We All Have the Same Amount of Time

Dear Ones,

Haha, I only started this out by calling you guys ‘Dear Ones’ because it’s something Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ does in her Facebook posts all the time… And honestly, it sort of annoys me. Did it annoy you when I called you a ‘Dear One’? Or did you like it? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I actually LOVE Elizabeth Gilbert, and her Facebook posts just about always make me very happy, but the ‘Dear Ones’ thing just seems…patronizing? Old fashioned? I’m sure she doesn’t mean it that way AT ALL, because she seems like the sweetest person, but it rubs me the wrong way every time I hear it.

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BUT if I can get past that (and I can), she writes some very inspiring mini essays on Facebook. Today she wrote a thought-provoking little post about not giving up the great for the good. She was recounting how there’s always the same amount of time in a day and we usually fill that time with GOOD things- important things that we need to do- such as emails, holiday shopping, jobs, housecleaning, etc. Most of these things are, of course, necessary to life. But then she said that there are GREAT things we can be doing with our days as well, and that we have time for them too.

Now, at this point in her post, I thought Ms. Gilbert was going to go on to explain great things to be ‘travel to Indonesia,’ or ‘learn to code,’or ‘go windsurfing’ or ‘‘volunteer at soup kitchens everywhere,’ or other major activities in a similar vein. Elizabeth Gilbert’s a travel writer and an inspirational speaker after all. I expected great things to equate to major goals I guiltily feel I SHOULD GET TO or want to get around to doing ‘some day.’

But instead her GREAT THINGS were the exact opposite. They included:

  • Going for a long walk or a run alone on the beach, or in the woods, or in the city. (I LOVE doing this! This is, indeed, great!)
  • Going to Target with my best friend for absolutely no reason (YES! I love going to department stores or even grocery stores with my best friend for absolutely no reason. Great!
  • Sitting down at the end of the day with a glass of wine (I do this! I love this! Easy!)
  • Calling my mom just to say hello (So simple. So doable. Yet I don’t always do it.)


Sometimes just walking the street can be so happy-making!

Sometimes just walking the street can be so happy-making!

Or spending time with my friend and wandering through stores and to bus stops..

Or spending time with my best friend and wandering through stores …and from bus stop to bus stop

Elizabeth Gilbert’s personal list consisted of activities that…were easy to do. And they provoked simple, easy joy because they were basic little things. And they blew my mind because I already did them! I’d just never considered them ‘great things’ before. But they are. And I don’t recognize them.

Many days, my ‘great things’ slip through the cracks while I anxiously check off a never-ending to do list.

We all have the same amount of time in a day…and we can fit great things into our lives in such doable ways. The requirement is only to recognize those teeny moments of joy and allow ourselves to live them.

Real Happiness Begins at Age 33?

In four months, I’ll be turning 33. And apparently, I have a lot to look forward to, according to a study by Friends Reunited, a British social networking site. In the 2012 study, 70% of respondents over the age of 40 claimed they were not truly happy until they reached age 33.

One of the study’s authors, psychologist Donna Dawson, explains the findings this way:

“The age of 33 is enough time to have shaken off childhood naiveté and the wild scheming of teenaged years without losing the energy and enthusiasm of youth…By this age innocence has been lost, but our sense of reality is mixed with a strong sense of hope, a ‘can do’ spirit, and a healthy belief in our own talents and abilities.”

This makes a lot of sense to me. I definitely feel like I’ve been more confident in my abilities in the past few years than I was in my twenties. And overall, I just like myself better. I don’t put much stock in if other people like me or not. Because if they don’t like me, most of the time, I don’t like them either. It just seems to work out that way. And realizing that is liberating.

Another recent study (also, British – those Brits must love these happiness studies!) done by The Huffington Post UK Lifestyle and YouGov found that the average person doesn’t achieve ‘true contentment’ until age 38. The study asked 2,000 Brits between ages 18-80 and took into account the respondents’ contentment with relationships, family, friends, and jobs.

So if you’re reading this post and stuck in a early thirties crisis, hopefully you can take a little comfort and relief in these studies.

The Happy Shuttle Driver

When I got on the FlyAway Shuttle to LAX this morning, I was greeted by an incredibly friendly, happy driver. He immediately started talking about growing up in LA, his love of driving, his nine uber-close siblings, and his passion for motorcycles.

There was a lot of talk of pranks played as children, precocious brothers and sisters, and flying home for the holidays. I laughed so hard I nearly cried as he told story after zany story.

Then suddenly, out of the blue, the driver said, in the same even tone of voice he’d been using before, ‘My two best friends just died.’

I jerked my head hard as if I’d been slapped. The comment was completely out of nowhere. “Oh god- I’m so sorry!” I said. There was a silence. I squirmed. I didn’t want to pry.

He opened up without me asking. “We were all part of a motorcycle group. We did daredevil stunts and jumps and all kinds of tricks that most motorcyclists won’t do. Then one day we went to a motorcycle meet, and I was watching as my friend pulled his motorcycle out of the garage. A drunk driver came by and hit him then, and he was dead on the spot. He was just pulling out of the garage..”

“Oh my god,” I said. I didn’t know what to say. “That’s horrible.”

“Yeah. It wasn’t even the motorcycle that got him killed. It was a drunk driver.” He paused for a second, and then continued in the same even tone, “the other one too. My other best friend…hit by a drunk driver. I was actually working my shift at the time, driving the FlyAway Shuttle, and I looked over into the lane next to me. For his birthday, I’d given my friend a pair of sneakers he’d wanted, as a gift. And I looked over that day. And I saw a sneaker, the same sneaker…all alone, all by itself. And I wasn’t able to stop and see anything other than that sneaker, but I found out later. My friend had been cycling down the freeway, and a drunk driver started going the wrong direction. My friend swerved and was thrown from the bike. He still had one sneaker on. He died, and I just happened to drive by right then. It was too late. Both of them hit by drunk drivers.”

