New job. Family health crisis. More family drama. Two international trips. Three business trips. Visits to 8 cities I’d never been. Countless experiences I’d never experienced. Meeting new people. Making new friends. Losing other friends who it turns out were never friends at all. Coming to grips with betrayal. Learning to appreciate the ones who are actually there for me. Learning to love my circumstances just the way they are. Taking many stumbles (both literally and metaphorically) along my journey.
This has been my 2017, in a crude nutshell.
It’s paved the way for a lot of personal growth. Unfortunately, it didn’t lend the time for me to practice as much writing as I’d have hoped. I’ve already surpassed the deadline I’d long ago set for myself, that I’d have a book published by the time I was 30. I am now sitting just about two months shy of 32, with no book deal anywhere on the horizon.
But you know what?
Life isn’t about setting arbitrary deadlines and allowing ourselves to be devastated when we don’t meet them exactly when we thought we would.
Life is, and always has been, about learning to enjoy the ride. A ride that may be bumpy, that may turn in ways meant to give us whiplash, but a ride nonetheless. Goals can be a great thing, yes. There is certainly nothing wrong with wanting to better ourselves. But if we allow our sense of self-worth to become wholly entangled up in them, then all they become is simply another source of stress.
Who needs more stress? Certainly not me. And I’m betting likely not you, either.
So, if our goals don’t dictate our happiness, what should?
For me, 2017 has been a year of learning to live mindfully.
“One of the things Ford Prefect had always found hardest to understand about human beings was their habit of continually stating and repeating the very very obvious, as in It’s a nice day, or You’re very tall, or Oh dear you seem to have fallen down a thirty-foot well, are you all right? At first Ford had formed a theory to account for this strange behaviour. If human beings don’t keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months’ consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don’t keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.”
Above, an excerpt from one of my favorite novels of all time, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by the brilliant/late Douglass Adams. His propensity for fine science fiction writing laced with a mix of knee-slapping humor and face-smacking truths is the stuff of envy.
The above quote is ever truer today, isn’t it? As human beings, we have a tendency to speak without thinking. To say pointless things in order to fill a noise deficit instead of, you know, actually learning something. Perhaps, as Ford Prefect surmises, small talk is simply a distraction. A means to build a bridge across a dreaded silence in lieu of taking a moment to allow our minds to actually postulate something more profound.
Allow for more moments of quiet contemplation.
Experience things rather than simply allowing them to occur while barely blinking an eye at our surroundings. By living our lives on the surface, we’re not really allowing ourselves to live, we’re simply existing, and flitting about from one meaningless encounter to another.
Mindfulness is, in a nutshell, stopping to smell the roses.
Pausing from our self-critiques, our self-imposed deadlines, our surface talk, our Pinterest boards.
Just taking a moment to truly absorb our surroundings. To find beauty in the mundane. Because there is beauty there, if you look hard enough.
It’s still a work in progress. But, like the novel that’s collecting dust in the archives, it’ll get there eventually. Doesn’t have to be today. Or tomorrow.
It’s the journey that counts.
Until next time, I want to wish all my readers the best of Holidays with friends and family, a mindful and Merry Christmas, and an exciting and Happy New Year. Enjoy, and I will see you in 2018!