Good afternoon, hooligans! Today’s post is going to be another Audience Participation one, and I’m going to need you to grab a few supplies so you can play along. So I’m going to go refill my coffee cup, and while I’m gone, please gather the following:
1. A notepad and pen/pencil/marker/crayon/fancy quill/etc
2. A spray bottle with plain water inside
/pours coffee, adds cream
…Are we all back now? Yes? Good.
At the top of your piece of paper, let’s start by copying down the following quote:
Now beneath that, we’re going to make a list. Here’s what goes in it:
- Your favorite hobbies, activities, etc. The things you do “just for fun”
- Those moments in your life when you were having so much fun you felt like you were getting away with something–the moments people describe in books as “So-and-so thought she must surely be dreaming, and pinched herself”
- Things you could get paid to do, but which you would be just as happy doing for free (think “dream job”, think “volunteer efforts”, think “if they stopped paying me, I’d still keep showing up anyway”)
- Things you enjoy so much you’re totally willing to pay other people so you can do them (for instance, Moon Man is taking flying lessons. These are not cheap, but he enjoys them so much I’m pretty sure he’d sell his organs on the black market if he had to, to keep going with ’em)
Once that’s done, sit with the list for a minute. Just…sit with it. Look at it, smile wistfully, think things like “ahh, if only I had all the time and money in the world”; shake your fist a little bit at the rude disruption that is your normal life; idly consider buying a lottery ticket; let your thoughts drift to whether you remembered to set up the DVR for that show you want, or whether you’ve got time to mow the grass when you get home before running the kids to Scouts. Think about the reasons you’re not able to do all the things on your list: finances, time, other commitments, social expectations (“that’s not a very grown-up thing to want to do”), etc.
And as soon as you’ve got the Reasons Why Not fixed firmly in your brain, I want you to pick up the spray bottle, say “NO” in a firm voice, and spritz yourself directly in the face. Y’know, like you’d do with a cat who’s trying to eat your begonia.
Look back at the list, think about your excuses again, and repeat: NO (spritz).
Here’s the thing, y’all. I get it, I really truly get it, that part of Being a Responsible Grownup(TM) means that you have to make choices, you have to prioritize things, you have to make decisions based not just on your short-term happiness but also on your long-term solvency. It’s ok; we’ve got a mortgage too, so I’m certainly not saying you should just ditch everything and go try being a professional snowboarder full-time (though if you want to and are able to, I’m also not saying not to do that).
But what I am saying is that we get in this habit somewhere along the lines, where we have these things that we love–lovelovelove–to do, but we train ourselves out of wanting them by doing a sort of call-and-response kneejerk listing of all the reasons why we can’t do them anytime we start to think about them. We tell ourselves that we don’t have the time, or the money, or the freedom; we tell ourselves that other people will be disappointed in us; we tell ourselves that there are much more productive/important/useful things we could be doing instead.
In other words, we teach ourselves to associate our passions with Things We Cannot Do Because of Reasons…and when you think about it that way, doesn’t it seem just a little bit backwards?
Rather than listing the Things We Have to Do instead of pursuing the things we love, perhaps we can think about the things we can release that are standing between us and our bliss. Perhaps we can look at our budgets not as roadblocks, but as opportunities to practice conscious spending so that we can clear space for the things that make our soul sing (look at it this way: if your kid was a natural dancer, utterly passionate about it, and the only way to pay for his lessons was to kill cable, would you seriously still be watching Friends reruns? Or would you call the cable company right the heck now and tell them to come take the box away?).
Perhaps we can reevaluate how we spend the hours of our lives, and choose to put our bliss ahead of, say, the dusting.
Now look, I’m not saying everyone should run out and quit their jobs tomorrow and go become surfers or macrame artists or whatever. Some of you adore your jobs, and if you’re getting paid for your bliss, then good on you; and for those who aren’t so much desperately in love with their job but who, like me, are pretty strongly attached to the safety of knowing the lights are going to stay on, then by all means, carry on.
But stop letting yourself be the thing that’s standing between you and coming alive. Stop drafting a narrative in which you are prevented from your bliss because you’re following some made-up rules about How Grownups Are Supposed to Make Choices. Break the “I want to but I can’t” thought process–use a spray bottle, if that’s what it takes. Instead, start figuring out ways to clear time, clear funds, build opportunities for yourself. You are the only one who can give yourself permission to be wildly, blissfully, “I’m having so much fun I’m pretty sure I’m going to get in trouble for this” alive–so spritz yourself in the face until you’ve killed the habit of killing your own desires.
Try this: pick up that list you’ve made, and number the entries. Guess what? You’ve just made yourself a to-do list. And as a Responsible Grownup, you’re supposed to do the things on to-do lists. So come alive, get out there, and start crossing things off.
The world needs people like you.