I was heartbroken. How was it that underneath this man’s happy exterior was the darkest, most earth-shattering sadness? And before we got to LAX, he continued his stories, telling me he’d been a shuttle driver for over 10 years and that he worked 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. “It’s good,” he said, “It keeps my mind off the hard things. It’s very good to be distracted.” And he smiled.

We arrived at the airport and bid our farewells. I’m shaken by the deep pain hidden under his smiling stories. Shaken by his love of his job for the saddest of reasons…and if the shuttle ride had been just a bit shorter, I would never have known.

You never know what people have going on under their happy, smiling exteriors.

Is Love Really Everywhere?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m newly into meditation. It’s somewhat daunting and somewhat the best thing I’ve ever discovered.

Jane and I have both been following Deepak Chopra and Oprah’s 21 day free mediation challenge, but before that, I’d discovered a podcast I love called ‘Learn to Meditate.’ It’s created by the Meditation Society of Australia, and I highly recommend downloading it (it’s free!) if you like meditation or want to try it out.

I have trouble sitting still without a guided meditation to help me, and the podcasts are amazing and extremely straightforward, if not somewhat above my normal comprehension level.

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I am not actually meditating here. But I am very happy.

The first part of these meditation podcasts are always a brief overview of a topic- for example ‘desire’ or ‘fear’ or ‘letting go’ or ‘manifesting through playfulness’ or something of the sort. A speaker talks about a topic for a few minutes before the meditation starts. I love this first part almost more than I love the meditations themselves- they’re super calming and enlightening. Maybe it’s the Australian accents, but something about the opening messages put me in a calm state of mind. I usually feel the need to hear a lesson again because I really want the message to sink in.

Almost all of the meditation podcasts mention love, especially ‘unconditional love.’ I realized from the beginning and I still realize- even after listening to all 50 of the ‘Learn To Meditate’ podcasts- that I can’t exactly comprehend what unconditional love is.

I mean, I sort of get unconditional love from a dog or cat or other pet, or possibly a baby? But from a grown up human?…It’s hard to wrap my mind around that.

The podcasts recurrently talk about how love is flowing freely everywhere, and we just need to open ourselves to it. One talk mentioned that the love we give and receive from romantic relationships, friends and family is only 1% of the love that’s out there to give and receive, and 99% of love is actually everywhere else.  Yet 99% of the love most people experience in their life is from and to romantic partners, friends and family. That’s not to say that the love you get from and give to those people should be any less, but rather that there is just THAT MUCH MORE love out there. What??

How do we find this love?? Where is it? What is it? Is it divine? What is that exactly?

The podcast explained that meditation is a simple path to opening ourselves up to the love that is everywhere. But that kind of knowledge feels ungraspable…the same way that the universe expanding infinitely in all directions is ungraspable. The same way that string theory is ungraspable. If 99% of the love out there is untapped by us- love as strong as the love from and to our family, romantic partners and friends, where is this love and where does it live? Inside of us? In the sky? As a part of nature? How do we find it?

Even if I figure out the answer to any of these questions myself, I wonder if opening up to this kind of love would even be measurable, sustainable, or teachable. So I open up the floor to suggestions. Does this love baffle your mind? Do you agree that it’s out there? Have you found any of the other 99% of the love supposedly all around us? …And has it changed your life?

Do you have a mission statement?

Last night I was down in the dumps, feeling lost and somewhat aimless in my life. A lot of this feeling comes from being in graduate school, in a program where I’m often home alone, writing, trying to will my imagination to work with me, damnit. You would think graduate school would actually provide me with MORE of a sense of focus, but alas, that has not been the case.

I could write with other people, or go to different locations, but I find my best work is done solo in a quiet space. (I might have to re-evaluate this theory soon). When I’m in my own head too long, I tend to go a little stir crazy, but when I have too much social interaction, I also go crazy. It’s all about keeping a fine balance between nurturing my introversion and extroversion.

Back to last night. I poured myself a glass of wine and got into some google searching. I think I started with “thirty something feeling lost,” and found some interesting articles. As long as you don’t go down a crazy rabbit hole time-suck, I highly recommend googling your feelings to make yourself feel less alone.

One of the articles I stumbled upon was about crafting a life mission statement. The kind of mission statement the writer is talking about isn’t the one at the top of your resume, or your LinkedIn profile. This is your personal life mission statement, perhaps oriented around your values or how you want to spend your time.

Here are two anonymous examples I found on franklincovey.com. (This company is a business oriented leadership site, but they had some great examples of personal mission statements.)

“My mission is to give, for giving is what I do best and I can learn to do better.
I will seek to learn, for learning is the basis for growth, and growing is the key to living. I will seek first to understand, for understanding is the key to finding value, and value is the basis for respect, decisions, and action. This should be my first act with my wife, my family, and my business.
I want to help influence the future development of people and organizations. I want to teach my children and others to love and laugh, to learn and grow beyond their current bounds. I will build personal, business, and civic relationships by giving, in frequent little ways.”

I loved this one:

“I want to be the kind of person my dog already thinks I am.”

Do you have a mission statement?

I don’t have one now, but I’m going to craft one soon. Maybe it could help alleviate that ‘lost’ feeling.

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