Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hey, were you hiding under the couch all that time???

“To find yourself, think for yourself.” - Socrates

The phrase authentic self has been popping up in conversations with a lot of people I know lately.  Maybe it’s because many of my friends are hitting those decade birthdays which always seem to lead to self reflection but a lot folks are searching for this authentic self and packaged up with it seems to be the belief that if they can only find it that all will be right in their world.  Recently one of these friends asked me how I managed to find my authentic self to which I jokingly replied, “I was cleaning up the dust bunnies under the couch and low and behold there it was.”

In all seriousness I am a little bothered by all of this authentic self seeking and the promise of deep happiness or satisfaction finding it is supposed to bring (which of course ought to be the first clue that I am not the person to be asking about it since I walk around at least mildly dissatisfied with the world most of the time).  To me it mostly seems to make those who are seeking feel really, really bad about themselves for not finding it and those that profess to have found it appear to spend much of their time teaching expensive workshops to others about how to get there. 

To me where ever you are right now is your authentic self.  You might not be perfect, you may or may not be happy and you may or may not be doing exactly what you want to be doing in the world right now but to say that where you are at this moment isn’t authentic or real serves only to discredit your personal journey.   Life is an ever changing process during which you are going to have good days, you are going to have bad days and you are likely going to question the path you are walking on everyday for the rest of your life.  You may discover that there are things you do that aren’t in your own best interest and perhaps you will find ways to change those habits so you can have a better than average chance at being happy.  BUT that doesn’t mean that at any time during this process you were any less authentically you than you are now or will be tomorrow. 

Could we be doing things to make our lives a more enjoyable experience?  Yes of course we can.   We are often our own worst enemy when it comes to pursuing that which will make us happy.  Most of us listen a little too closely to what everyone else tells us we should be doing until after a few years of walking that path we realize we are dissatisfied.  Hey, good for you!  You have just discovered what you don’t want to be doing.  Some people never get that far.  Have you discovered your authentic self?  Well if you hadn’t had it all along how would you have known that what you were doing didn’t make you happy?  

If I don’t buy into all of this authentic self business why did my friend ask me how I managed to find it?   I mean I think my life is pretty good but I’m not 100% satisfied with it.  It wasn’t until my early 30s that I began to have a clue what I might want out of life and nearly a decade later there are still days that I am a bubbling cauldron of self doubt and I think I’m not good enough/talented enough/ready enough for the opportunities that come my way.  So why in the world would anyone think I had some sort of answer?  Well I think maybe it is because despite all of those doubts, worries and fears I go out and pursue whatever it is I want to do anyway even when I’m so nervous or scared that feel like I’m most likely going to toss my cookies before I accomplish anything.   

Perhaps when people are seeking their authentic selves what they are searching for isn’t the path to their heart or inner being but instead they are seeking to find a way to overcome the fear that is stopping them from acting on what they already know.  Fear can serve a useful purpose in our lives (like deciding not to take that dare to play chicken with a train) but the fear that most of us encounter is the fear of failure.  We want to be absolutely sure that before we set out on some new path that we won’t be making a mistake or we won’t totally suck at what we attempt to do or that people won’t laugh at us.  Since we can’t have that reassurance we don’t take any action at all and then we tell ourselves that it must because we are flawed, that we haven’t deeply connected with ourselves enough and thus we must keep on seeking.  Because after all if we had really found our authentic selves we wouldn’t be so afraid to take that step because we’d be absolutely sure of our success.

I call bullshit!  You probably know quite well what your desires are, what dreams you want to pursue but something always stops you from acting.  That little voice of doubt that says, “You might be wrong.  You might be making a mistake. You aren’t ready to do this.  You might make an absolute fool of yourself.”

And yes, that voice might be right because there are no guarantees.  Taking the steps to achieve a dream involves huge amounts of risk and a whole lot of hard work.  I’ve done things that left me exhausted, broke and wondering after what the hell was I thinking when I said I’d do this? But then there are all of those other times where I’ve taken the plunge and WOW, amazing things have happened.  It took me a long time to get to this place but all of those years that I ambled through life without much of a clue of where I wanted to be were not wasted and there wasn’t some magical moment where I suddenly came home to find my authentic self waiting on the couch saying, “Hey, I’m finally here.  What’s for dinner?”

My so called authentic self has always been there, what I was lacking was the courage to take the steps necessary to pursue my dreams and the willingness to risk failing at them.   And yes, taking that step can be absolutely terrifying but these are your dreams and your hopes we are talking about here. Playing chicken with a train can leave you dead on the tracks, taking a step towards achieving your heart’s desire might leave you….well, I can say this.  It won’t kill you, in fact it might just lead you down the road to living.    

Below is an interview from The Dream Share Project (which I do reccomend checking out).  What I love about this video is Kirk's advice to "do it quickly" and not put things off.   I also like that he is someone who didn't start out knowing what he wanted to do and in fact, as he states in the interview, he was not at all sure of his chances of success once he started pursuing his dream...but he did it anyway.   

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Things I Won't Miss...

(11 days until moving day)

It should come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that I like living alone and in fact have a preference for it.  I also really like my cozy little Spinster Nest which I've called home for the past three years.  Having recently made the decision to once again share living space with other people I have been thinking a lot about all of the things I will miss about living here and living by myself.


