How Should a Person Be: a Quote

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This weekend I raced through Sheila Heti’s book How Should a Person Be? This passage really struck home for me, and will serve as a daily challenge to the ever-present thought that I have to find my “one thing”, my one passion, and I’ll “never have to work a day in my life.”

“You remember the puer aeternus–the eternal child–Peter Pan–the boy who never grows up, who never becomes a man? Or it’s like in The Little Prince–when the prince asks the narrator to draw him a sheep. The narrator tries and tries again, but each time he fails to do it as well as he wishes. He believes himself to be a great artist and cannot understand why it’s not working. In a fit of frustration, he instead draws a box–something he can do well. When the prince asks how it’s a picture of a sheep, the narrator replies that it’s a picture of a sheep in a box. He is arrogantly proud of his solution and satisfied with his efforts. This response is typical of all peurs. Such people will suddenly tell you they have another plan, and they always do it the moment things start getting difficult. But it’s their everlasting switching that’s the dangerous thing, not what they choose.

Why is their everlasting switching dangerous?

Because people who live their lives this way can look forward to a single destiny, shared with others of this type–though such people do not believe they represent a type, but feel themselves distinguished from the common run of man, who they see as held down by the banal anchors of the world. But while others actually build a life in which things gain in meaning and significance, this is not true of the puer. Such a person inevitability looks back on life as it nears its end with a feeling of emptiness and sadness, aware of what they have built: nothing. In their quest for a life without failure, suffering, or doubt, that is what they achieve: a life empty of all those things that make a human life meaningful. And yet they started off believing themselves too special for this world!

But–and here is the hope–there is a solution for people of this type, and it’s perhaps not the solution that could have been predicted. The answer for them is to build on what they have begun and not abandon their plans as soon as things start getting difficult. They must work–without escaping into fantasies about being the person who worked. And I don’t mean work for its own sake, but they must choose work that begins and ends in a passion, a question that is gnawing at their guts, which is not to be avoided but must be realized and lived through the hard work and suffering that inevitably comes with the process.

They must reinforce and build on what is in their life already rather than always starting anew, hoping to find a situation without danger. Puers don’t need to check themselves into analysis. If that just remember this–It is their everlasting switching that is the dangerous thing, not what they choose–they might discover themselves saved. The problem is the puer ever anticipates loss, disappointment, and suffering–which they foresee at the end of every experience, so they cut themselves off at the beginning, retreating almost at once in order to protect themselves. In this way, they never give themselves to life–living in constant dread of the end. Reason, in this case, has taken too much from life.

They must give themselves completely to the experience! One thinks sometimes how much more alive such people would be if they suffered! If they can’t be happy, let them at least be unhappy–really, really unhappy for once, and then they might become truly human.”

Moving forward

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I’ve recently decided to start pursuing something that I want desperately, but scares the hell out of me. (I’m not pregnant, just to be clear.) I’m only just scratching the surface of all I’ll have to do to prepare- making lists, reaching out to people who have gone before me, lots of reading- but I’m already hearing the loud voices of my insecurities, telling me that I’m not good enough for this, I’ll never make it, it’ll be too emotionally and mentally draining, etc. etc. Last night I had a dream where two people separately told me that they knew this was the right thing for me to do, and I felt really reassured when I woke up. But midway through the day, I’m back down on myself. So, I went searching for some inspirational words to help me through some of the darker thoughts. It’s way too easy for me to get down when I feel inadequate, but I also know that I have to do this thing, or I’ll regret it for the rest of my life. And it feels very right, despite how very scary it remains. Details aside for now, I’d appreciate any encouraging words. Here’s some that are helping me right now:

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What motivates and inspires you?

 

A dream to remember

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Do you believe in dreams? By that I mean, do you ever wake and know that your dream meant something real? I’m a big believer in the power of dreams, and I had one last night that was so encouraging to me that I just wanted to share.

First, a little backstory. This last year has been one of questions for me. I’ve done a lot of self-examination, a lot of mental wandering…wondering about vocation vs. hobby, who I am vs. who I want to be, etc. I can visualize the kind of life and work and meaning I want to have and bring to the world, but I have such a hard time finding the way there, and so much impatience about how long it’s taking, that I often wonder if these visions of the future hold any weight, if they could ever come to pass.

