There is nothing new that I can say about grieving. And others have spoken and written about it in much more profound ways than I ever could.
But we’ve all been there before. And I’m there now.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
The choice seems obvious: you’ll be much happier in a constant state of wonder than you will be feeding on a steady diet of cynicism. But the decision to view things as beautiful in the face of a world filled with suffering and discord can feel self-indulgent at best, and completely delusional at worst.
But choosing to see everything through a divine lens isn’t just some Pollyanna panacea. It’s a perceptional shift that will change your life, and quite possibly the lives of those around you.
“No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a strange, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” – Martha Graham
You may not be redefining the world of dance like Martha did (my own musically-induced gyrations have prompted people to ask if they should call 911), but there is a bit of habitual dissatisfaction in all of us.
And I think it’s awesome.
But I didn’t always feel that way.
When I was a kid, I thought being famous had to be the best job in the world: everyone taking your picture, clamoring for your autograph and hanging on your every word. Never a moment of insecurity or doubt about your self-worth or inherent awesomeness.
I remember my last night as a grade-schooler, unable to sleep as I pondered my upcoming first day on the big bad junior high campus. Instead of the same familiar pack of munchkins I’d been running with since kindergarten, I’d now be forced to meet an entire legion of new students.
And I was terrified.
Whether or not you’re concerned that the White House is in danger of turning into a satellite campus for the Kremlin, there is one thing we can all (hopefully) agree to be thankful for: we live in a country where we possess the freedom of expression.
Think about that. I mean, really let it sink in.
If you have a book, film, artistic work or even a simple bumper sticker-sized message to share with the world, no one will physically prevent you from putting it out there.
You can proclaim your faith – or lack thereof – and you won’t be thrown in prison.
You can champion a cause that sears your soul. At the top of your lungs, and in broad daylight.
So, in honor of this privilege, it’s time to realize that “just add water” is only a good directive for condensed soup and Chia Pets. Not so much when it comes to speaking your personal truth.
When I left my last corporate job almost six years ago, I thought I had the trajectory of my writing career all figured out. I had dreamed of making films since college, so that was first on the list (to date, I’ve been fortunate to have written and produced two: Anniversary and Waiting For Goodbye). But beyond that, I figured I was destined to be a full-time freelancer. After all, what other option was there for a cube farm refugee with a knack for words?
I got a decent amount of work straight out of the gate. And that was partly due to the fact that I was so elated to no longer be starring in my own personal revival of Office Space, I would write about anyone or anything. From executive officer profiles and Facebook campaigns to video scripts for spray tan gadgets and robotic surgery, I took everything that came my way.
But after some time, I started to feel that something wasn’t right.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mr. Emerson’s quote is famous for a reason. It really is an ideal way to see your existence. Adopting a viewpoint like his makes it easier to handle frustrations. To see great progress in small victories. To appreciate life as the weirdly wrapped gift that it is.
But I didn’t always feel this way.
We all have a back catalogue of things we regret doing or saying. And unfortunately, it’s all-too-available for us to use against ourselves when Life uses our self confidence as a piñata.
When we’re already low, our monkey minds go to town…blowing up minor missteps into irrefutable proof that we are complete idiots:
The time you choked during your presentation and forgot the name of your own company.
That stellar moment when you asked your co-worker when she was due. And she wasn’t pregnant.
The night where you had one (or three) too many at cousin Barb’s wedding and assaulted the dance floor with gyrations that looked like MC Hammer on peyote buttons.
The word “should” is often vilified, and probably with good reason. Most of the time, it conjures up more guilt than it does motivation. Like, you should be exercising…but instead, you’re doing bicep curls with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. (Hey, that’s called resistance training. Don’t judge me.)
As a self-help geek, I know that reframing things from a burdensome “have to,” to a more light hearted “get to” is a good way to go. Less condemnation, more freedom. It’s all semantics, but I find that it works.
That is, until I conveniently forget this fact in the midst of some self-created stress freak out, and go right back to whining about everything that I “have” to do.
But something happened recently that made me realize how important it is to frame things correctly.
A few years ago, I read an article about a 13 year old girl named Athena Orchard who died of a rare form of bone cancer. I’ve never forgotten Athena, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the tragedy of her having such an unfairly short amount of time on this planet. Never getting to live out all of her cherished dreams. Having to leave behind family and friends who I’m sure are still lost without her.
But Athena left something else behind.