I've also come to realize that while there are many things that I will mourn when I go (sniffle...I don't waaaaannnaa wear pants...sniff) there are some things I won't miss at all.  Like...

...the harmonica player who lives downstairs who seems to think that harmonicas are not loud enough on their own and must be amplified to floor shaking sound levels in order to be properly heard. 

...being the only person responsible for cleaning the bathroom. 

...the couple next door who argue loudly and regularly enough that when more than two days pass without a peep I ponder knocking on the door to see if they maybe died from carbon-monoxide poisoning.

...coming to the end of my three week underwear supply necessitating an emergency load of laundry only to find that I am out of quarters for the washing machine. 

...not having enough hands to pet three kitties. 

...being across town from my favorite pizza place

...if I fall in the bathtub it could be day before my body is found and by then my cats will most likely have begun to eat me. 

...should the zombie apocalypse occur it's just me and my Louisville slugger (I have it under good authority my roommates are well trained in zombie warfare).

...when I work at home and then dive right into school work there is a pretty good chance of my going 24 to 48 hours without a face to face interaction with another human being.

...baking cakes and cookies and being the only one around to eat them.

Wait.  Actually I might not miss that last one.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Big Announcement!!! (drum roll please.....)

I have some big news to announce.  It is more than just big news; it’s actually a pretty substantial lifestyle change.  In fact it is a change I didn’t think I’d be making anytime soon, if ever.  No worries, this change does not involve diamond rings or diapers.  It does however involve boxes, packing tape and the possibility of a truck rental. 

I’m moving. 

In less than three weeks I’m leaving my cozy little spinster nest to take up residence across town in much larger apartment with two roommates.  You read that correctly, this champion of living alone is going to be sharing space with other living and breathing mammals that are not cats.   Why am I making such a move?

Like many folks in this country getting by has become increasingly difficult for me.  I am a full time student, I work part-time and I also earn some extra money through performing and my crochet work.  I make enough to cover my expenses but each month it has become more and more of a struggle to make ends meet.  It became obvious I had to do something to either cut expenses or increase my income. 

Option number one, taking a second job, would mean I could continue to live alone but it would be at the expense of my evening and weekend hours which would leave very little time left to write, dance or create.  What few hours I would have left would be given over to school work.  Option number two, taking a fulltime job, left me making an even more drastic sacrifice.  I’d be giving up a part-time job that I dearly love to make a return to the 9 to 5 grind and I’d still be faced with choosing to give up either my creative pursuits or school. 

Sacrificing those things that feed my spirit for the sake of keeping these particular four walls, which I’d not likely be home often enough to enjoy anyway, was not something I was willing to do.   So I was left with the option of cutting expenses which translated into looking for a more affordable living arrangement…which meant living with other people.  Thankfully a situation came along that will work quite nicely.  The space is large enough for the three humans and five (yes, you read that right) felines who will live there; the bedroom that will be mine is nearly the same size as half my current apartment, and I’ll be cutting my expenses by nearly a third.  Oh, and yes, I actually like the people I’ll be living with.

I love new adventure and find myself looking forward to this one too though after three years of solitary living it will be a bit of an adjustment.  I’ll have to remember to keep a supply of clean pants on hand and naked coffee isn’t likely going to be an option anymore but I will now have people to inflict my Spinster in the Kitchen experiments on share my Spinster in the Kitchen test recipes with and I can finally have another body to shove in front of me for protection when someone is hiding behind the shower curtain waiting to come at me with a butcher knife. 

Yes, I can make all sorts of adjustments and sacrifices (like wearing pants) to “get by”, but there are certain things I won’t give up.  Writing, dancing, learning and creating are the things that make my life something I live, not just survive. I'm not willing to give up living...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September to Do List

I used to be very fond of lists.  I made them so I wouldn't forget what to take on a trip (it also prevented me from packing to much).  Before I began a new art project I made a list of all the steps I'd take to get it accomplished.  At the beginning of every work day I made a daily "To Do" list.  I had a particular love for shopping lists, especially those that went along with putting on a dinner party.  I'm not sure how I got out of this habit but I bet it had something to do with feeling too busy to make a list.

Lists are helpful.  They let me break big projects down into manageable chunks, prevent me from forgetting (or stressing about forgetting) important steps and they keep me organized.  I think I miss my lists.  I don't know if I necessarily actually accomplished more when I made them but I am pretty sure I felt overwhelmed a lot less often  and life seemed at least a bit more manageable.

All of this was brought to mind this morning when I read Denise's post in the List Lovers Unite group on Blogher about ten things she would like to accomplish in the month of September.  Her items aren't super huge goals; they are all things that can indeed be accomplished within September's 30 days.  Since I'm feeling all list fond and inspired this morning (thank you Denise) I think I'll make a September "To Do List" for myself...

1. Clean my closet
2. Create a budget for the remainder of 2012
3. Spend more time at the library
4. Start school
5. Dance every day
6. Prepare crafts for the holiday craft fairs
7. Attempt to bake gluten free bread
8. Do my homework
9. Get performer bios up on the troupe website
10. Make a list for October

I'm going to put a note in my calendar to check back and see which of these I have accomplished.  I'm pretty sure I'll at least get to number 4 and number 10.  I really hope I do numbers 8 and 5.  I'll let you know at the end of the month.