Back to the dream. I dreamt that I was wearing my wedding dress, and my hair was down, and loose. I was in a large open field, under a tree. There were lots of people surrounding me, including some I admire and know only by their work. Everyone was smiling and connecting with each other. In front of me was hanging a rope, the kind you would use to swing into a lake. I knew that if I got on this rope and swung on it while wearing my wedding dress in front of all of these people, it would look really silly, but I also knew that it would mean I had come to my fullest potential and finally become the truest expression of myself. I was kind of nervous, but I was laughing and everyone around me was encouraging me, “Get on the rope! Do it! You have to!” Finally I just decided to give in to it, and I climbed on the rope and started swinging, in front of everyone. I was going higher and higher, my wedding dress and my hair were flying out behind me and I felt completely free, with the purest sense of joy. Everyone was clapping and just so happy. Joy was the only emotion anyone had. My field of vision kind of panned out and I saw myself, swinging, surrounded by all of these people, and I was totally free of any fears or insecurities, basking in complete fullness of self, joy, and purpose.

When I woke up, I just knew that this dream was meant as an encouragement. Despite all the fears and gnawing, daily insecurities I may have about my talents, my work, my passions, my life and relationships…if I just move forward and swing on that rope despite it, I will accomplish those dreams. And I have so much support. It was like the whole world was saying, “You have to lay down your fears and just start swinging…we’ve got you.”

 

(photo of my sister-friend, Jen, in La Casa del Árbol Baños, Ecuador)

Missing out

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As an introvert, talking to people I don’t know is not something I really enjoy doing and it’s usually not very high on my priority list. I tend to keep my head down when I walk, avoiding eye contact unless absolutely necessary. I can make small talk just fine for a while, and I sometimes even enjoy the kinds of spontaneous conversations that can come up, but the truth is, if I don’t have to, I’m most likely going to choose not to.

However, this sometimes conflicts with a deeply held belief of mine- to be kind, warm, and inviting. Often times we are not given enough time with people for them to “break through” the quieter introversion to see and feel the real warmth that lies underneath. Sometimes, only five minutes, sometimes two, are given to make a connection. And, as someone who has worked in customer service for almost a decade, I can attest to the real impact an amazing two minute conversation can make. I’ve always admired those who can make you feel seen, heard, and appreciated within such a short time span, and I’ve wanted to be that to those I meet as well. But I think I’ve let my own idea of what being introverted looks like get in the way.

What I’m trying to say is, in the past couple of weeks at my new job, I’ve been forced to meet an enormous amount of new people, and I have found that being able to make a quick, but genuine connection has been extraordinarily and surprisingly…wonderful. I haven’t let my nervousness about new people get in the way of showing them who I really am, and I’ve even felt emboldened to be the one to initiate contact! If you know me at all, you know I’ll avoid initiating just about everything, so this has been a huge (but positive) learning process for me. I’m learning that kindness, humility, gratefulness, and playfulness are really great connectors- and that making those kinds of connections are actually really, really wonderful, and not as difficult as I kept telling myself they would be. I’m learning that I can be true to both sides of myself: the one who enjoys quiet alone time, and the one who is kind and inviting. It looks a little different than how I imagined it to be, but I’m finding something great I never even knew I was missing out on.

(photo by Small Measure)

A Steep Learning Curve

Amelia Earhart
I started a new job last week.

There’s nothing quite like a new job to remind oneself that there is always much, much more to be learned. It’s one thing to say in an interview, “I can do that” and think to yourself “I can probably figure that out” and then actually come into the job and realize that you haven’t figured it out yet…and you don’t quite know where to begin. Figuring it out can be very stressful.

But in the midst of the stress, I have this little feeling of pride. Here I am, figuring out how to do things on my own that before I never would have thought I could do without training! It’s amazing what you can learn when you have no other choice but to jump in and swim.

This week has shown me that I put so many limitations on myself. There is so much more I can do, so many more skills I can learn, than what I’ve thought about myself before. And that’s very liberating.

This week I am very grateful- for having this job, yes, but mostly for it teaching me so quickly that I am capable of more than I ever thought.

 

(photo of Amelia Earhart via NBC)

The Faces of Truth

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“Three things cannot be long hidden- the sun, the moon, and the truth.” -Buddha
“Even if you are a minority of one, the truth is the truth.” -Mahatma Ghandi
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” -Jesus (John 8:32)
My husband and I had a long, complicated, but ultimately enlightening conversation last week about truth and how it relates to faith and religion(s), and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. What is truth? Is truth the same for everyone? Are there universal truths? What about when the truth is coming from a sacred text- does one have to believe in the god of that text in order to accept the truths found within it? These were just some of the questions we were throwing around. This is the conclusion I’ve come to.

