignore it. Sounds ridiculous, 16 years and I am just now putting the pieces together? Well, denial is a powerful and dangerous tool we all carry in our toolbox. Sometimes it can be useful, but more often than not it just brings destruction. I used my denial to create a barrier around the obstacle hoping to quarantine it; hoping that somehow, someway I could stop it from influencing my life or my behavior. It was a foolish thing to do, and that is what I realized this week. Denying the obstacle was stupid, failing to recognize that my efforts hadn’t changed it, was ridiculous. Trying to be brave and sort this out on my own is no longer working. Refusing to share it and being afraid of judgment is not working.

Do you have those kinds of obstacles? Things you keep hidden and keep attacking alone? Things that keep coming back laughing at you? Things that you fear, not just because of the obstacle itself, but because of what it might mean or what others might think? How can we find true peace and contentment if we can’t kill the obstacles that influence us the most? I would love to hear what your obstacles are. I would love to hear your fight and what you have tried and succeeded or what failed miserably. Because I feel like I just recently opened my eyes and I can’t see enough fast enough. What are your seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Are they really? Have you exhausted all your options and possible choices? Please share. No really, please.

What I am reading: 3 different books because I can’t really stay focused this week. I highly doubt any of them are worth mentioning.

What I am listening to: On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

Inspirations from the ether: Dobermans never say die Must read/watch, and apparently, if you are a weeper, have a tissue handy. Someone has already called me a bitch for not warning her :) People can be terrible and cruel, and they can also be amazingly kind and generous.  

Now moment of the week: A 4 hour nap on Wednesday… don’t knock if you need it.