Raised in a conservative, evangelical home, I was taught that all truth came from one place- the Bible. Everything else should be understood in light of what the Bible has to say, taking great care and discernment about things that aren’t from the Bible. I think I still subscribe to this belief, but in a more open-handed way. Here’s what I mean: I was taught that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). I still believe this to be true. But there’s another way that I read this. Jesus isn’t just the truth, as in only things spoken by him are true, but rather Jesus is Truth. This necessitates that anything that is true is therefore of God, because God is Truth. Even if the words of truth being spoken are not coming from a Christian, or are from some other sacred text, or even from a person who usually shares negativity instead of truth.

I have to be able to see and accept truth, wherever it comes from. I’ve heard many times growing up to be careful about listening to people who are not Christian. But I have to say this- I think it’s wise to take the truths you know from the Bible and see if the statements you’re hearing reflect that, but I think it’s unwise to cast aside something that could bring life and meaning simply because it’s not from a Christian source. I sense this fear about what might happen if we get too far away from the words of the Bible- we tend to grasp on to the “wise as serpents part,” but kind of forget about the “gentle as doves” part.

I want to be the kind of person who is open-hearted enough to see truth for what it is, no matter where or who it comes from. Part of the balance of life I’m seeking is to be more open-hearted and open-minded to people and beliefs different from mine, and to be able to be guided by Truth in and of itself, wherever I may find that. (This reflects back to when I said I wanted to be confident, but open.)

Ultimately, I believe that seeking out truth is one of the surest ways to find God.
Thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a measure you use to determine if something is true? I’d love to hear- from a variety of perspectives and backgrounds!

Becoming Balanced

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I’ve been thinking a lot about balance as of late. It seems to be the distress of our time to be surrounded by extremes. We gorge ourselves over holidays and then starve ourselves in the new year. We work ourselves into the ground during the week and then can’t get off the couch for the whole weekend. We give all our energy away and then can’t understand why our own lives are a mess. It seems that we are always looking for the next Thing that will help us, or fix us, but the problem is that we often look outside ourselves for it. We are so out of tune with our own bodies; we’re constantly taking in information and not giving ourselves time to sit with it and process it, or to feel stillness or silence. We rarely create space and time for ourselves. I am guilty of this myself. It was in contemplating these things that I then began to explore where I am learning and desiring balance in my own life.
I’m learning balance in my rest. Having a work/life balance has always been important to me; I am not the workaholic type. I enjoy and need rest and time to myself. However, my rest time is often very unproductive, and rather lazy. I forget to use my time towards the things I say I love, like writing, practicing French, or baking. This is something I always struggle with, but want to get better at.

I’m learning balance in my spiritual practice. I see many people who are all or nothing in their faith (whatever that faith is), and I just can’t reconcile that for myself. I want to find a balance where I can see and accept truth for what it is, no matter where it comes from, while still being strong in what I believe. I want to be confident in my convictions, but open and willing to listen.

I’m learning balance in how I eat. For almost my whole life, I’ve been able to eat whatever I want, and I rather scorned “health” food in favor of weekly nachos, pizza, and cheeseburgers. Now I’ve been introduced to super delicious healthy foods that I love. I feel good about what I’m putting in my body, and am interested in eating to be healthy, but I don’t place restrictions on what I won’t or can’t eat. I’m trying to find that middle ground.

I’m learning balance when it comes to how I care for my body. I’ve never been athletic, so I’ve never exercised. I hated it. But I’m learning what I really dislike is running, so I’m finding other ways to strengthen my body and see what I’m capable of. For me, that’s yoga and barre classes. I love the way that it makes me feel more in tune with what my body needs, and I love feeling stronger and less achy.

I’m also learning more natural, holistic ways to treat ailments, and products to use in beauty care that won’t harm me in the long run. I’m still a firm believer in doctors and know they are vital, but I’m interested in finding that in-between place where holistic, more Eastern health care meets the more traditional Western health care.
This whole balance thing has really taken up a lot of my thoughts in the past month or two, and it’s become something I feel really passionate about sharing. This place, Dear Wilderness, is not going to become a health and wellness blog by any means, but it will continue to remain a place where I share what I’m passionate about, and so it might take a more “natural” turn in its focus. I want to talk about faith and spirituality, finding emotional expression, delicious recipes and restaurants, books that stimulate the imagination, natural health remedies, and general balance in all areas of life. Life is about the contradictions, the things that shouldn’t work but do, the unexpectedly beautiful, and finding the balance in the midst of it all. I want to extend my roots into this beautiful earth and reach up towards the heavens to search for beauty and wholeness. Hopefully I’ll have the courage to live out what I find.